If you’re a blogger and you have Google Analytics (or something smilar) installed, you might have occasionally checked what the most popular pages on your blog are. In this blog, there are two consistent topnotchers — bistek and puto. Yep, iconic Filipino dishes with names worth discussing a bit. Let’s start with the puto.
I might have written about it before but it’s worth mentioning again. Puto, in Spanish, is not a nice word. It is, alternatively, a derogatory name for homosexuals or a male prostitute. Someone, I forget now who, once wrote that the first person who called our steamed cakes puto must either have done it as a joke — a joke that most Filipinos, as they didn’t speak Spanish, never really caught on. And the word puto entered our dictionary and vocabulary and has since stayed there.
Now, about bistek. I always knew it was an adaptation of the English word “steak.” But I always thought that bistek was a uniquely Filipino thing. Well, until I started developing a serious affinity with Mexican and Latin American food. As it turns out, bistec is a dish found all over South America and the Caribbean. And like our bistek, the many variations of bistec are all pan-fried and saucy strips of steak. Bistec picado is one of them.
What is bistec picado? Bistec is steak; picado means ground or minced. Bistec picado is a dish of browned pieces of meat (beef, traditionally, but lamb or pork are okay too) braised with chilis in tomato sauce and topped with bell peppers or onion, or both.
There are so many variations, some spicier and more complex than others. This is the simple version adapted especially for home cooks.
Jalapeños appear to be the most popular chili for this dish. Because I don’t have access to fresh jalapeños, I used jalapeños in a jar.
- 3 to 4 tbsps. of olive oil
- 800 g. of beef or lamb or pork (a tender cut that cooks fast like loin or round; definitely NOT stewing meat), cut into strips or slices
- 1 tbsp. of minced garlic
- ½ tsp. of dried oregano
- ¼ tsp. of cumin
- about 1 c. of canned stewed or diced tomatoes
- salt, to taste
- ¼ to ⅓ c. of sliced jalapeños, depending on how hot you want the dish
- 2 to 3 onions, sliced into rings
- torn cilantro, to garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the meat and cook over high heat until lightly browned.
- Add the garlic, oregano and cumin. Pour in the tomatoes.
- Add the jalapeños.
- Stir, taste and add some salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered until almost dry, about seven to 10 minutes (see notes at the end of the recipe). Taste. Add more salt, as needed.
- Add the sliced onion, toss, cook for another minute or so or just until the onion rings start to soften.
- Sprinkle with torn cilantro and serve with arroz blanco (white rice).
How long the cooking takes depends on the choice of meat. If the meat is not tender enough by the time the sauce is almost dry, add broth, half a cup at a time to lengthen the cooking time without burning the dish.
Quality of meat varies. Just because it says “loin” or “round” in the label doesn’t mean the meat will cook well in minutes. Some meat are tougher than others because they come from older animals. So, the cooking time, and the broth you may need to add, will probably need adjustments.