Bistek, Filipino Beef Steak

The Filipino version of steak is bistek. I used to think that bistek was a localized pronunciation and spelling of beef steak but it appears that bistec is found in the cuisines of countries that used to be Spanish colonies. Like our bistek, they are all pan fried and saucy beef.

In cooking Filipino bistek, it is ideal to use a tender cut of beef like top or bottom round, sirloin or tenderloin. For maximum flavor, the meat is first marinated before it is quickly pan fried just until cooked. Topped with lightly fried onion rings, smothered with the marinade and kalamansi juice, bistek is rich yet uncomplicated — the stuff that real comfort food is made of.

Recipe: Bistek: Filipino Beef Steak


  • 3/4 kg. of thinly sliced beef (top or bottom round, sirloin or tenderloin are ideal)
  • 1/4 c. of soy sauce (dark soy sauce is traditional)
  • 1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. of grated garlic
  • cooking oil for frying
  • 2 to 3 onions, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1/8 c. of kalamansi juice
  • snipped scallions (onion leaves), to garnish


  1. Place the beef in a bowl. Pour in the soy sauce. Add the pepper and garlic. Mix well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  2. Heat a large wok or frying pan. Coat the bottom generously with cooking oil.
  3. Drain the beef.
  4. When the oil is hot, throw in the beef and pan fry over very high heat just until the meat is cooked through. Do not overcook as beef turns tough and rubbery when overdone. Scoop the meat out of the pan and transfer to a serving platter.
  5. In the remaining oil and juices, cook the onion rings just until softened.
  6. Top the beef with the onion rings.
  7. Pour the kalamansi juice into the pan, scraping whatever bits and remaining juices there there.
  8. Pour the contents of the pan over the meat and onions. Sprinkle with snipped scallions and serve hot with rice.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

*Updated from a recipe originally published on April 28, 2003.


  1. Scarlett says

    Hi Connie,

    Nice post. I understand that you drained the marinade here but may I ask what that brown sauce is? Where did that come from? Draining the marinade would mean the dish will be dry. just my opinion.

    • says

      The beef actually bleeds out the marinade during cooking and the liquid, along with the oil, is left in the pan. The liquid doesn’t fry out because cooking time is very, very short. When the kalamansi juice is added, you get that brown stuff.

  2. Rudy says

    Hi, my wife makes this sometimes but … she is preparing it with 5 kg meat . Thus after a few times frying a good portion of 1/2 kg in the same pan, she has so much juice in the pan that the meat is boiling instead of frying … hence the meat is hard.

    Would it help fring only small portions of 1/4 kg ? Or does she has to start same process (oil inpan, fry, deglaze, poor out ) for each portion of … 3/4 kg ?

    Looking forward for this great ‘soft’ bistek .

    • says

      Wow, that’s a lot of meat. I’ve never cooked that much bistek before but it makes sense to perform the process from the start for every portion. How the large each portion can be depends, I suppose, on the size of the frying pan. Overcrowding yields terrible results.

  3. says

    Good day, Connie.

    I grew up loving this dish! Especially the caramelized onions. Sometimes, I’ll just slice up some onions and cook them in toyomansi then use that as ulam along with the sauce <3 I love it.
    Here comes my predicament: I never actually tried making bistek, and this recipe sounds amazing. Everything on the ingredients list is easily available to me but the kalamansi. I live in southeast Kansas and the only Filipino store here had closed a few years back, along with the only Filipino grill and restaurant, moving to Texas. That's a long drive :)
    The Asian markets here don't carry fresh kalamansi or any variants; the closest thing are bottled honey-mansi to be used for tea or juice. :(

    So my main question is: how do I incorporate Datu Puti(or any brand) toyomansi into this recipe? At first, I was thinking of just simply getting 3/8 of a cup of toyomansi but then in one of your comments, you mentioned that the fruit juice is used to "deglaze" the flavors. Thank you for your consideration. :)

  4. Che says

    Hi Connie,
    I am stalking you lol :) seriously, thanks for replying to my question about grocery bills on your other website.
    Quick question about the bistek, what happened to the marinade? Did you throw it out?

    Here’s what I used to do:
    Squeeze out the marinade from the beef, fry the beef until only oil remains (sauce has evaporated/absorbed into the beef), set aside, fry the onions, set aside, put the marinade in the pan and boil.
    It was disgusting (in my opinion) as i felt the marinade was full of beef blood and boiling the sauce only congealed the blood. We ended up having the beef “tapsilog” style as I did not add the sauce to the beef & onions.

    Is this why you pour kalamansi into the pan instead? What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks Connie, I hope you can help x

  5. Connie says

    “what happened to the marinade”

    Actually, when you drain the beef, so little marinade drips off. And, yes, I discard that. Draining is really to minimize oil spattering which I hate because of the mess hahaha.

    As the beef cooks, considering the very short cooking time, much of the juices including the marinade it expels, form part of the juices in which the onions are later cooked.

    Pouring the kalamansi into the pan is really just to deglaze (as the French would say) to make sure that to get all the flavors.

  6. Chris Rau says

    I grew up on this dish my mom never told me the name of it along with alot of other filippino dishes! My children also grew up eating this one also. She used lemon juice instead of the kalamansi probably because it was not available in rural Michigan where I grew up. She also thickened the drippings with cornstarch to put over our rice. Thanks for sharing this yummy dish!