The post about rice toppings got me thinking a lot about the times I’ve enjoyed steaming bowls of rice and tender boiled beef topped with lots of toasted garlic and chopped onion leaves. Pares, literally “pair”, means the combination of rice and beef. In Philippine eateries, the customer may opt to enjoy his beef with noodles instead of rice. What characterizes the beef pares from other beef-and-rice or beef-and-noodle dishes is the very tender meat. Cuts with lots of litid (tendon) are used to achieve a texture that is tender and sticky at the same time. Brisket, flank and shanks are all ideal for making beef pares.
So, it’s just boiled beef over rice? In its earliest form, yes. Back when I was in college, there was a famous pares house on Quezon Avenue and that was how pares was served — plain boiled beef cutlets (regular meat or offal) over rice that magically came alive when generous garnished with fried garlic, fried shallots and finely sliced shallots. Complimentary beef broth was served on the side. If I have to make a guess, I’d say that the origin of pares comes from an attempt to make cheaper cuts of beef saleable to diners looking for an inexpensive meal.
Years and years later, as beef pares became more popular and pares houses competed to come up with versions that captured the market better, the beef topping turned into a sweet-salty stew and, in most cases, the complimentary beef broth disappeared.
- 1/2 kilogram beef (brisket, flank, short ribs or shank), cut into two-inch cubes
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 thumb-sized piece ginger (wash and scrub, no need to peel)
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 star anise
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice wine
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or corn or potato starch
- cooked rice to serve
- toasted garlic bits to garnish
- fried shallots to garnish
- sliced scallions to garnish
- Place the beef in a cooking pot. Cover with water. Place over high heat and boil for five to ten minutes or until the meat is no longer red. Throw out the water and rinse the beef to remove all traces of scum.
- Rinse out the pot, replace the beef and cover with water once more. Add the garlic, onion, ginger, peppercorns, star anise, bay leaf and five-spice powder. Pour in the soy sauce, rice wine and rice wine vinegar. Stir in the sugar. Simmer gently for two hours or until the meat is very tender.
- Halfway through the cooking, taste the broth and add salt. Do not be tempted to add more soy sauce instead of salt; otherwise, the broth will turn too dark.
- When the beef is done, scoop out the meat and transfer to a large bowl. Keep hot.
- Strain the broth then pour back into the pot. Turn on the heat and bring to a simmer.
- Dissolve the starch in 2 tbsps. of water. Pour into the simmering broth. Cook, stirring, until thickened and clear.
- Add the beef to the sauce; simmer for another 10 minutes.
To serve, fill a bowl with rice. Arrange several pieces of beef on top. Drizzle with a few tablespoonfuls of sauce. Garnish with toasted garlic, fried shallots and scallions.