This bulalo recipe was originally published in December 19, 2003. I am updating it because during our recent visit to Mahogany meat market in Tagaytay City, as I watched the butcher chop the whole beef shank that I had chosen, I realized that the secret to prevent the bone marrow from falling and liquefying in the broth was so obvious, and I wondered why I didn’t think of it before.
Bulalo can mean any of three things: 1) the marrow in the bone of the beef shank; 2) the cut of the beef, i.e., bone-in beef shank; or 3) the soup itself which consists of the bone-in beef shank and vegetables. The soup is a simple dish to prepare, really; but the flavorful broth and the texture of the meat makes it a treat.
If you intend to cook beef shank as bulalo, ask the butcher to chop the shank in such a way that you have one large piece with one end open — the chopped end — while the other end, the one where the leg had been cut off right on the joint, remains closed.
In classy restaurants, bulalo commands a high price. In the province of Batangas where selling beef and beef by-products is a major means of livelihood, roads are lined with restaurants and small eateries with bulalo as a specialty. In Makati City, there is a small eatery called Soseng’s–a sidewalk affair actually–where one finds yuppies and businessmen having a lunch of hot bulalo. Street parking is a common problem. There was one time when we had to park two streets away and wait for a vacant table for several minutes. That is how popular bulalo is among the Filipinos.
Bulalo (beef, bone marrow and vegetable soup)
- 1 kilogram bulalo (bone-in beef shank)
- 1 whole onion
- 1 whole garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 to 8 peppercorns
- patis (fish sauce)
- 1/2 head of white cabbage
- 250 grams potatoes
- Place the beef shanks in a large casserole. Cover with water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, removing scum as it rises.
- Add the whole onion, garlic (pierced in several places with a sharp pointed knife), bay leaf and peppercorns. Season with patis. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for two hours (longer, for a more flavorful broth) or until the beef is fork-tender. Alternatively, pressure-cook for one hour and 30 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the beef shanks and transfer to a tureen or serving bowl. Strain the broth. Reheat to boiling point.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Core the cabbage and cut in half. Add the potatoes and cabbage leaves and simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
- Scoop the vegetables out and arrange around the bulalo. Pour in hot broth and serve at once.