I should have entitled this entry “What else can you do with sukiyaki-cut beef?” Yes, I used sukiyaki-cut beef for the homemade tapa for the girl’s packed school lunches. Not the Spanish tapas but Filipino tapa — seasoned and fried beef cutlets served with egg and fried rice.
“Tapsilog” is a contraction of tapa, sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg). Okay, that’s not exactly tapsilog in the photo because the rice was steamed rather than fried. Well, we had no leftover rice from yesterday so that’s that. If you will notice, the egg in one food container was fried sunny side up while the other container has scrambled eggs. Sam likes her egg sunny side up but prefers the yolk to be cooked through. Alex, on the other hand, only eats fried eggs that have been scrambled. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, and even two sisters raised the in same house by the same mother and father will still assert their individuality in big and small ways.
There’s no big mystery about homemade tapa. It’s just frying thinly sliced beef that had been seasoned. Some marinate the beef but if the beef has been cut thinly enough, marinating is unnecessary. Some like to add sugar to the beef, making it taste like tocino, but I prefer plain salt and pepper so as not to drown the natural taste of the meat.
There are three not-so-secret-secrets to good homemade tapa — good beef, a very high cooking temperature and an ultra short cooking time. “Good beef” has two parts. First, you need to use a tender cut of beef and, second, the meat has to be sliced thinly (across the grain, naturally) so that it cooks in a very short time. Only stewing beef needs to cook for a long time. With tender cuts — like sirloin, top round or bottom round — a short cooking time over high heat yields tender but thoroughly cooked meat. Remember that unless you’re dealing with stewing beef, overcooking beef turns the meat dry and tough as a leather boot.
Why do I prefer plain salt and pepper for seasoning my beef for my homemade tapa? Because I like the cutlets to be browned and crisp around the edges while the centers remain soft and moist. Tall order when dealing with very thin slices of beef, eh? The key is no liquid, a very high fire and not overcrowding the frying pan. The beef cutlets have to cook in a single layer so that each piece touches the metal and the oil. Liquid, like marinade for instance, lengthens the cooking time because the liquid has to evaporate first before the meat gets fried in oil. The extra time needed to get rid of the liquid is enough to turn the beef tough. So, there.
I cooked enough tapa for three people, I fried an extra egg, and my hubby and I shared the third portion. We’re not really breakfast eaters but if there’s tapa and egg, who can resist, eh?