The soy sauce and calamansi bubbled briskly in the hot pan as I browned the paper-thin slices of steaks. The fragrance, so familiar, lingered throughout the kitchen. It was the scent of home that evokes so many memories.

The versatile marinade of soy and citrus was one of the first things I learned to make in the kitchen. When I was in graduate school, far away from home, I lived on rice and bistek [bis-tek], pan-fried sirloin steaks, along with menudo and pork and chicken adobo. They were lifesavers for the homesick kitchen novice that I was. They are simple to make and they call for ingredients that can be easily sourced or substituted. I used lemon for calamansi and apple cider for cane vinegar, making do with what’s readily available. I made big batches on Sunday mornings and rotated them during the week, bringing them to school for lunches and reprising them at home for dinners.

I placed the steaks, onions, and potatoes back in the pan and tossed everything in the rich sauce. I pictured the perfect bite in my head while I set the table for dinner. A ring of sweet onions wedged in between steak and potatoes, threaded into the tines of my fork. I would finish it off with a spoonful of rice copiously dressed in the steak’s salty and tangy sauce. Pure comfort, in every sense of the word.


Bistek Recipe, makes four to six servings

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice
1 pound beef sirloin, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick rings
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Marinate beef in soy sauce, calamansi and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate overnight.

Before cooking the beef let it rest at room temperature for over an hour. Do not discard marinade but set aside. Fry steaks in oil in a pan over medium to high heat until almost done. Transfer beef and pan juices to a plate and set aside.

Add more oil to the pan, if needed, and fry onion rings until tender and browned. Set aside. Add more oil, if needed, and fry potatoes until cooked through. Set aside.

Add the marinade to the pan and bring to a boil. For a thicker sauce, simmer and reduce until desired thickness is reached. Add steaks, onions, and potatoes back to the pan and toss a few times. Serve hot with cooked rice.




Calamansi Tree GiveawayA huge thank you to everyone who wrote and sent birthday wishes for Jun-blog. I have been reading and rereading the notes you sent and I am blown away by how much you enjoy reading the blog. Jun-blog is a labor of love. There is so much work involved in developing the recipes, testing them, cooking, styling, photographing, and writing the stories. You make all the hard work worthwhile. Maraming, maraming salamat.

The winner of our first calamansi tree giveaway is Lara of Pennsylvania. Lara writes,

“The love of my life is a Philippine national, currently working in Saudi Arabia. I started studying the culture as a way to connect with him and his five amazing children. That is when I first found your blog. I started returning to it more frequently after my first trip to the Philippines. I live in a town where there are no Filipino restaurants. I am embarking on the adventure of trying to cook the foods I have fallen in love with and your blog is my favorite resource.”

Congratulations, Lara! We’re hoping the calamansi tree will come in handy in your Filipino cooking adventure. We will get in touch with you soon so we can send the tree to Pennsylvania right away.

Thank you to everyone who joined the giveaway and stay tuned for more giveaways to come.

  • Zandra

    Jun, I don’t know which I look forward to the most–your writings, your photos, or your recipes.  All are equally fantastic!

  • Jean | Lemons and Anchovies

    Now I’ll be looking at that beautiful plate of bistek all night.  I’ve just finished dinner but I’m hungry all over again.  This is one of my all-time favorite foods. Yum, yum, yum!

  • Gio Ray Mangaya-ay

    The photo is beautiful! I curb my homesickness with adobo, so I get what you mean. I hope I can try making this soon!

  • Ann Mah

    Beautiful, exotic (to me), but inherently comfort food! And I love your description of the perfect bite — now I know what to strive for. 

  • Doris Esteban

    Jun, i used to cook Bistek but i didn’t know na pwede pala lagyan ng fried potatoes….
    Hmmnn, yummy! ~_^

  • Rowena Dumlao – Giardina

    That made me crave for a humongous plate of bistek.  I never tried it with potatoes though.  I have to try adding them too.  Thanks for sharing this!

  • Jun Belen

    When I was browsing through Filipino cookbooks last weekend I noticed that Bistek Tagalog, as people call it, doesn’t have potatoes but only onions. I’ve known Bistek all my life with potatoes because my mom made it this way.  

  • Jun Belen

    Try it with fried potatoes, Doris.  When I was a kid all I ate was steak and potatoes because I didn’t care too much for the onions.

  • Jun Belen

    Zandra, thank you for writing and for following the blog.  

  • pinakbet filipino style

    Thanks for sharing. I really love cooking and I want to cook something special for dinner later, by the way what was on top? aside beef steak, onion. Was that a ginger? I hope you can share more recipes.

  • Debs @ The Spanish Wok

    Loving this recipe, saving for another day.
    Belated happy birthday too.

  • Row

    Yum yum, I love bistek! My favourite part is the crispy fried potatoes that have absorbed the flavours of soy sauce and lemon. I should really get around to making this dish one of these days. :)

  • Denise

    Jun, this sounds amazing, and I am adding it to my must make dish. There is a Portuguese dish that is similar but with saucy peppers added. I like the simplicity of the flavors in this dish, and the addition of potatoes is perfect!!

  • Jun Belen

    I’m so happy to hear that your version of bistek has fried potatoes, which is similar to mine. Most of the recipes I’ve seen in cookbooks only have onions.

  • Jun Belen

    Jean, thank you!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Gio. Pure comfort food!

  • Jun Belen

    Those are fried potatoes. My mom’s bistek always has fried potatoes.

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  • MariaD

    I made this recipe for dinner! The recipe was easy to follow and it turned out delicious! Looking forward to trying your tocino recipe next week! Thanks!

  • Jun Belen

    Maria, thank you for writing. Maraming salamat. So happy to hear the recipe worked for you! Let me know how the tocino goes. Are you making it with red beet powder?

  • MariaD

    Hi Jun! I am going to use red beet powder…I was able to find it on Amazon. i’ll let you know how it goes :)

  • arkitrix

    Hello. I will have to do this, plus the menudo and adobo. Since I’m on graduate studies in Europe, where our native ingredients are even harder to come by! Plus have to figure out how to cook rice without the electric rice cooker too :D

  • arkitrix

    Hello. I will have to do this, plus the menudo and adobo. Since I’m on graduate studies in Europe, where our native ingredients are even harder to come by! Plus have to figure out how to cook rice without the electric rice cooker too :D

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing! Let me know what you think of the recipes and thank you for following the blog.

    Best of luck with graduate school. Where in Europe are you taking your graduate studies. I had mine in Engineering here in California and let me tell you — it’s tough being away from home. But hang in there! Best of luck to you in school — and also in cooking rice without a rice cooker!

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  • Lulu

    I’ve always made bistek but last night I did your recipe . . . the only thing I did not have were the potatoes but next time I will add them. I had to use the frozen calamansi packets (sold at SeaFood City) kasi I didn’t have enough fresh calamansi on hand. LOL! It was very good and easy-peasy pa! Thanks again for willingness to share the many wonderful recipes!! ~ Lulu

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Lulu! I grew up with fried potatoes in bistek, which I believe is not too common. My mom has always made them this way. Slice the potatoes thinly and fry them separately. It’s our version of meat and potatoes!

  • Kirk

    I’m doing my grad studies here in Milan, Italy from the states and I just made this bistek. Aba, masarap pala ako magluto! haha. There are a few Filipino places closeby, but sometimes you just feel like making your own food!

  • barefoot soul

    hi,, thank you for the recipes…as an OFW your blog helps me to satisfy my filipino food cravings. Your recipes are quite easy too for beginners like me.
    Thank you.. Keep posting. Godbless.

  • Jun Belen

    You are very welcome. And thank you for following the blog and for trying the recipes. Best to you and your family.