Monday, June 27, 2011

Batangas Bulalo vs. Nilagang Baka

Batangas is one of the many provinces of the Philippines. Its name originated from the word ‘batang’, which is a term the locals used for the abundant logs found in the Calumpang River, which runs through the province. Batangas was made famous by its many notable nationalists who descended from the province and who led the revolt against the Spanish during their over 300 years of occupation. Many of the old homes of the famous nationalists are preserved into historical places as a legacy of our history and a reminder of the era where many brave Batangeños (people who hail from Batangas) fought and died for our country.

Batangas is also famous for its natural resources, picturesque scenery (Taal Lake) and beautiful beaches with relatively calm shores. The province is bordered by Batangas Bay which is sort of like an alcove and doesn’t open directly to the Pacific Ocean. Aside from its scenic attractions, Batangas is also known for producing quality beef and is famous for its cattle industry. Hence the famous Batangas Bulalo.

I always go to Batangas for its beaches and the best one I’ve been to is only a two hour drive from Manila. On the way to our destination, it’s always a must to stop at one of the many bulalo stalls we pass along the way. Bulalo is made with beef bone marrow and beef shank. The beef shank is boiled for several hours until it is tender. Traditional Batangas bulalo consists of onions and garlic for the soup stock. Midway through the process of softening the meat, plantains (saging na saba) are added, then when the meat is almost soft enough, corn still on the cob but cut in 3 parts, potatoes, string beans and cabbage. Add the bone marrow about 10-15 minutes before you serve the dish because the marrow tends to melt into the soup like butter. My relatives like to scoop it out with a spoon. I refrain from eating it because I am quite health conscious and am not particularly fond of bone marrow. As a condiment, fish sauce with chili (siling labuyo) is used.

My maternal grandmother, who was a wonderful cook, had Spanish roots and she gave most of the native Filipino dishes she prepared a Spanish twist. I particularly loved her nilagang baka (boiled beef- I know it doesn’t sound as appetizing when translated into English) but nonetheless, it’s one of my favorites and I’d love to share a recipe which is one of my family’s time-honored dishes and is almost like the Batangas Bulalo.


1 kilo beef brisket (cubed)
1 small red onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
½ cabbage
1 sweet potato (kamote)
2 plantains (saging na saba)
2 potatoes
1 Beef Knorr Cubes
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice (kalamansi juice)

Add beef to boiling water (just enough to immerse the beef) red onion, garlic, sweet potato (kamote) and plantains (saging na saba), I add this early on because I want the sweet potato and plantains to dissolve into the broth as it gets soft. When the beef is almost tender enough to serve add the potatoes, 10 minutes before serving, add the cabbage, black pepper and Knorr beef cubes. Lastly add the fish sauce and kalamansi or lime juice.

The best part of my grandmother’s nilagang baka is the eggplant sauce. This is made by roasting eggplants (two should be enough) peeled and mashed, add a clove of crushed garlic, some mashed boiled sweet potato, vinegar, salt and black pepper. I sometimes just boil the eggplant in the soup if I don’t have time to roast the eggplants. It should be fine if it’s just boiled (just don’t forget to peel and mash it). I find this perfect in adding to the savory soup. This is best served with plain steamed white rice.

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