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bistek--which means "beef steak"--is the filipino/chamoru equivalent of a beef dish called bistec commonly found throughout hispanic and latino countries. it is, in fact, the pacific cousin to bistec encebollado, or steak with onions. it is quite literally just that: grilled or pan-fried beef fillets marinated in a soy sauce and citrus marinade with just a hint of garlic, with rings of sautéed onions.
i`m not sure what the actual difference between the filipino and chamoru versions is, if there is one at all. the recipe i grew up with uses calamansi (or kalamansi if you like) juice as the souring agent. it also acts as a meat tenderizer, so it is not necessary to use the best cuts of beef for this--although i have generally seen sirloin and tenderloin (eye steak) used, this is a good way to use tougher cuts like flank and round. however, should you find yourself with a dozen defrosted rib eyes and new york strips because someone inadvertently unplugged the fridge overnight, don`t hesitate to use them. in fact, don`t hesitate to use them.
this is a fairly easy recipe, but it does require that you generally know how to cook a piece of meat. i can cook a tender cut of steak, but i`m flummoxed with a flank. my mother, however, can make the leanest cuts as soft as butter, so adapt this recipe accordingly. ideally you should end up with tender meat and meltingly soft onions in not-too-salty-not-too-sour meaty gravy. but you know what? if you eff it up, it`s still going to be pretty good, so don`t worry about it and try it again another time.
2-lbs of beef steaks of your choice, whatever you`re comfortable with using
1 cup of soy sauce (important note: if all you have is kikkoman original brand or something as strong, use less--anywhere from 1/4th to 1/2 cup less because it is a little harsh for this recipe. i use aloha shoyu, which i find is sweeter and milder, but try a lower sodium brand or even tamari if you can`t find an equivalent)
1/2-3/4th cup of calamansi juice, or any sour citrus juice--use more or less to your taste
2 large onions, cut into rings
2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
marinate the meat in the soy sauce and calamansi juice for a minimum of four hours--overnight is better. depending on your cut of beef, two nights might be best, but that`s sort of pushing it. fry or grill in a large, smokin` hot pan or skillet on high heat until medium rare to medium (it will continue to cook for a few minutes after taken from heat). remove from pan, set aside. lower the heat to medium high, add a couple tablespoonfuls of olive oil to the pan, then the garlic and onions. sautée until at least translucent--my family prefers them to be caramelized, which takes much longer but has a sweeter result. add beef and any meat juices back into pan; if it`s relatively dry, add some of the marinade and/or water, turn heat down, simmer for a few minutes. serve with a bucket of rice or potatoes.