Bistek, which is derived from the words “beef steak” and the Spanish beef dish “bistec,” is a popular Filipino meal. And for good reason: the combination of aromatic citrus and salty soy sauce is irresistible. The brief list of ingredients is likely already in your cupboard and readily available in stores.

Bistek is such a crowd-pleaser that it can transition from a simple family supper to an exquisite party dish. Serve this fast and easy savory recipe with steamed rice and a vegetable for a complete supper.


What is Bistek?

The Philippine bistek, derived from the Spanish term bistec (a beef and onion dish) and related to the Italian word bistecca, is one of the most common ways Filipinos prepare beef. Thin, delicate slices of beef are simmered in citrus and soy sauce until cooked.

My mother frequently made bistek from the calamansi that grew in our Tarlac garden. Now, as a wife and mother in an American kitchen, this is my go-to quick and easy dish to prepare on hectic days.



Onion rings frying in hot oil emit an appealing scent across the kitchen. The addition of the sauce’s pleasant lime-like aroma creates an appealing atmosphere throughout the house.

Aside from the meat, this dish only requires a few ingredients. If calamansi (fresh or frozen concentrate) is not available, use lemons. Meyer lemons, when in season, have a taste and tartness similar to calamansi.
One of the most significant elements in this recipe is onion rings, which give the bistek meal its distinct appearance. White onions have a softer taste. If you like a stronger flavor, red onions make an excellent compliment to the meat.

What Type of Beef to Use for Bistek?

Bistek is usually made from beef sirloin slices. You may also use beef skirt steak, or if money is not a problem, rib eye is excellent.

I’ve heard from Asian cooks that baking soda works well as a meat tenderizer, therefore I frequently use it on tough meats. Pound the already thinly cut beef with a meat mallet before marinating. The end product will be soft, velvety bistek slices baked in the simplest possible method.

Make It Ahead

The nicest part about this dish is that it can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, and then thawed for a busy day. Refresh it with freshly cooked, crisp onions, and it’s as good as new.


More Steak Recipes You Might Like

Recipe Card



Bistek, which is derived from the words "beef steak" and the Spanish beef dish "bistec," is a popular Filipino meal. And for good reason: the combination of aromatic citrus and salty soy sauce is irresistible.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
MARINATE TIME 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 7 minutes
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin or skirt steak
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup calamansi juice fresh or frozen concentrate (or lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce like Silver Swan brand
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium 6 to 10-ounce white or yellow onion, sliced in rings
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup beef broth or water
  • Kosher salt as needed
  • 4 cups steamed rice for serving


  • To prepare the beef, if it is thicker than 1/2 inch, slice it lengthwise into thin filets. Cut the meat crosswise into four-inch-long chunks. Using a meat mallet, pound the beef on both sides for a few seconds to thin it out.
  • Transfer the meat to a large mixing basin and evenly distribute the baking soda. Rub the baking soda onto all sides of the meat. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse the baking soda off the meat. Set aside in a mixing dish.
  • Marinate the meat with calamansi juice, lemon, soy sauce, and black pepper. Mix the ingredients properly. Marinate the meat for thirty minutes. If your kitchen is warm, place the bowl in the fridge.
  • To pan-fry onions, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When the oil is heated enough, place the cut onions in the skillet. Cook the onions until transparent, about 2 to 3 minutes—just long enough for the slices to unleash their sweetness while still maintaining some firmness.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the majority of the sautéed onions and keep them for garnish later. Leave approximately a quarter of the onions in the skillet to cook with the steak.
  • To cook the bistek, sauté garlic in the same pan with oil over medium heat for 1 minute.
  • Remove the steak from the marinade in a basin and save the juices. Place the chunks of meat in the skillet. Do not overlap to ensure that the steak cooks evenly. Cook the meat, turning halfway through, until well done, about 10 minutes.
  • Pour the marinade on the meat. Add the beef stock or water. To combine the flavors, continue heating until the liquid boils for 2 minutes. Taste and add salt just as required.
  • To serve, arrange the meat on a big rimmed tray. Pour the sauce over the meat. Garnish the top of the meat with the remaining onions. Serve warm with steaming rice.
  • Bistek leftovers can be refrigerated for up to a week in non-reactive containers. You may freeze for up to a month.
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