#SamLikesItHot: Coffee crusted bistek belly

Sam Oh
Our second recipe for Independence Day month is an intense version of the Bistek Tagalog!

BEEF AND COFFEE? REALLY? Yes, say Sam Oh and Chef Ed Bugia. Check out the recipe below. Photo by Sam Oh

MANILA, Philippines – I have to say I am enjoying our little Philippine Independence celebration immensely. I also feel extremely fortunate to have chef friends who are willing to share their recipes!

#SamLikesItHot: Chef Sau’s adobo

Generosity seems to be a common denominator among all the chefs I’ve met which I find pleasantly surprising. I would think they would guard the knowledge they’ve earned while toiling away in school and restaurant kitchens more closely, but I find the opposite to be true. 

I met today’s contributing chef on the set of my former cooking show “Sarap At Home.” Chef Ed Bugia was the jolly and trusty kitchen manager who came up with the show’s recipes and made sure the ingredients to make them were secured.

He also had the tedious task of briefing me on every single dish I had to make and responding patiently to my helpless cries of “Chefyyyyy!” For this article, he insists I include that he is single, cute and always hungry. 

Today, he is giving the simple Bistek Tagalog a fancy facelift and calling it Coffee Crusted Bistek Beef Belly.

His recipe serves 4 and you’ll need:

  • 500 g beef belly slab (plate cut)
  • 2 red onions, julienned
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T instant coffee
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 T onion powder
  • 1 cup red wine + extra for deglazing
  • 1 cup marble potatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ½ t dried rosemary
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • Juice of 3 calamansi to taste

1. Sautee the julienned red onions in a tablespoon of butter on low heat until very soft. Stir only occasionally to give the onions a chance to brown. This will take about 20 minutes.

When the onions are caramelized, add a cup of red wine and reduce.

Photo by Sam Oh

Photo by Sam Oh

2. Season the caramelized onions with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.

Photo by Sam Oh

3. Preheat the oven to 150 C/300 F.

To make a dry rub, combine the coffee, cumin, salt, freshly ground black pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder.

A quick tip on storing garlic and onion powders: keep them in the freezer! You’ll never have to toss out a solidified mass of it ever again. 

Photo by Sam Oh

4. Place the chopped carrot, onion and celery on your roasting pan. Take your beef belly slab and score the top. Generously rub all over with the dry rub.

Place the beef belly slab on top of the chopped vegetables. Cover with foil and roast in the oven for 4-5 hours or until fork tender.

Photo by Sam Oh

5. When the beef is almost done roasting, blanch the marble potatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.

Drain and immediately transfer to a hot pan with olive oil. Sautee and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried rosemary for about 5 minutes or until cooked.

Photo by Sam Oh

6. Take your roasting pan out of the oven and set the beef aside to rest.

To make gravy, place the roasting pan on your stove on medium heat and deglaze with a splash of red wine. Season with soy sauce and calamansi juice to your liking and reduce.

I found that I needed some water (the seasoning and flavors were intense) and strained this gravy to serve.

To assemble, pour the gravy on a large serving plate and layer thin slices of the beef.

Add marble potatoes on the side and top with caramelized onions. It should look a little something like this:

Photo by Sam Oh

Bistek, is that you?! It’s pretty amazing how a dish can be completely transformed in the hands of a skilled and creative chef! 

I made this on Independence Day and loved how the dish itself looked like one big celebration.

And the flavors. The flavors! It was Bistek Tagalog alright but smokier and darker with an unexpected hum of cumin. The sweetness of the caramelized onions with the soy sauce and tart calamansi in the gravy provided a nice contrast – things that are inherent to Bistek Tagalog – but everything was made a little bit more complex and interesting by the red wine. 

My only regret is that my beef belly wasn’t as fatty as I would have liked. My meat would have been so much more tender and flavorful with more fat basting it from within!

I shall keep an eye out for a beautiful slab of beef belly with a good amount of fat running through it – already looking forward to making this glammed up version of Bistek Tagalog again! – Rappler.com


Chef Ed Bugia (@chefedward on Twitter and Instagram) is the executive chef and owner of Pino Resto BarPipino Vegetarian, BRGR: The Burger Project, Brgy. Bagnet, Bulalo Boy and Daily Squeeze (Ground Level, Gold’s Gym, Glorietta 3). Whew! He also consults for other food establishments.   

Check out our other recipes:

Sam Oh

Sam Oh is a professional TV and events host, radio jock, and foodie wannabe. Catch her on radio at 99.5 PlayFM, Monday to Friday, 6am-10am in “The Playground” with Tim Yap and Nikko. She is also a food blogger at Sam Likes It Hot. If you have questions or recipe requests, email desk@rappler.com with subject heading SAM LIKES IT HOT.




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