Tapa has been one of the go-to foods for Filipinos. It is available everywhere, from humble carinderias (Filipino eateries), fast food chains to restaurants, and even in your grocery stores. However, no matter how food commercialization makes every dish within your reach, nothing beats the homemade; hence, we are here to teach you how to make beef tapa.
Beef tapa is cured and marinated beef, although other kinds of meat such as pork, mutton, chicken, venison, and even horse meat, yet the beef version is the most famous variant in the Philippines. En masse, beef tapa is a harmonious combo of salty, sour, sweet, and umami taste that would suit any gastronomical preference! Thus, knowing how to cook beef tapa is equivalent to a life skill that you can show off whenever you’re in charge of the Food Committee!
What is Filipino Beef Tapa
In Filipino, Tapa meant any meat preserved through smoking. It came to be during the colonial period of the Spaniards in the Philippines, and it was also used to refer to preserving meat using other techniques.
The term came from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian “tapa.” It is derived from Proto-Austronesian “tinapa” which is translated as “prepared by smoking.” Although nowadays, it prefers to “smoked fish.”
Despite its history, the traditional tapa that we know today does not embody its original definition as it is now prepared differently.
Any dish in Filipino cuisine is usually partnered with rice, and beef tapa is not excused from that rule. The recipe is also a flexible rice tandem as it can be served with plain rice, java rice, and garlic rice, hence the creation of the Tapsilog (tapa, sinangag (fried rice), itlog (fried egg) portmanteau. If the United States has burger chains, the Philippines have tapsihan, which is a place dedicated to serving Filipino beef tapas and is visited by Filipinos in all social strata.
In terms of the best time to enjoy this delectable deli, we can’t provide just one suggestion: beef tapa can be consumed for breakfast, as a viand for lunch, and even for dinner. When most Filipinos want something delicious that can be cooked right away, beef tapa is a reliable option.
Indeed, tapa is very famously enjoyed in the Philippines as most restaurants even ventured to serve this dish. You may also have it served in bars as pulutan, and you may even see it in your hotel’s breakfast menu.
What is Beef Tapa Marinade made of
Marinating is an effective way to introduce flavors and even moisture to your plain meat to make such amazing delis like beef tapa. We would like to inform you in advance that most of these ingredients might already be available in your kitchen. Ergo, you will be surprised by how the purest ingredients can create such an excellent beef tapa marinade.
Calamansi Juice: Crucial for the Marinade
You may use freshly squeezed or the instantly available extract; however, if freshness is of utmost importance to you, you may stick to the former. The acidity of calamansi juice tenderizes the beef by breaking down its proteins, and it also adds a punch of tangy and sour taste that balances well with the salt and other flavors. If calamari is not available in your local stores, you may replace it with lemon extract.
Soy sauce for the beef
This sauce is a staple for most Filipino marinade and dips. It brings out and enhances the meat’s natural flavors and tenderizes it as well by breaking down a tough meat protein called myosin. Soy sauce is an excellent brining agent and a flavor booster.
Freshly minced garlic provides another depth of flavor and warmth to the beef tapa marinade. Also, this will bring an enticing aroma to the dish. Fresh garlic is the best option to put in your brine, but if you lack time, garlic powder will work as well.
Granulated sugar gives sweetness in the marinade and balances the brine's acidic and sodium content. It aids in browning reactions that result in an enhanced flavor of the cooked beef tapa. It may also come to your surprise, as some tough and chewy beef cuts can be tenderized when exposed to sugar.
Salt for the Meat
This all-around seasoning is a flavor enhancer that penetrates the meat during the marinating process, and it also lengthens the shelf life of your beef tapa. However, it comes with a price as salt draws the moisture of the meat, making it dry. Yet, fret not as other tenderizing ingredients can save it, as previously mentioned.
Pepper for the Meat
This king of spice is better added in the marinade when freshly ground. An appropriate amount of ground black pepper in the brine will provide a non-intimidating kick of heat to the dish.
Tips: Proper way to marinate the meat
Now that you already know all the necessary ingredients to make your tapa mixture, it is now time to learn how to marinate beef tapa properly. But before anything else, let us first emphasize the appropriate beef cut for your tapa because it is an essential part of your food preparation.
It is best to cut against the grain (a.k.a. muscle fibers) of the beef, and make the slicing easier by freezing raw meat for only a few minutes until firm. This method will allow for the marinade to seep through easily and for all their wonders to take effect.
To start the marinating process, combine all the marinade ingredients in a container, mix well, and set aside. Then, put the sliced beef in a clear and sealable plastic bag. Pour in the marinade mixture with the meat and make sure that it is soaked well.
Afterward, place it inside the refrigerator for 12 hours and do not exceed the prescribed time as further exposure to acids will make the meat mushy. You have to strictly observe the storage duration and procedure as it can either break or make your dish. You should never marinate your mixture in warm room temperature as it would allow for bacteria to multiply; also, putting your tapa mix in the freezer to let it marinate is a significant no-no as doing so would stop the marinating process.
Troubleshooting your cooking
Beef Tapa and your efforts don’t come at a low price, so ruining this dish can be quite frustrating. Nonetheless, we at Eat Like Pinoy have been ardent in providing you troubleshooting guidelines in case you mess up your culinary masterpiece.
In particular, we will answer the significant beef tapa cooking mishap: “What if my beef tapa has become dry upon cooking?” as beef becomes dry and rubbery when overcooked. Thus, we have here three methods that will save your overcooked meat from being thrown in the bin. You may select which one of these methods is fit for your preference.
- Let it simmer again in a liquid - Using the same pan where the beef tapa was cooked, pour 1 cup broth, then put the overcooked beef tapa. Cover the pan and let it simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes for the liquid to penetrate the meat. You may opt using acidic liquids, such as lemon/calamansi juice or vinegar, as these additives can help tenderize the beef.
- Shred the Beef Tapa - A little makeover won’t hurt as one way to rescue your dish is to make a pulled beef tapa. To do so, shred the cooked beef and toss in a barbecue sauce to supplement flavor and moisture.
- Transform it into a stew - If the two previous methods do not apply to your taste and overcooked beef tapa’s case, you can make a stew out of it. This way requires you to cook the meat all over again until it becomes tender. It is advised to use a pressure cooker to save you some time.
Trivia about the recipe
You may find international variants or recipes of tapa, like the Spanish Tapa, and it would be misleading to assume that it inspired the creation of the beef tapa that we know in the Philippines. The Spanish Tapa and Philippine version of Beef Tapa are not related, as the former is eaten as an appetizer or a snack, while the latter is a versatile viand for any meal of the day.
Moreover, there is still no exact origin from which our beef tapa came from. However, it is believed that the Philippine culture of marinating meat in soy sauce began when the Chinese Traders introduced the condiment to the natives. It was also around this time that Filipinos learned how to use a wok and cooked fried rice.
Thus, this leads us to the question: "Is it also the time when Tapsilog was born?." The answer is no, as Vivian Del Rosario believed that the first serving was created in 1986. She invented the meal in her humble restaurant, Tapsi Ni Vivian, situated in Marikina City, and this marked the start of beef tapa's popularity in the Philippines.
Eventually, the development of tapsilog leads to other -silog recipes as anything can be paired with fried rice and a cooked egg. To give you an example, some of the commonly available -silog meals in eateries and restaurants are Tocilog, Chicksilog, Daingsilog, Hotsilog, and a lot more! This development reflects our innovativeness.
Ideally Served With
Beef tapa is all about balance. The diversity of all the flavors in one dish is harmonized perfectly, thus making your tastebuds want for more. Further, the co-existence of the savory, sweet and sour flavors makes it a great companion with numerous dishes.
- Fried Rice - There would be no use to the richness of beef tapa if it is not paired with fried rice. Filipinos prefer the method of chilled rice, as this will make a perfect texture for the sinangag (Fried Rice) that will complement the meat juiciness. You better add some fried garlic chips on top of that extraordinary rice to add some crunchy twist to your meal.
- Sunny-side-up egg - The third member of the tapsilog gang perfectly enhances the taste of the tapa as it will supply an irresistible umami flavor and creamy texture in every bite. We specified the fried egg serving as sunny-side-up as this is the fastest cooking method done in most tapsihan to cater to hungry laborers and customers for a quick yet delicious meal.
- Coffee - The saltiness and aroma of beef tapa can be washed away with a warm sip of coffee. This combo will instantly provide you energy to start your day.
- Sinigang Soup - A slurp of sinigang soup will prepare your tastebuds with the rampage of flavors in beef tapa. This sour and refreshing soup makes a no-joke yet straightforward meal starter. Make sure to have extra rice by your side, though.
- Coleslaw - If you’re serving beef tapa with a twist, pairing it with coleslaw is a tasty choice. It can be consumed as a sandwich filling together with the meat, and it can also be used to replace rice if you’re on keto.
- Atcharang Papaya - Also known as pickled raw papaya, this dish has a fresh, sweet, and fruity taste that makes it the best side dish for tapa. It is common for most tapa-serving eateries to serve atchara together with tapsilog.
- Spicy Vinegar Sauce - If you are up for some added spice, a vinegar dip with crushed red chilies is the best beef tapa dip. An accompaniment of this vinegar sauce will fight against the "umay" (sick from grease) feeling as it will cut through the fat and saltiness of the beef.
The complex flavor structure of beef tapas made by the purest ingredients is one of the culinary reflections of the Filipino resourcefulness and its diversity as a nation. Hence, if you plan to travel to the Philippines, you better skip retreating to the international fast-food clown and enjoy this local dish along the way. If ever you miss it when you go back home, you can always prepare this Filipino favorite with our recipe.
It is undeniable that the homemade version is much better for home cooks than the store-bought, and it would also help you cut costs. Furthermore, having learned how to make beef tapas can be considered an achievement worth celebrating with no other than serving the dish itself!
For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!
Superb Beef Tapa Recipe
- ½ kg Beef thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoon Soy sauce
- ½ cup Vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Ground black pepper
- ½ cup Brown sugar
- 1 cup Coke cola
- 6 cloves Garlic Crushed and minced
- 1 cup Oil
- Wash the beef meat 2 times with vinegar, then squeeze the beef meat very well.
- Put beef meat in a large bowl, then season it with soy sauce, vinegar, salt, ground black pepper, brown sugar, and coke. Mix well.
- Add the garlic and mix it again.
- Cover the bowl then refrigerate it for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, heat oil in a pan, and fry the seasoned beef meat.
- Occasionally stir the meat. After 8 minutes, serve hot and enjoy!