The Truth of Beef Nilaga in 3 Minutes
Cooking my way through the cookbook adventures begin! The first recipe I cooked from Alvin Cailan’s book Amboy- Recipes from the Filipino-Amercian Dream is Beef Nilaga. The way he structures the chapters of his cookbook is based on influential people and places in his life. Beef Nilaga comes from the first chapter titled Mom and Dad. He writes that beef nilaga was a common dish to have at home having it three times a week (Cailan, 2020). Sounds like it’s comfort food to him!
Beef Nilaga, a one pot dish, originates from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite (Tiglao, 2014). Nilaga in Tagalog translates to stewed. Typically it takes hours to cook due to the fact you keep the dish stewing. Similar dishes are Nilagang Baka and bulalo (Tigao, 2014). The difference between all of these dishes depends on the broth and cuts of meat. When it comes to nilaga it is a beef broth with beef chunks and bulalo uses a beef stock with beef shanks (Miranda, 2020). Another similar dish is kansi, originated from the Negros Province which is similar to bulalo, has both beef shanks and beef marrow (Tigao,2014). The vegetables used are somewhat similar across the board. Using napa cabbage, onions, sometimes carrots and corn.
Some parts of the recipe I did have to modify due to the lack of ingredients, but nonetheless if you want the exact recipe or follow along the journey with me you can grab a copy of his book at Barnes and Nobles or Amazon. The original recipe takes about 4 hours to cook. I modified it so the cooking and prep time is within an hour. Watch the video to follow along!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
1 tablespoon of canola oil
2 pounds of beef chunks for stew
1 box of bone broth
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (Use Filipino fish sauce- makes a big difference!)
2 russet potatoes cut into cubes
1 large yellow onion cut into ½ inch strips
½ of a napa cabbage cut into strips
4 green onions (scallions) as garnish
10 Whole peppercorns
Salt to taste
Peel and cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.
Cut the green onions (scallions) as thinly as you can.
Cut the yellow onions into ½ strips.
Then chop the napa cabbage into strips.
Head over to the stove, and heat a medium-large pot on low-medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pot. Once you start to see ripples, the oil is heated.
Add the beef chunks to the pot and cook for 2 minutes.
Then flip the beef chunks and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Remove the beef and let it rest for another 2 minutes.
After a 2 minute rest time, add the beef chunks back in the pot.
Pour in the bone broth, peppercorns, and fish sauce. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Optional step, you can skim the fat if you would like.
Then add the potatoes and onions. Cook until softened.
Then add the napa cabbage and let it simmer for 10 minutes or until soft.
Season with salt to taste.
Serve with rice or have it on its own.
Let me know what you think! And if you cooked this, share with me on Instagram @lolajay.me would love to see your creation!
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Cailan, Alvin, and Alexandra Cuerdo. “Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream.” Beef Nilaga, Illustrated, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, pp. 27–28.
Miranda, Roselle. “Did You Know That Changing One Ingredient Turns Your Nilaga Into Bulalo?” Yummy.Ph, 14 Feb. 2020, www.yummy.ph/lessons/cooking/nilaga-vs-bulalo-beef-recipe-a00249-20200214.
“Nilagang Baka | My Filipino Recipes.” My Filipino Recipes, N/A, 31 Jan. 2021, www.myfilipinorecipes.com/nilagang-baka.
“No Recipe.” No Recipe, N/A, norecipes.com/bulalo-recipe. Accessed 5 May 2021.
Tiglao, Rigoberto. “The Peasant History of Boiled Beef Soup (Nilagang Baka).”
The Manila Times, 22 June 2014,