After a long trip to Japan and the Philippines, we arrived home to the comfort of this big bowl of Beef Nilaga Short Ribs and Vegetable Stew. It was wonderful to enjoy home-cooked meals again.
Beef Nilaga (say “knee-lah-gah”) translates to ‘boiled beef’. It is a classic Filipino stew which can easily be cooked by boiling the ingredients together. This is a Filipino all-in-one soup meal that is versatile. It can be cooked anywhere in the world because the ingredients are basic and easy to find in local groceries. The beauty of the dish is in its simplicity which can transform from a homespun meal to a party dish in larger portions. What I like about this soup meal is that I can always cook the beef ahead till it softens to a “fall-off-the-bone” tenderness. So when the actual meal time comes, all I do is add the vegetables when I reheat the meat.
But what I love most about this entrée is that it reminds me of dinners at my childhood home. We often enjoyed Beef Nilaga on Sundays for the big lunch after church. My mom knew how to cook beef well. She also magically transformed the leftovers into Beef Pochero by adding a tomato sauce-based broth or else turned the dish into another new one called “Ropa Vieja” (which means ‘old clothes’ but the dish was anything but old, it was good).
After I married and had a home and family of my own, my husband and I often visited my dad in our hometown. It was heartwarming to know that there would be sumptuous dishes laid out for us as soon as we arrived. One of them was the hefty, filling meal of Beef Nilaga.
Back here in my American kitchen, I thought of my dad today, his birthday, when I stirred the clear broth in the stock pot as I ladled the soup meal into individual serving bowls. I added large chunks of tender beef and made sure there were enough vegetables in each serving for my family. The aroma of good beef stock was further enhanced with a sprinkling of savory patis (fish sauce). I couldn’t wait to pour my entire bowl on mounds of steaming, boiled white rice, the way we enjoyed it as children. This was the kind of meal my dad enjoyed too – for its simplicity, its heartiness and the complete meal it offered everyone at the table. And if you want to try cooking this for the first time, I offer three ways in the recipe procedure: The Traditional stove-top way, in the Instant Pot multi-cooker, or in the Slow Cooker.
As I silently sipped the soup and relished the juicy, soft shreds of beef with the potatoes and vegetable greens, I thought of this quote I found and I knew it was a sign from the universe about relishing every moment we have with our loved ones.
“It is only when you grow up and step back from him or leave him for your own home – it is only then that you measure his greatness and appreciate it.”
Beef Nilaga - Short Ribs and Vegetables Stew
- 4 pounds beef short ribs bone-in
- 1 whole large onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 stalks scallion whites use white parts only, chopped
- 8 cups organic beef broth
- 1 Tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
- 2 large potatoes peeled, quartered
- 1 bundle Napa cabbage discard white bottom, slice leaves in large shreds
- 2 cups green beans sliced in 2-inch pieces, ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper powder
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil for saute
- boiled rice for serving
- In a large stockpot, over medium high heat add the vegetable oil. Saute the garlic and onions. Pour the patis (fish sauce).
- Add the beef short ribs and beef broth. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and continue cooking over a low simmer. Cook beef short ribs for 2 to 3 hours over low heat till it is soft and tender and falls off the bone.
- After 3 hours and the meat is soft, add the potatoes and cook for another 25 minutes more. Lastly, add the Chinese cabbage and green beans. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more till greens are soft and cooked.
- Serve the soup meal while piping hot with additional patis (fish sauce) dipping sauces on the side and a bowl of boiled rice.
To cook in the Instant Pot:
- Click Saute button on keypad. Pour the oil into the inside pot. When oil is hot enough, saute the garlic and onions for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the patis.Click Cancel to turn off Saute.Add the beef, potatoes and broth. Season with salt and black pepper.Cover and lock the lid. Make sure valve is set to Sealing. Click Meats/Stews and cook on High Pressure for 40 minutes. When buzzer sounds to signal cooking is done, do a Quick Release of the valve.Carefully open the lid. Add the cabbage and green beans. Stir for ingredients to blend.Cover and press Keep Warm for 8 minutes. The vegetable greens should cook by then.Serve warm with the broth as soup. Serve with rice.*Note: It takes about 17 minutes after the Saute function is turned off, for the Instant Pot to come to a HIgh Pressure and begin cooking again. For other multi-cooker or pressure cooker brands, please consult the manual for exact time.
To cook in the slow cooker or Crock pot:
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil. When oil is hot enough, saute the garlic and onions. Add the patis and beef. Braise the meat for about 3 minutes till pieces are slightly brown. Transfer the meat, garlic and onions to the slow cooker. To the beef, add the broth, potatoes, salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on High setting for 5 to 6 hours till meat is soft. Add the vegetable greens to the meat in the slow cooker towards the end, at about the last 25 to 30 minutes.
- In the Philippines, the beef short ribs is called "kenchi". If preferred, use other type of beef cuts in chunks or cubes. If cooking beef without bones, the meat softens in less time than the recipe above.
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