It was my dad’s birthday this week and I thought a lot of him, his favorite dishes like homemade Beef Tapa – Pindang Baka (in Kapampangan) for Tapsilog and how he liked his food prepared. One memory that stood out was that nearly every ingredient in our home was grown in our backyard (by dad himself), in our family’s farms, every dish made from scratch by mom herself.
My parents practiced ‘farm to fork’ way before it was even the buzz words they are today. I ate eggs that were from our own poultry, vegetables tilled from our own soil, fruits from our backyard trees. It was just the way it was. Breakfast at our home started at 6:30 AM daily, schooldays or weekends. It was hearty and delicious. So it was not difficult for my parents to make it mandatory for all of us to sit and eat well the entire meal, everyday.
There was a bowl of rice, sunny side eggs (yes, they were organic from free-range chickens in our backyard), freshly picked ripe, red tomatoes (also grown by dad) and the centerpiece of it all ‘pindang baka’ or beef tapa, cured by my mom’s hands herself.
‘Pindang’ (say ‘peen-dangh’) is a Kapampangan term for curing and preserving meat. This is an old cooking method of preserving pork, beef and meat which originated from the times when refrigeration was not available. The practice of ‘pindang’ results in a divinely delicious way to cook meat, so I’m guessing this is why it has stayed on as a basic cooking method to this day.
I can still clearly see how mom’s long slender fingers mashed and macerated the meat till it turned darker and had a shiny glaze over it. The sheen came from the salt-sugar mixture added in large quantities over the sliced beef or pork. She turned the meat pieces over and under in the large bowl. She mashed, mixed, squeezed then repeated the process over again. Then she placed the cured meat in large plastic bags which went into plastic containers. We had a big freezer so the ‘pindang baka’ was stored there.
A few days after, the cured meat was ready. At breakfast, the beef slices were taken out, thawed then tossed into the hot skillet with a little oil and garlic cloves. I salivated at the sound of the hiss and sizzle coming from the frying pan.
The combined aroma of frying garlic, sweet and salty cured meat pan searing blended well as steamy vapors rose upwards to the kitchen ceiling. Quickly, mom poured the cooked beef strips glistening and tender onto the large oval platter. In the same pan, she added leftover cooked rice from dinner the night before. I saw her put a little more oil and minced garlic before the rice. She mixed the garlic rice swiftly, seasoned and expertly put the whole assembly of rice, beef tapa, eggs, tomatoes on the breakfast table for us to enjoy. To wash it all down, there was freshly made coffee (from organic beans), fresh milk and a cold pitcher of tart dayap (lime) juice. It was only breakfast, but in our home, it was always the start to a marvelous day.
Beef Tapa - Pindang Baka for Tapsilog
- Large Resealable Plastic Bags - to store the meat
- Large Skillet: 12 inches in diameter
- 1 pound beef skirt steak sliced thin
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon paprika powder
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1 Tablespoon white wine
- 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil divided, 1 Tablespoon for cooking beef, the rest for garlic rice
- 4 cloves garlic minced, divided use 2 for beef, 2 for garlic fried rice
- 2 to 3 cups cooked white rice a day old, must be refrigerated
- 1 teaspoon salt for garlic rice
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper for garlic rice
- 1 to 2 whole tomatoes sliced,for relish, to serve with beef
- 1/2 cup water to cook the beef at the start water
- Step 1 -To cure the meat : In a large, non-reactive bowl mix together the dry rub of salt, sugar, paprika. Add the sliced meat to this mixture. Rub each piece well with the dry mixture. Mash and macerate well with your hands to ensure the dry ingredients incorporate well. Turn the meat slices over and under if needed to mix everything well.
- In a separate small bowl, mix the pineapple juice and wine well. Add this to the meat mixture that has the dry rub. Toss and turn the meat pieces so the mix blends well.
- Store the cured meat in large plastic bags and seal well making sure no air gets inside. Place the plastic bags inside a large plastic container and cover tightly. Keep the meat in the freezer for 3 to 5 days before cooking. When getting ready to cook, thaw the frozen meat till pieces are nearly room temperature.
- Step 2 - To cook the ‘pindang baka’ or beef tapa: In a large stainless steel skillet, over medium heat, add the thawed beef slices. Pour half a cup water (for half a pound of meat) into the skillet. Let the meat cook and tenderize for about 10 minutes. When the water evaporates and no trace of the liquid is left, add the cooking oil and garlic to the same skillet. The beef slices will turn a darker brown and have a shiny glaze over it as it sears in the pan. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more till beef is well done. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot with garlic rice, eggs and a tomato relish.
- To cook garlic fried rice: Using the same skillet where the beef was cooked, add a tablespoon more of cooking oil and the minced garlic. When the garlic browns in 1 minute, add the day old cooked rice. Mix well so the pan flavors incorporate in the rice grains. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook’s comments: The frozen cured beef will keep in the freezer for one to 2 months. I cure a large batch of beef and keep them in portions in the freezer, to be taken out as we go along. Even on busy weeknights, this beef tapa works well for a quick dinner. You can substitute pork shoulder and make ‘tocino’ using this recipe.
- *Ingredients Notes Update: the amount of salt has been adjusted to two tablespoons for one pound of beef.
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Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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