Between a soup and a juicy stew, bulalo, one of the Philippines, most emblematic dishes will be my recipe for today.
What is bulalo?
Bulalo is a light colored soup that is enriched as it is cooked with potatoes, beef shank and bone marrow for a few hours, until a large part of the collagen and fat have melted in this clear broth. Seasonings vary from chef to chef. Some will put a lot of black pepper, while others will use patis, bay leaves or garlic.
Bulalo is a simple stew, traditionally prepared in a large cauldron with several vegetable options. These vegetables may include corn, chayote, baby bok choy, Chinese cabbage (pechay), green beans, carrots, but also plantain, onions, and ginger.
I chose bok choy, pechay and corn with a touch of ginger.
What is the origin of bulalo?
Bulalo dates back to the pre-Hispanic period of the Philippines, or before 1565, when boiling, grilling, steaming and roasting were the most common methods of cooking.
Many believe that bulalo was born in the southern regions of Luzon, one of the three major islands of the Philippines, but opinions are divided as to the particular city or province where it would have been prepared for the first time. Some believe it may have started in the province of Batangas where bulalo is an extremely popular dish. Others think that it was born in the town of Tagaytay in the province of Cavite where bulalo can be found in most restaurants at any time of the day and night.
What cut of beef is used for bulalo?
Beef shank or hock is the meat of choice for bulalo. The term shank refers to the front leg of the animal. The hock is the lower, meaty portion of the front leg. For bulalo, both can be used.
As the name suggests, marrow bone is a piece of bone containing the marrow of the animal, in large quantities and, of course, edible. Marrow bone is mainly taken from the hock and is a delicacy particularly appreciated by gourmets. Roasted, grilled, in a pot-au-feu or in sandwiches seasoned with fleur de sel. I just love it!
The hock or shank meat may remain attached to the bone or cut longitudinally to ensure better cooking of the marrow.
What cabbages are used to prepare bulalo ?
First, repoloyo, a word that comes from Spanish repollo which means cabbage. It is nothing but standard white cabbage that is recognizable by its pale green color. It is a variety that is characterized by a compact head and a smooth and shiny foliage.
Then pechay, also called the pe-tsai, or what we westerners call Chinese cabbage. It is composed of large fleshy leaves of pale green color. It is almost white inside however, and its sides are very thick and of silver-white color. Chinese cabbage vaguely resembles the shape of a lettuce. Pechay is considered a cross between bok choy and gai lan, the famous Chinese broccoli that Mike used to prepare his Thai pad see ew. Pechay is eaten raw or cooked, in salad or in soups and stews, which gives a delicious aroma. As the name suggests, this Chinese cabbage is widely used in Chinese cuisine for preparing various dishes, hors d’oeuvres, noodles and always served with meat and fish dishes. It can be eaten in vinegar or in brine with garlic, chili, onions and other spices or herbs.
And finally, the third cabbage that I used is baby bok choy, a close cousin of pechay. It is also called pak choi or paksoy, as well as Chinese cabbage. Its stems are more fleshy and it has large green leaves visually similar to those of chard or beetroot. Bok choy gives a pleasant aroma unlike white cabbage, for example. Bok choy should not be cooked for too long.
Bok choy can also be eaten raw. It is often used to prepare stews, noodles, omelettes and it also accompanies stir-fried, fried, or steamed vegetables.
What is Filipino patis?
And, finally, let’s talk about this famous Philippine patis which is a very aromatic and salty sauce, with a tangy flavor prepared with fermented fish. This fish sauce called patis is very commonly used in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian cuisines to add a salty element to dishes.
This Asian fish sauce is often prepared from anchovies, salt and water, and is often used in moderation because it is intensely flavored.
Fish sauces are very popular throughout Asia. The variety from Vietnam that we have used very frequently here in our recipes is called nuớc mắm. In Thailand and Myanmar, it is called nam pla and ngan byar ya respectively. In Cambodia, fish sauce is known under the name of teuk trei. The Indonesians, however, use a thicker and somewhat solid fish paste called trasi.
To get a good bulalo, I recommend using a pressure cooker that will also reduce the cooking time by about two-thirds, but if you have the time and patience, you can also prepare it in a large thick bottom pot, a Dutch oven, or even a slow cooker, the same slow cooker that I often use to make my Moroccan dafina. You bulalo will only be better!
Even under the scorching Parisian sun of the past two weeks, we all loved bulalo!
- 2 lb beef shank
- 6 marrow bones
- ½ repoloyo (white cabbage) , thinly sliced
- ½ lb pechay (Chinese cabbage) , finely chopped
- 2 baby bok choy , peeled
- 4 firm-fleshed potatoes , peeled and cut into pieces
- 2 scallions , thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic , chopped
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger , grated
- 2 ears corn , cut into 3
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
- Salt , to taste
- 2 limes (or 5 calamansi)
- Soy sauce
- Vegetable oil
- In a frying pan with a little vegetable oil, brown the potatoes for 4 minutes. Set aside.
Detach the bok choy stems from the leaves. Cut the stems into small pieces and leave the whole leaves intact.
- In a pressure cooker, place the beef shank, marrow bones, onion and garlic. Cover with water and cook over low heat for 1 hour and a half.
Remove the foam that sits above the broth and add ¾ cup of boiling water.
- Add the ears of corn, potatoes and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the pechay and ginger and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the bok choy stems and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the bok choy leaves and cook for 1 minute.
- Season with fish sauce.
Remove from heat and serve hot with a mixture of soy sauce and lime or calamansi juice.