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What dish instantly reminds you of comfort? Something about the familiarity of certain recipes can bring you back to warm memories you’ll always be fond of. Such is the magic of food — it affects not just our bodies in the physical sense, but allows us to get in touch with our emotions in sharing the same with our loved ones. Filipino food is ripe with examples of comfort meals, whether it’s a filling bowl of soup or a hearty and delicious meat. But one dish manages to bring these two together in a perfect and refreshing way. I am, of course, talking about none other than delicious beef nilaga!
What is beef nilaga?
A piping hot broth and tender chunks of meat comprise this calming and delightful dish. Beef nilaga is a native Filipino dish that uses juicy and rather fatty portions of meat, which you boil until they practically fall off the bone in succulence. Add your vegetables, like crunchy green beans and cabbage, and your pieces of sweet and chunky potatoes, and you have for yourself a filling dish that’ll soothe your stomach as well as your soul! The taste of this dish may be mild, but its impact on you is definitely long lasting. Beef nilaga is perfect proof that sometimes, less is more!
How do we make this beef nilaga better?
In usual beef nilaga recipes, we tend to gravitate towards beef brisket cubes as our choice cut. Brisket comes from the breast or lower chest of the beef, and is quite common in many slow-cooked and boiled recipes. However, today, we’ll be using a different part of the cow for our beef nilaga: beef neck bones! Unlike brisket, neck bones come — you guessed it — from the neck of a cow. They might appear to have less meat than your usual cut on first glance. But once you really boil this part of beef to tenderness every bite will definitely be worth it.
What makes it even better is that the beef neck bone cut is a cheaper alternative to others! Beef nilaga in itself is quite an affordable dish to make, with many common household ingredients and easily purchasable components from the supermarket. Now with the beef neck bone being used, cooking can be made a whole lot easier!
Nilaga, with its mild taste and clear broth, has had several renditions spread throughout the country. Many are done by changing the protein — some use pork, others use chicken. Meanwhile, others add other vegetables, like squash, to give the dish a more unique and tasty spin. But apart from this, beef nilaga also has some clear relatives — or maybe just doppelgangers — within the Filipino cuisine. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Others view or classify bulalo as a type of beef nilaga. After all, it has many similar ingredients, and a likeness in its appeal. But what truly sets bulalo apart is the specific choice of meat that easily becomes the star of the show: indulgent and delicious beef shank. It is the marrow still inside the bone that makes everyone’s mouths water at the sight of bulalo. This creamy, delicious meat can take a while to cook — about an hour in the slow cooker, sometimes even more. But one bite of it and you’re guaranteed to proclaim that it was definitely worth the wait.
Pocherong Baka, or Beef Pochero
Another dish with an almost but not quite similar flavor profile is Beef Pochero, yet another stew that utilizes beef chuck cubes. What is unique about pochero is the abundance of ingredients that make up this flavorful stew. It isn’t just the beef doing the heavy lifting — from chorizo de bilbao to tomatoes, chickpeas to plantains, a mix of textures and flavors comes alive in this unforgettably sweet, sour, and savory broth.
How to make this better beef nilaga
The first step in this beef nilaga recipe is to grill your beef neck bones for 1 ½ minutes per side. After doing this, take a pot and heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil, sautéing your garlic and onions. Once the onions soften, you can add the neck bones you had just grilled, and sauté it for another 2 minutes.
Bringing it to a boil
Next, pour 6 cups of water into the pot, and turn your heat down low as your nilaga steadily starts to boil. Cover your pot, and continue to let your meat cook until it becomes tenderer. If you feel like it needs more water, feel free to add the same!
As regards how long your neck bones need to cook, many recommend leaving it in the pot to simmer for about 2 to 4 hours. The more tender you want your neck bones to be, the longer you’ll have to keep them on the grill. Patience is of the utmost essence in making this beef nilaga, after all! However, be sure to check on your meat at least every half hour; it might be as tender as you want it in less time!
When your meat is finally juicy, add a Knorr Beef Cube and your corn on the cob before covering the pot. Cook for about 8 minutes more.
We’re finally at the homestretch! Add your potatoes, then cook them in your stew for about 6 minutes. Next, your remaining ingredients come in: long green beans, cabbage, and bok choy. Your beef nilaga needs only 3 minutes more, under which time you can season with fish sauce and ground black pepper. When the taste is to your liking, that’s it — you’re done!
Turn the heat off the stove and transfer your beef nilaga to a serving bowl. Serve it piping hot with heaping cups of rice, and enjoy!
Did you love this better beef nilaga? Let us know in the comments below!
- Grill the beef neck bones for 11/2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and set it aside.
- Meanwhile, heat cooking oil and sauté the garlic and onion.
- Once the onion softens, add the beef. Sauté for 2 minutes.
- Pour water into the pot. Let it boil. Cover and continue cooking using low heat setting until the meat gets tender. Note: add more water as needed.
- Add Knorr Beef Cube and corn. Cover the pot. Cook for 8 minutes.
- Add potatoes. Cook for 6 minutes.
- Add the long green beans, cabbage, and bok choy. Continue cooking for 3 minutes.
- Season with fish sauce and ground black pepper.
- Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve hot. Share and enjoy!