Beef Mechado is a delicious tomato-based stew that pairs perfectly with a warm cup of rice. It is hearty and filling, and its taste can bring back the comfort of home. The sauce can be made from chopped ripe tomato or canned tomato sauce. This dish is prepared mostly during weekends or special occasions. I think that the cooking time is a factor for the frequency. It takes around 90 minutes to cook it completely using the traditional method. It makes sense to make it when there is enough time.
The word mechado comes from the Spanish term mecha. Mecha means “wick,” and the dish may have adopted this name due to the shape of the beef, which is similar to that of a candle. The original recipe for beef mechado included the process of larding. Larding is what people call the cooking method of adding fatty meat to otherwise lean or bony portions. In the original beef mechado, pork back-fat (the “wicks”) were woven through beef chuck; this gave the meat a juicier flavor. Nowadays, this method isn’t so commonly used anymore, as there are other ways to make your beef mechado juicy and tender.
Beef Mechado Ingredients
Beef Mechado is a colorful and vibrant dish that can liven up your kitchen table. But this beef stew is more than just a tasty meal. Because of the several different vegetables that are integral to a perfect mechado, you get your own fair share of vitamins and nutrients.
Tomato is the “main” vegetable in beef mechado, as it is what makes up your sauce. It’s also a great source of several vitamins and nutrients, of which the most prominent are Vitamin C, K1, potassium, and B9, among others. Round, plump, delicious tomatoes are incredibly beneficial to your health. They contain copious amounts of lycopene, which is a plant compound that’s proven to be helpful for our bodies. Lycopene helps in keeping your heart healthy and strong, and preventing several heart diseases. They also help prevent blood clotting.
Studies have also noted that the amount of tomatoes consumed may be indirectly proportional to the number of cancer cases; the more tomatoes you eat, the less likely you are to have cancer. Another component of tomatoes, carotenoids, also helps reduce instances of breast cancer.
You can also use tomatoes to help improve your skin’s health, and battle illnesses and incidents like sunburn
Chunks of potatoes can also be found in delicious beef mechado. Who doesn’t love potatoes? Not only are they a delicious carb that can help give you energy, but they also keep your body healthy and happy. The potato may seem humble, but it is arguably one of the most versatile ingredients. Whether you boil it, mash it, or stick it in a stew, it’s one of those ingredients that goes perfectly with anything and in anything.
Potatoes are rich in antioxidants, which can help prevent chronic illnesses like heart diseases and cancer. They’re also capable of regulating blood sugar control (perfect for diabetics) and maintaining robust digestive health.
Because they are a carb, potatoes can also be super filling –– which can help those who are trying to lose weight. But knowing us Filipinos who eat even pancit noodles with rice, the chunky potatoes in beef mechado go perfect with –– you guessed it –– even more carbs.
Lemon or Calamansi
The presence of lemon rind is one of the things that makes mechado stand out from other tomato-based stews like caldereta or afritada. The fruit’s sourness gives an extra kick of flavor to your otherwise rich and hearty tomato stew. But did you know that in lieu of lemons, calamansi might also be effective?
Known also as the calamondin or Philippine lime, calamansi may be but little, but it is fierce. We typically use calamansi as a garnish or finishing touch to several classic Filipino dishes, or in a refreshing cold glass of calamansi juice. But even just a tiny squeeze of this tiny fruit is packed with so many nutrients. Because it is a citrus, calamansi is an excellent source of Vitamin C, an immunity booster and memory improver. Even with its sour taste, calamansi also helps regulate acid reflux, soothing stomach pain and easing digestion.
Variations to beef mechado also include adding even more vegetables to the mix, like carrots, peas, and bell peppers. You can even change the meat entirely; my pork mechado recipe makes use of pork shoulder, still attaining the moist, tender deliciousness of its original beef counterpart. Other tomato-based dishes like chicken or pork afritada are also beloved by many. The difference between afritada and mechado lies mostly in the vegetables and ingredients used, but both tomato stews pack a deep, flavorful punch.
Beef mechado is an easy dish to cook, and adaptable to any palate. To cook beef mechado is simple, yet its end product is a dish so complex in taste but so easy, as well, to love. Try it today and let us know what you think of it.
Mechado vs. Kaldereta vs. Afritada
I hear a lot of comments regarding Filipino stews looking the same. What is the difference between mechado, kaldereta, and afritada? This is a valid question. My answer is based on observation.
Mechado in general is a tomato based stew. Meats such as pork and beef are used to make this dish. The meat is cut into 1.5 x 1.5 inch cubes. The other ingredients used to cook mechado are potato, bay leaves, soy sauce, and lemon rind or lemon juice.
Kaldereta is also a Filipino beef stew. It is cooked in a tomato-based sauce. Meats such as pork, beef, goat meat and chicken can be utilized to make this dish. Other ingredients include potato, carrot, and bell peppers. There are two versions of kaldereta. One makes use of liver spread. This is the most common version. The other uses peanut butter. Some of you might not realize that this version existed. It does and here is the recipe. Chili peppers can be added to make it spicy.
Afritada is a type of stew that commonly makes use of pork or chicken. This is the most frequently cooked dish among the three in comparison, in my opinion. Ingredients such as potato, carrot, green peas, bell pepper, and sliced hotdogs are utilized to make this dish.
These three dishes might all look similar, but there are quite a number of differences between each. The manner of preparation, protein used, cooking time, and other ingredients used will makes each dish unique.
How to Cook Beef Mechado
Cooking beef mechado is easier than you might be thinking. The first process is to saute the meat along with garlic and onion. Next is to tenderize it. The last part is to add the seasonings, spices, and other ingredients.
Start to saute by heating oil in a pot. Saute garlic and onion, and then add the beef. It is a good practice to soften the onion before adding the meat. This makes the onion taste sweeter. Add the beef and cook until all sides turn light brown. You’ll need to stir to cook the sides.
Add tomato sauce and water. Let boil. It is time to tenderize the meat. Cover the pot, adjust the heat between low to medium, and cook for 60 minutes or longer until the beef gets tender. You can add more water to prevent the sauce from drying-up during the process.
Add the remaining ingredients. Make sure to adjust the taste based on your preference. This means adding enough salt and pepper. You now have your Beef Mechado to enjoy.
Tips and Tricks
- A good tip is to cook rice while waiting for the meat to tenderize. It might sound funny, but some of us are focused too much in cooking the dish to the point that other components of the meal are forgotten. This will ensure that you can enjoy your meal right after the stew is done.
- Use a pressure cooker to tenderize the beef faster. It can save you time by 70%.
- You can also use a slow cooker if preferred.
- Other types of protein such as pork and chicken can also be utilized for this dish.
Try this Beef Mechado Recipe. Let me know what you think.
Beef Mechado Recipe
- Heat cooking oil in a pan then saute the garlic and onion.
- Put-in the beef and saute for about 3 minutes or until color turns light brown
- Add the tomato sauce and water then simmer until the meat is tender. Add water as needed. Note this can take 60 to 120 minutes depending on the quality of the beef.
- Add the soy sauce, ground black pepper, lemon rind, laurel leaves, and salt then simmer until excess liquid evaporates
- Put-in the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are soft
- Place in a serving plate then serve hot with rice. Share and Enjoy!