The best beef tapa recipe lays in its marinade. It has a balance of flavours which Filipinos love which is sweet, salty, garlicky and tangy. Described as the Filipino beef jerky, this dish is extremely simple as the cooking instructions only require the meat to be marinated with common ingredients and then grilling them.
Traditionally, beef tapa was prepared using the slow method. Curing the meat with sea salt and then allowing it to dry under the sun to preserve the meat. Today, the process is made easier by ensuring the meat is infused with the same flavours without the need to dry them.
In English, the term tapa refers to cured meat of any type. Depending on the selection of meat, it will be called accordingly, for example pork tapa or carabao (water buffalo).
What is Tapsilog?
Beef tapa is commonly served with garlic fried rice or also known as sinangag. The combination together with itlog (egg) is what the locals refer to as Tapsilog, a favourite all-day breakfast meal. Tapsilog is a word based on the abbreviation for tapa, sinangag and itlog. Tapsilog is so loved that Jolibee, Filipino's most popular fast food chain has it on its menu.
As a matter of fact, there is a collection of ‘silog’ type breakfast meals such as tocilog with tocico (sweet cured pork) and bangsilog with bangus (milkfish). Eateries selling these meals are called tapsihan or gotohan. Tapsihan is where they sell tapsi (tapa and sinangag/fried rice) or tapsilog. Tapsihan is the tagalog term and we can call it Tapa house in English.
Gotohan is where they sell goto or beef tripe. Can be called Goto house in english. Goto house doesn‘t necessarily just sell goto and serve a variety of dishes.
Tips to avoid tough beef tapa
The texture of beef can be rather tough if the wrong cut of beef is chosen or if it is cooked with the wrong method. I always recommend using sirloin as it is the most tender and the easiest to cook. If you use other tougher cuts such as bottom round which is located at the rear leg of a cow, add about 1 cup of water to the recipe and simmer the dish until the meat is tender before grilling it with some oil (step 3).
Another important tip is to use thinly sliced beef (ca. 1 cm) for it to be more tender and also to speed up the cooking process. Pounding the beef will also help in softening the texture of the meat.
Substitute for calamansi
Calamansi is a citrus fruit that is commonly found in a Filipino kitchen. Not only does it gives a fantastic flavour, the acid in the fruit will also helps to tenderize the meat. If you are not able to find it, simply use a lemon as a 1:1 substitute.
Taste the marinade
The marinade is very important in this dish. It is best to taste it first before adding the meat. The marinade can be customized to your preference. Add more sugar for sweetness or citrus juice for sourness. For an extra kick of spice, simply add another dash of pepper.
How long to marinate beef tapa?
Since we are forgoing the slow meat curing process, I do suggest spending a little longer time to marinate the meat in a food container with the lid on. It should take at least 4 hours or overnight for the best results. This guarantees a beautiful infusion of tanginess and sweetness to crave for when thinking about tapa.
The beef can be kept marinated in the refrigerator for up to a week. Any longer period will cause the meat to turn mushy as the acid breaks down the protein fibers.
Beef tapa dipping sauce and sides
The special sauce used is a vinegar based dipping sauce which has a simple mixture of vinegar, garlic, pepper and fresh chillies for the extra heat. On the side, it is served with freshly cut tomatoes, cucumber and sometimes atchara. Atchara is pickle made with grated unripe papaya.
Freeze and reheat beef tapa
Beef tapa tastes best when eaten fresh. It is not advisable to freeze it and be reheated later. If you do not plan to consume the dish anytime soon, freeze the marinated beef instead. Thaw it before cooking.