Still clinging to the last vestiges of spring and the unusually cool weather we’ve been having, I wanted to break out my pressure cooker for one last hurrah before summer fully sets in. This dish comes from a country where the average temperature rarely falls below 80 degrees, making Bulalo a filling stew that’s deceptively light. Perfect, even in warmer weather.
Native to the Southern Luzon region of the Philippines, Bulalo is a light colored soup that’s made rich by cooking beef shanks and beef marrow bones for hours, until much of the collagen and fat has melted into the clear broth. The seasonings vary from chef to chef with some using only salt and black pepper while other variations call for patis, bay leaves or even garlic. But at its core, Bulalo a simple cattleman’s stew, best made in a large cauldron with whatever veggies are growing near by.
In that respect, it’s actually quite similar to the Mexican beef stew, Caldo de Res, which is not entirely surprising given the 250 years of trade that occurred between the two countries while under Spanish rule.
To get the soup extra clear, I’ve employed a two boil technique that uses a short boil to remove all the impurities from the beef, followed by a long simmer to extract all the flavour from the meat and bones. The pressure cooker, cuts the cooking time by about two thirds, but if you have the time/patience you can also do this in a large heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven.
For the veggies, I’ve used corn, sayote, and baby bok choy, but I’ve also seen this made with pechay (chinese cabbage), green beans, potatoes, carrots, etc.
- Boil a large pot of water. Add the marrow bones and beef shank and return to a boil. Continue boiling until you don't see any more red blood coming from the meat or bones (about 10 minutes), then remove the meat and bones with tongs and scrub under cold water to remove any scum. Dump the water in the pot out and rinse the pot. This process rids the meat of excess blood and will ensure your soup is nice and clear.
- Return the cleaned meat and bones to the pot then add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and patis. Cover with water then bring it to a rolling boil and skim off any scum that accumulates.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. If you are using a pressure cooker, afix the lid and let it cook for 1 1/2 hours. If you're not using a pressure cooker, simmer until the meat on the shank is fork tender (4-5 hours). Skim off any excessive fat from the top but do not remove it all (remember, fat=flavour). Transfer the meat and bones to a bowl, then strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve, discard the solids then return the meat and bones to the strained stock.
- Add the corn and chayote and simmer for another 20 minutes or until the chayote is tender. Salt to taste, then add the bok choy at the last minute. Serve with rice.