The Tasty Island’s July 2014 food column article is now published over at AroundHawaii.com, the community voice of Oceanic Time Warner Cable. Yay!
What is Mechado?
Filipino Beef Mechado is a Spanish-inspired Tagalog stew dish that’s similar to the tomato sauce based “Hawaiian” Beef Stew, kicked-up notches ‘n notches thanks to the infusion of red bell peppers and a few other key ingredients.
Meg’s Drive-In Beef Stew
I learned about this incredible dish from Diner C, who taught me in fine detail, step-by-step how to make it exactly how she was taught by her mom and grandma back in Manila, Philippines, where she’s originally from.
Along with key ingredients, critical to the successful outcome of this recipe is the flavor-building process. Specifically being the extraction of as much flavor as possible from the red bell peppers, which are the highlight of this dish. Doing this by finely chopping them and cooking it in the oil until the oil turns red, similar to preparing Annato Oil for Puerto Rican Gandule Rice or Spanish Arroz Con Pollo.
And the peppers must be red, not green or yellow, as some other Mechado recipes out there call for.
Silver Swan brand soy sauce from the Philippines is also a key ingredient, being it has an intensely savory flavor profile. It’s widely distributed in the U.S. now, so you should be able to find it at your local asian megamart. If you can’t find Silver Swan soy sauce, a typical Chinese or Japanese dark soy sauce would be your next best bet.
For the beef, bone-in short ribs are recommended, however cheaper boneless stew type cuts will suffice if cost and/or easier eating are concerns.
Handed down from an old family recipe direct from Manila, Philippines, here’s the recipe for the “ultimate” Filipino Beef Mechado. Look no further in cook books or the web, this is THE ONE!
The “Ultimate” Filipino Beef Mechado
By Diner C
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 – 3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs cut into single bone and meat segments
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 8 Cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Medium onion (white or red), finely chopped
- 1 Medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 Large red bell pepper, cut into bite-size squares
- 4 Medium potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
- 1 or 2 bay leaf
- ½ Cup Soy Sauce (preferably Silver Swan brand from the Philippines)
- 1 or 2 Cubes of beef bouillon (Knorr brand, if available) (adjust depending on quantity of overall stew ingredients, as these are salty)
Step 1.) In a stew pot add cooking oil and bring to medium-high heat, then add the chopped garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
Step 2.) Add the finely chopped red bell peppers and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the oil takes on a reddish color from the red bell peppers. This is a very important step for the flavor of this dish!
Step 3.) Once the oil turns reddish, add the chopped onions and cook for 5 minutes.
Step 4.) Now add the cuts of beef, cover pot and cook for 10 minutes, turning the beef to cook all sides.
Step 5.) Add the shoyu, beef bouillon and bay leaf into pot and stir to help dissolve the bouillon cube and to coat meat thoroughly, then cover and cook 15 minutes to let the beef absorb these flavors.
Step 6.) Add the can of tomato sauce to pot and cover it, then bring down heat to medium simmer and continue cooking until beef becomes tender (approximately 1 to 2 hours on a regular stove; 20-25 minutes in a pressure cooker), stirring occasionally (if on regular stove).
Step 7.) When beef is about halfway cooked tender, place the peeled and quartered potatoes on top of stew (do not mix) in pot, cover and continue cooking until the potatoes are fork tender from the heat and steam in the pot. At this time, it would be a good idea to coat the potatoes with the goodness of the stew broth. When potatoes reach fork tenderness, gently remove from pot with tongs and set aside. Keep warm. Note, if you’re doing it in a pressure cooker, you can either boil or bake the boiled potatoes separately, then add it at the end for serving.
Step 8.) Continue cooking until the beef is completely tender.
Step 9.) Once the beef short ribs are tender and and the stew broth is fully “married” with all the flavors (about 1-2 hours total time in a regular covered pot, or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker), add the uncooked bite size red bell pepper squares and stir to combine with beef, then turn off heat and cover again to let the raw red bell peppers cook through just until soft. Skim as much excess oil (fat) off the surface as possible using a spoon or ladle.
Step 10.) Return the fork-tender cooked quartered potatoes into the pot scattered around the top (don’t stir in or they may break), or transfer the finished Mechado to a serving bowl or pan and scatter the cooked quartered potatoes atop for presentation. For for additional authenticity, add fresh ripe banana slices (shown) which adds this wonderful flavor and texture contrast to the Mechado, similar to Mango Chutney. That’s how it’s done in P.I.
Serve with fresh hot rice and enjoy!
To explain how this Filipino Beef Mechado tastes, again, think of “Hawaiian” style Beef Stew, the tomato sauce based type both your Tutu (grandma) and the local plate lunch stand serves, taken to a whole new level, thanks to the infusion of the red bell peppers, along with the increased savory depth from the Silver Swan Shoyu and Beef Bouillon. Having only red bell peppers in it vs. carrots and celery are what keeps the flavor profile simple, having a distinguishable note of Spanish-Filipino fusion.
While I try to minimize consumption of red meat, on my short list of dishes I tend to crave, including a fat, juicy grilled Rib Eye Steak and Swiss ‘n Shroom Burger, this Filipino Beef Mechado is up there with them at the top.
For more great local recipes, restaurant reviews and informative articles on a wide variety of subjects about Hawaii, please visit AroundHawaii.com.