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AroundHawaii.com: The “Ultimate” Filipino Beef Mechado

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!

It’s a recipe for the “Ultimate” Filipino Beef Mechado.

What is Mechado?


Filipino Beef Mechado, featuring beef short ribs, red bell peppers and potatoes, served with fresh ripe banana slices

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.


Tender Filipino Beef Mechado potato, coated with its gravy goodness

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

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

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.

13 thoughts on “AroundHawaii.com: The “Ultimate” Filipino Beef Mechado

  • July 5, 2014 at 11:48 am
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    My problem with this dish in restaurants is that while it seems to have all the right ingredients for a fine stew, it is always undercooked, or in other words, not stewed enough. I attribute this to the fact that most Filipino restaurants are owned by self-taught chefs. There is no reason in the world why this dish could not be world class.

    Reply
    • July 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm
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      @ Pat,

      When trying to duplicate a recipe one must pay attention to the type of cookware the original recipe was created in. Different cookware retains or releases the water in the produce thus you use the wrong cookware you end up with a soggy end product, undercooked product or a very dry product.

      Reply
      • July 6, 2014 at 11:07 am
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        Ken,

        That being said, I’d say this Beef Mechado isn’t a dish for the novice pressure cooker user, as it can go from perfect to overcooked quickly. In fact, that’s the only part I deviated from from Diner C’s original recipe, only to test my pressure cooking skills. She kinda’ balked at the idea of using a pressure cooker for this mechado, preferring to do it conventionally only because there’s more control of the heat, and because of how many steps involved in the flavor building process of this stew. I’ve tried both conventional and pressure cooker methods with this recipe and can say the outcome, flavor-wise are the same. However there is definitely more character in the texture of the meat, red peppers and potatoes when cooked with conventional cookware.

        Reply
  • July 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm
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    pat,

    I actually cooked the batch of Mechado for this recipe presentation a little too long in my pressure cooker. For the duration that the meat is cooked during the flavor building process, it’s already about 1/3 done by the time the final stewing portion of the cooking process starts. That said, If you look closely, notice most of the rib bones have separated from the meat, where it literally became fall-off-the-bones tender. Like BBQ pork ribs, I prefer the meat fork tender, yet still attached to the bone for better gnawing, and also being easier to eat. Still turned out incredible though, and true to how this Beef Mechado recipe should taste.

    Regarding Mechado being an upscale dish, perhaps you could dial it up a few more notches than it already is by using a beef stock reduction instead of the Knorr® Beef Bouillons, which are high in sodium and MSG. Also try making the tomato sauce from scratch vs. can. You could also try using a top quality cut of beef, however I think “poho” (waste) in this type of stew, where the precious and tasty fat marbling will get rendered out and discarded.

    Next time I make Beef Mechado, I’ll try pairing it with wine: either a Cab’, Pinot Noir or Shiraz should stand up well to the savory stewed beef.

    Speaking of which, I’d like to try Ina Garten’s recipe for the classic French Beef Bourguignon…

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beef-bourguignon-recipe.html#lightbox-recipe-video

    Reply
    • July 6, 2014 at 7:26 am
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      Your dish appears to be one of the finest I have seen.

      Reply
  • July 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm
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    Note to readers, I revised this post, where the complete Filipino Beef Mechado recipe is included here. Enjoy!

    Reply
  • July 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm
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    Pomai,
    If you are going to try French cooking (classic French Boeuf Bourguignon) wouldn’t it be reasonable to learn from two of the masters of French cooking; Juila Child and Jacques Pipin? I have a number of their signed cookbooks with their original classic French Boeuf Bourguignon recipe in them. I have the warm pleasure of knowing both of them professionally and nonprofessionally and attending parties with them.

    Reply
    • July 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm
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      Ken,

      If you haven’t yet, you should see the film ‘Julie & Julia’…

      Reply
      • July 5, 2014 at 9:13 pm
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        Pomai,

        I’ve seen the full movie ‘Julie & Julia’. I also had the good fortune to cook the final evening convention meal for Juila Child and her table in front of 1,700 professional chefs center stage after I spent all morning cooking appetizers for the all of the chefs in an offsite Japanese restaurant kitchen at the 2000 International Chef’s Convention (no problem because my best buddy was owner of a Chinese restaurant and I was allowed in his restaurant kitchen). My apron that I was wearing has all the notable chef’s signature on it (worth mega bucks now). I was invited to Juila Child’s going away party in Boston, MA and was invited to be seated at the her family table which I enjoyed and have many photographs.

        If you would like me to send you copies of the original classic French Boeuf Bourguignon recipes by Juila Child and also Jacques Pipin to practice on I will, just say so.

        Reply
        • July 6, 2014 at 10:34 am
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          Ken,

          See, that’s why I call you the “Makaha Renaissance Man”. You never fail to surprise and amaze me at all the accomplishments you’ve achieved in life.

          Cooking appetizers for 1,700 professional chefs at a convention for Julia Child? Even Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy would be jealous of you!

          Sure, send that Boeuf Bourguigon recipe my way. Can I do it in a pressure cooker, or is that considered blasphemy to the dish? lol Seriously though, I’d like to see how it compares to Ina Garten’s recipe, whom as you might know, spent lots of time living and traveling around France.

          Reply
  • July 10, 2014 at 9:22 am
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    Pomai,

    Hard to tell for sure, but is the meat the same as Kalbi ribs which are cut into one bone sections? Or are you custom cutting English style short ribs? Some of the pieces look a little thicker than the standard flanken cut short ribs used for Kalbi. Thanks.

    Reply
    • July 10, 2014 at 9:39 am
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      scotdc,

      Yes, the cut I use is your typical local style Kalbi beef short ribs that were cut into individual bone sections. I used thin-sliced short ribs, however the thicker the better, of course.

      The TRUE Kalbi short rib cut is ONE thick-cut beef rib with the meat butterflied off of it, yet still attached to the rib bone on one end. That’s how they serve at Jin Joo Korean Restaurant in Waimalu Shopping Center.

      Reply

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