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Filipino Nilagang Baka: Boiled Beef Stew by Kitchen Confidante

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Meet my BUDGET  BUDDY today…Liren Baker, who brings to my blog her “Nilagang Baka”. It’s a sumptuous soup stew of boiled beef and vegetables and is guaranteed to fill your bellies with the heartiest flavors, without emptying your pockets.

Like me, Liren likes to cook dishes that remind her of home…her parents’ New York kitchen and her family’s Filipino roots. It’s proof that wherever we are in the world, the heart yearns for home. And there is nothing like the tastes, aromas and the sight of our favorite dishes that ease those longings and make you feel that everything is alright.

Not only does Liren’s  dish showcase our Filipino heritage, but answers an urgent need today to serve affordable meals, without sacrificing quality and delicious taste. So we have a winner here in NILAGANG BAKA by Liren Baker !

I am so pleased to guest post today on Asian in America! When Betty Ann approached me with the challenge of sharing a Filipino dish that is affordable and does not require ethnic ingredients, I knew exactly what to do. Born and raised in New York to parents who immigrated from the Philippines in the early 1970’s, dinners were constant lessons in adaptation and economy. Until ingredients that many consider “ethnic” became more readily available, my mother was adept at substituting ingredients to create dishes that reminded her and my father of home.

When I launched Kitchen Confidante in the early part of 2010, I found myself sharing many of these Filipino dishes adapted for the American kitchen. And of course, the recipes I share reflect my melting pot upbringing and experiences, having lived not only in New York, but the Midwest and my current home, California. The present food culture embraces the unique and exotic, but today, I wanted to show you that simple food is universal…and delicious.

Nilaga. Literally translated, it means “to boil.” If you can boil water, you are well on your way to cooking something wonderful. Nilagang Baka (“Boiled Beef” – a Filipino Beef Stew) reminds me so much of my father. You see, he is not a cook. When I was a little girl, only moments of necessity brought my dad to the kitchen, and he was what you would call a can cook. My dad could make the most amazing dishes with canned corned beef. Or sardines. Or yes, even Spam.

But Nilaga soon became his signature dish. Like most men, he was a meat and potatoes guy. And I like to think that Nilagang Baka is to the Philippines as Corn Beef and Cabbage are to the Irish. I’m sure we all agree that it doesn’t get any more frugal than that.

As for the beef, Nilagang Baka makes perfect use of inexpensive stew meat, as well as beef neck bones, which creates a broth not unlike a clear and rich beef consomme. Eaten with rice, and seasoned at the table with a drop of fish sauce, it becomes a perfect meal, and especially delicious on those wintery New York nights.

Beef. Cabbage. Potatoes. Carrots. Nilaga is adaptable. If you have kamote, or sweet potato, it works in this dish. Have some green beans? Throw it in the pot. But for me, It’s just those simple ingredients, allowed to simmer over time that makes something special out of the very mundane. It is what real food is all about.

Nilagang Baka (Beef Nilaga): Philippine Beef Stew


Serve 4-6




1 lb beef neck bones

1 lb beef for stew

1 large onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6-7 cups water

1/2 head of cabbage

1 kamote (sweet potato)

3 carrots, cut in 1 inch pieces

3 tablespoons fish sauce (or substitute kosher salt)


In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat beef neck bones and stew meat with onion, peppercorns, salt and water over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat, and cover, allowing to simmer for several hours, until the meat is absolutely tender and falling off the bones. If necessary, skim any foam from the broth. If you wish, cook the broth in advance and refrigerate. Any solidified fat will be easier to skim.


When the meat is tender, add the vegetables and cook a little more until the potatoes are fork tender. Season to taste with fish sauce or salt. Serve hot over rice.


Follow: Liren Baker, @kitchconfidante and her blog  www.kitchenconfidante.com

Liren is a mother of two and wife to one, and considers herself a happy Californian living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but has have lived in other foodie meccas such as New York, where she was born and raised, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Inspired by the beauty of food, what it represents, what it invokes, and what we can create out of it, Kitchen Confidante was created to share recipes that remind her of family, friends and life events. It gives voice to Liren’s creative side, showcases the food of her Filipino heritage, and shares the vibrant culinary culture she has learned to embrace in the Bay Area, where she enjoys meeting and telling the stories behind passionate local food artisans and wine makers.


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  1. Nilagang baka is always a staple in our table during weekends. It is a complete dish in itself- you have meat, veggies, soup. Dip it in calamansi with patis or toyo and sili , with steaming rice – heaven!

  2. I could really use a bowl of this right now, as Typhoon Nesat is dumping tons of rain and pummeling us with high winds! Nilaga is so comforting in its delicious simplicity and a perfect example of eating richly on the most humble ingredients. A lovely guest post, Liren & Elizabeth! 😎

  3. Nilagang Baka is great since we’re finally having cooler weather. I like lots of kamote and green beans please. Sometimes saba bananas is a nice surprise. 🙂
    Great post by Liren. Ah, those food memories and now inspired to make my own.

  4. yum I am totally craving nilaga right now! it’s definitely one of my favorite Filipino foods — never fails to comfort and warm my belly when the weather is getting cooler! just stumbled upon your blog through Kitchen Confidante and will be coming back for more. 🙂

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