Beef Mechado is a Filipino-style beef stew made of larded beef chunks braised in tomato sauce with potatoes and carrots. It's a delicious and filling dish that pairs well with steamed rice.
The presence of marbling usually determines the quality of the beef. The more marbling it contains, the better the cut. The intramuscular fat which is visible as white flecks embedded within the muscle fibers helps the meat retain its juiciness and tenderness.
As we all know from our adobos and crispy patas, the fattier parts are the tastiest. In beef mechado, this culinary fact is applied via an ingenious technique of inserting "wicks" of pork fat called lardons or lardoons into cheaper and leaner cuts of beef.
As the larded beef pieces are cooked, the threaded strips of fat melt, adding both flavor and tenderness to the meat.
What Mechado means
Mechado comes from the Spanish root word, Mecha, which means "wick". Influence of Spanish colonization, this Filipino stew traditionally makes use of a Spanish cooking practice of larding inexpensive meat cuts with strips of pork back fat.
It has, however, been adapted to suit local tastes. Calamansi juice and soy sauce along with aromatics such as garlic, onions, and bay leaves are included as key ingredients in the braising liquid for a depth of flavor. Chunks of carrots, potatoes and bell peppers complete the dish with added color and texture.
The term mitsado has evolved over the years to include other cuts of meat such as pork, chicken, bony beef cuts, and fish that are stewed in tomatoes. These present-day incarnations have mostly dispensed of the larding process.
- Beef chunks - chuck roast, top or bottom round, or brisket are great inexpensive cuts to use
- Pork back fat - skip if you want to trim down the fat and calories
- Potatoes and carrots - these root/tuber crops deliciously extend the dish
- Calamansi or lemon juice-about ¼ cup
- Soy sauce- adds umami flavor
- Tomato sauce - substitute chopped fresh tomatoes, if you like
- Onions, garlic, and bay leaves
- Bell peppers - use a combination of green and red for a more festive color
- canola oil
- salt and pepper
- Cut the beef chunks into uniform sizes to ensure even cooking. Two to three inches is a good size to fit in a wick of pork fat.
- Use a small knife to make a small incision on the meat and insert the pork fat. For larger cuts of beef, chill the lardons until firm and use a larder needle to easily insert into the meat.
- While you can marinate the beef in the citrus juice and soy sauce if you like, I find this extra step unnecessary as the beef will cook long enough in the braising liquid to absorb all the flavors.
- To keep the potatoes and carrots from falling apart, pan-fry first until lightly browned.
- Brown the beef in hot oil to build flavor. To sear properly, don't overcrowd the pan and cook in batches as necessary.
- Low and slow is the key to a best-tasting stew. Tougher cuts of meat need to be cooked over long periods to break down connective tissues into fork-tenderness. Don't rush the cooking process lest you end up with a tough and chewy texture.
Difference between Mechado, Afritada, and Calderata
Onions, garlic, and tomatoes are the holy trinity of Filipino cooking and provide the groundwork for a lot of Filipino dishes such as afritada, kaldereta, and mitsado. But while these classic dishes are similar in their cooking process and use of potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers, the addition of a few key ingredients give them their distinct taste.
- Afritada-chicken, pork, or beef stewed in fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce; other versions include pineapples for a sweeter taste
- Caldereta-made of beef or goat with added olives, liver spread, and chili peppers for a richer flavor and kick of heat; other regional versions also use coconut milk for a touch of creaminess
- Menudo-traditionally made with bite-sized cut pork along with liver, garbanzo beans, raisins. and occasionally hotdogs or Vienna sausages
- Mechado-braised in tomato sauce, calamansi juice, and soy sauce for a tangy and savory flavor
Give this mechadong baka recipe a try. For something so hearty and tasty, this Filipino-style beef stew is surprisingly easy to make without a whole lot of prep. So easy in fact the hardest part is waiting to dig in!
Spoon that rich, thick tomato gravy on piping hot steamed rice or sop it up with warm, crusty bread rolls. Either way, it's a satisfying meal the whole family will love!
- 2 pounds chuck roast or top round, cut into 2-inch cubes
- ¼ pound pork fat, cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ¼ cup lemon or calamansi juice
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into cubes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut a thin incision in the center of each beef cubes and gently insert a strip of pork fat. Set aside.
- In a pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add potatoes and carrots and cook until lightly browned. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels.
- Remove oil from the pot except for about 2 tablespoons. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
- Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
- Add lemon or calamansi juice and soy sauce and continue to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, skimming scum that may float on top.
- Add bay leaves.
- Lower heat, cover, and cook for about 1 ½ to 2 hours or until beef is tender. If drying out before beef is tender, add additional water in ½ cup increments as needed.
- Add potatoes and carrots and continue to cook until potatoes are tender and sauce is reduced.
- Add bell peppers and continue to cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until tender-crisp.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.