Beef pares: From street food to award-winning dish

When he decided to join a recent culinary competition, Joaquin Carsi Cruz knew right away what his entry would be: beef pares. It’s a dish of many memories, a dish close to his heart and familiar to his taste buds.

“Beef pares is great comfort food for me,” he says. “It’s all about nostalgia. It reminds me of late nights with friends. Sometimes after a night of drinking or partying, we would eat beef pares. The hot stew and rice would sober me up and help me fall asleep.”

Choosing beef pares as his entry turned out to be the right decision. Carsi Cruz won the top prize in the second edition of the East Meets West culinary competition sponsored by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board.

Joaquin Carsi Cruz, top winner in the second edition of Bord Bia’s East Meets West

And yet it was an unconventional choice. Beef pares is not exactly on the radar of gourmet cooking. It’s street food, served in thekanto, in carinderias, and at pit stops for jeepney and taxi drivers. Not many are even aware of it and it’s hardly ever served in restaurants. But for taxi and jeepney drivers, the hoi polloi and those who love good, comforting food no matter where it’s served, beef pares fills their hunger and satisfies their need for flavorful food at an affordable cost.

Made with tough cuts of meat, beef pares is stewed for hours in a sauce made fragrant by exotic herbs and spices. The long simmering coaxes the beef into tenderness and creates a rich, aromatic dish. It’s often served with a side of steaming hot soup and rice, making it the ideal Filipino comfort food.

In keeping with Bord Bia’s theme of East Meets West, Carsi Cruz turned this simple fare into a gourmet dish.

“I used French techniques to elevate this Filipino dish,” he says. For instance, he seared the beef in a Dutch oven, and afterwards deglazed the pan with white wine. He used a roux to thicken the sauce, and instead of tenderizing the meat over a stovetop, he put it in a 325ºF oven and let it cook for one-and-a-half to two long hours.

“It’s like cooking boeuf bourguignon (the French beef stew), says Carsi Cruz.

The result was a more refined version of beef pares. The beef (he used short ribs) was fork-tender, without being mushy. The roux, a mixture of flour and butter, gave the sauce a smooth consistency and a rich, velvety texture, making it more similar to gravy. The mushroom stock, which he added to the simmering liquid, augmented the umami taste of the beef.

Instead of ordinary rice, Carsi Cruz used adlai, a gluten-free, native grain rich in dietary fiber. And though this can be made with local cuts of beef such as brisket, in keeping with the contest, Carsi Cruz used Irish beef.

“I believe European beef is superior to any other product in the market because of its high quality and sustainability,” Carsi Cruz said during the competition.

A student at the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila, Carsi Cruz also conceptualized a unique way of presenting his entry. Naming it Pares sa Gubat, he created a landscape of forest, marsh, and swamp on a plate, with the beef on top of the rice, and mushrooms, edible flowers, and microgreens surrounding the rice. On the side was a “swamp” of sauce, dotted with a sweet-spicy mango gel.

“As you eat it, you feel as if you’re foraging in the forest,” he explains.

Indeed, with his entry, Carsi Cruz has elevated a humble street food into a dish worthy of fine dining.

As part of his prize, Carsi Cruz was awarded gift vouchers, a cooking class with renowned chefs Philip John Golding and Mark Hagan, a stay in a luxury hotel that includes an Irish breakfast, and a chef’s kit. But being a chef at heart (his mother Ging is also a chef and restaurateur), he says winning the contest was reward enough. “The pure joy I felt was already a prize.”

Beef Pares Sa Gubat

(This recipe is based on the winning recipe of chef Joaquin Carsi Cruz. It has been slightly adjusted for the home cook.)

For the beef:

Ingredients:

1 kilo beef short ribs (cut into large cubes)
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil (may use vegetable oil, canola, or any neutral oil)
1 whole white onion, chopped
1 head garlic, diced
3 pieces star anise
2-inch ginger, diced
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup white wine
Mushroom stock (see below)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups white shimeji mushrooms

Adlai topped by the beef, mushrooms, and micro-greens, and a “swamp” of sauce on the side.

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven, or in a thick, ovenproof cooking pan with a lid. Sear the beef ribs in the hot oil on all sides, then remove the beef from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the onions, garlic, star anise, ginger, and cinnamon stick then pour in the white wine. Deglaze the pot by scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits of food. Pour in the mushroom stock (see recipe below) and stir the mixture well. Stir in the brown sugar, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add in the seared beef short ribs.

Cover the pot with a lid and place it in the preheated oven. Cook until the beef is tender, around one-and-a-half to two hours. When the beef is tender, remove the pot from the oven and skim off excess fat. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer. Taste the liquid and adjust the seasoning if desired.

In a pan, melt the butter then add the flour in small batches, stirring constantly to create a smooth paste. Slowly pour in the liquid from the beef (the one that’s been strained), stirring constantly until the flour-butter mixture is completely incorporated and the sauce is smooth (this is called the roux).

Cook the shimeji mushrooms quickly in the sauce then set aside. (While the beef is tenderizing, you can make the mango gel and cook the adlai —see recipes below.)

To make the mushroom stock:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 white onion, diced
1/2 head garlic, diced
150 grams chopped button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups water

Procedure:

Heat oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic. Add the mushrooms then pour in the water. Simmer for three to five minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the mushrooms. Use the liquid as directed above.

For the mango gel:

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangoes, diced
3 pieces chilies (siling labuyo), diced, seeds removed
2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice from 10 pieces calamansi
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
1/4 cup water

Procedure:

In a blender combine the mangoes, chilies, garlic, calamansi juice, and salt. Process until smooth. Strain the liquid into a cooking pan then add the corn syrup. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if desired.

Sprinkle gelatin powder on the one-fourth cup water and let the gelatin “bloom” for a few minutes. Add to the mango mixture. Heat the mixture to dissolve the gelatin. Transfer the mixture to a container and let set in the refrigerator.

Once set, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend again until it becomes a gel consistency (liquid should be slightly thick). Strain once more then pour into a squirt bottle. Set aside.

For the adlai rice:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 onion
1/2 head garlic
1 1/2 cups adlai, rinsed
3 cups chicken stock (may use canned chicken broth)
Sweet garlic purée (see recipe below)
Microgreens/edible flowers (optional)

Procedure:

In a pot, heat cooking oil and sauté the onion and garlic. Add the adlai and sauté for about one minute. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer then cover the pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the adlai is fully cooked. Or, you can cook the adlai in a rice cooker. When the adlai is cooked, mix in the sweet garlic purée.

To make the sweet garlic purée

Peel one whole head of garlic then put it in a pan and add enough cold water to cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove the garlic from the water and mash them. Use for the adlai.

To plate the dish

In a deep, concave plate, scoop about one cup of adlai on one side. Place three to four pieces of the beef ribs on top of the adlai. Spoon some of the sauce on the left side of the rice. Pipe small circles of mango gel over the sauce. Stick some of the shimeji mushrooms on top of the rice. If desired add some microgreens and edible flowers on top. Repeat with remaining adlai, beef, and mango gel. Makes about four servings.

Source: Philstarlife – https://philstarlife.com/living/140135-beef-pares-joaquin-carsi-cruz

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