We saw these wonderful beef shanks at the grocery and they were screaming “pochero, pochero!” so we brought them home, took out a large enameled pot and started cooking them… Pochero is the Cebuano term for what is essentially the Tagalog Beef Bulalo, though with a few other ingredients at play. First, I rinsed the beef shanks and placed them in a single layer in the pot. Added water to about an inch over the shanks and brought this up to a boil. After a minute or two, I threw out all of the water, carefully rinsed the shanks and replaced them back in the now cleaned pot, added more water and turned the heat back on. This step is meant to reduce the amount of scum that appears and which you have to skim off. The scum turns into a cloudier broth later on. Having done this extra step, I have to admit that there was still some scum that formed during the second boiling…
At barely a gurgle, I left the pot to simmer for around 1.5 hours, before adding two chopped white onions and some peppercorns and letting it simmer for another 2 hours more. At this point, we had a last minute change in lunch plans so I turned off the heat and left the pochero in the pot to cool down. By five p.m. of the same day, nearly 9 hours after I started cooking the pochero, the pot was still warm and the beef was unbelievably soft. An hour later, I turned on the gas to high to bring the pot of soup back up to the boiling point, added some julienned ginger and bamboo shoots to the broth and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, then added chopped green onions and some corn and simmered it some more… Add salt to taste.
Served super hot with lots of rice, this was a HOME RUN! Nothing like a comforting bowl of soup… but the meat on this pochero was just FALLING OFF the bone! The only thing I didn’t particularly like was that the long cooking process literally melted most of the bone marrow or bulalo and it was floating in the soup. If I had to do this again, I would remove the bones much earlier in the cooking process and re-introduce them to the soup shortly before serving. Otherwise the flavor was superb, the meat incredibly tender, and all of this without a beef bouillon cube, beef broth, MSG, etc.
And the perfect sawsawan to go with this pochero? A generous slice (actually I used two) of fresh dayap, a bird’s eye chili (siling labuyo) and some fish sauce (patis). Yum. If you want a slightly healthier version, you could skim the fat off the surface before serving… but I have to warn you, that’s where a lot of goodness is… :)