23 Jun2010

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For years I have wanted to replicate or create a beef tapa that was reminiscent of, but hopefully better than, the beef tapa or really “casajos” that I recall from breakfasts in my grandmother’s home in Cebu. Lola’s casajos was hard, almost like beef jerky, and according to my sister, it was dried high up above the brick ovens in the bakery she owned. I could never find a recipe, though Diday, a reader, suggested one in this post, and I intuitively knew it should be easy to make, but for some reason never got around to it until recently. If you are older than 40 as you read this, you may have an inkling what I am writing about when I say I was seeking a dried tapa, one with a unique flavor near the edges, that I now realize is from the drying process used. It was an intensely beefy flavor, and tapas today simply don’t seem to possess it.

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The key to a good casajos had to lie in the drying process. But having never trained in food science, the thought of sun-drying my meat on say the galvanized iron (G.I.) sheets on our roof conjured up several visions of self-inflicted food poisoning. I knew salt and sun should kill off or prevent cootie formulation, but no one else in the neighborhood seemed to be doing it, so I would be flying solo, potential trip to the emergency room be damned.

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Some six months ago I even purchased several meters of screen, thinking I would craft my own drying contraption, safe from flies and all. Then I forgot about the purchase, the HOTTEST and sunniest summer of recent memory passed, and on the first two days of steady rains, I managed to start my casajos recipe, hoping the sun would return to dry off my beef au naturel. No such luck.

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So here is how I made this experimental batch of casajos or beef tapa. The results were so good there isn’t much to tweak except for pursuing the true sun dried version at some future point. Purchase some thinly sliced beef sirloin. Smash it with a meat pounder to thin it further and flatten it out. Cut into serving sized pieces. Onto 700 grams of meat, I sprinkled about 1+ tablespoon of kosher salt, about 1-2 tablespoons of kikkoman soy sauce, about 1 tablespoon of white sugar, a splash of vinegar (I used apple but feel free to use other types), lots of cracked black pepper and some 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed. I mixed this up and stored it in a ziplock bag in the fridge for two days.

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Because the sun was being uncooperative, I decided to dry out the beef in a 200F oven on cookie racks over a cookie sheet. I didn’t want dessicated beef, just not juicy beef, so I dried the batch for some 20 minutes on one side and turned it over for another 15 minutes or so. It was looking good at this point. If you want to dry your casajos further, go ahead. I suspect in the fiercest of summer days with the sun beating down on the beef, 2-3 hours would be sufficient to dry off the casajos.

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After drying and cooling the beef, I stuck it back into a ziplock bag and refrigerated it until the next morning. Heat up a cast iron skillet, add a bit of vegetable oil and fry up the pieces of tapa until slightly caramelized on both sides. Serve with some rice or garlic rice, a fried egg, some homemade acharra and you will be in Tapsilog heaven. This turned out wonderfully. It had that slightly “skanky” or intense aroma and flavor that must have come from the drying, and it was salty but flavorful. Perfect with chili vinegar. YUM. I also tried frying some of the casajos that was NOT oven dried (last picture above) and it was good too, but did not possess the intense beefiness of the former oven dried version. This wasn’t quite my lola’s casajos, but it was very good and a keeper of a recipe. If beef tapa is indeed the winner in the recent poll of favorite breakfast meats, I sure hope you try to make your own at home. So easy, such delicious results. As always… great ingredients, careful balancing of flavors, and a desire to recreate a dish before folks messed with it to the point of being unrecognizable… and you end up with something good. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. ernie bautista says:

    Tapa is one of my favorite breakfast meal with garlic fried rice and vinegar with a few siling labuyo. I use to make it in my younger days quite a bit ( in the early 60’s ). I dont remember the specialty cuts like sirloin, new york strip, rib eye, flank steak and filet mignon those days or maybe they have them and we are just to poor to afford it. I just buy the cheapest cut , have it thinly sliced and when I get home I tenderize it by pounding the meat with the back of the knife sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic sundry it for about 4 hours and its ready for frying.It always turn out perfect for me.

    I also tried horse meat since my aunts specialty in Pasay City meat market only sells horse meat. I dont think there is any discernible difference in taste. If I remember correctly the color of horse meat is darker than beef but the taste is the same.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 5:18 am

     
  2. benjie says:

    this dish reminds me the best tapa in my place in paranaque, MATY’s tapsilog which made from horse meat

    Jun 23, 2010 | 5:29 am

     
  3. Footloose says:

    We dried them outdoors on special bamboo flat baskets called bistay in Tagalog. Same round shape but different from bilao in that the bamboo filets are narrower and the surface of the basket is lattice-like and riddled with holes. Saltpeter was resorted to sparingly, just to prevent the meat pieces from attracting all the flies in the neighborhood and/or to reduce possible risk of botulism.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 6:21 am

     
  4. jack says:

    i could have tapa at any part of the day not just for breakfast :) your photos look yummy and indeed made me hungry.

    benjie, i didn’t know that Matty’s tapa were made from horse meat… me and my officemates ordered there for a few times already and i didnt notice any difference with the taste, i actually just thought it’s beef :)

    Jun 23, 2010 | 7:36 am

     
  5. present tense says:

    i just hope my teeth are strong enough

    Jun 23, 2010 | 7:58 am

     
  6. Roberto Vicencio says:

    I think “gamey” is the more appropriate term. I hung out with some skanky women and they did not smell that good.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 8:20 am

     
  7. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    I have to thank Wahini for bringing back making casajos the “old-fashion way” at her domain in Don Merto’s at Casa Escano. It sure is quicker to order when the stomach calls rather than having to make it yourself. ;->…..hehehehe.

    @Roberto Vicencio…..hahahaha….but your choice of “meat” sure are gamey!!!! My apologies to everyone for this comment..PEACE

    Jun 23, 2010 | 8:50 am

     
  8. thea says:

    hi marketman! in bacolod, there is a hole in a wall called SAVORY, and they made the best beef tapas ever. it was dry and crunchy and sooo good with sinamak and garlic rice. i heard they used cara-beef. carabeef in bacolod is actually more expensive than regular beef. and when i went to the market to ask about meat for beef tapas, most vendors recommended cara-beef. :D

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:12 am

     
  9. Eileen says:

    This post made me hungy, MM! :)

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:14 am

     
  10. itzuy says:

    Hi, – I just stumbled on your website and I love the fact that you have so many Cebuano dishes. I’ve been living in Sydney for more than 20 years and I just love the pictures of the food that we miss back home. I remember my Lola’s casajos had lots of ginger and she used to string it through a bamboo stick called “tungan” and hung it out to dry.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:39 am

     
  11. junb says:

    Hi MM, you should try a home food dehydrator to dry your tapa or improvise one using those square fan to dehydrate it

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:39 am

     
  12. Divine G. says:

    When we used to do this a long time ago we used the same recipe that you have but I remembered it being dried in the sun with a “kulambo-like food cover to protect it from flies and it is hanging in the air. I mean it is placed in a flat container then covered with that “kulambo-like contraption and then hang in the “sampayan”. HMMMMMMM…..I wish I could do it now but I’m trying to slim down.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:48 am

     
  13. kittel says:

    This is the way my father makes his casajos or kusahos…and as usual I am eating breakfast while reading your blog…It never fails to make me yearn for home and the old days.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:53 am

     
  14. nina says:

    ooh i cant wait to try this!! i remember THAT version of tapa of my childhood!! my aunt used to by them in divisoria and it was such a feast everybody actuallyworke up early to eat breakfast!! thanks MM!! :)

    Jun 23, 2010 | 10:03 am

     
  15. Kaya says:

    This post brought back memories from breakfasts by my lola. She served us tapa that isn’t like the commercial ones today. I remember how she used to hang longganisa and tapa with cotton kulambo in the middle of the sampayan.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 10:41 am

     
  16. betty q. says:

    Footloose: that is the same way Malaysian pork jerky is dried…super thin marinated pork slices and then with an oiled bilao, the pork slices are overlapped and sun dried, then cut into squares and briefly barbecued for a few seconds.

    Artisan: ask Wahini to make those pork jerky too…

    Jun 23, 2010 | 10:42 am

     
  17. wilde says:

    I recently saw in Bizarre Foods that in Arizona, some of the local mexican restos there offer a kind of sun-dried tapa (or beef jerky). It’s served uncooked.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 12:03 pm

     
  18. chreylle says:

    i can say horse meat is as good as beef tapa. i used to buy it in one stall in malabon market that is already cooked and its very very tasty and tender. i tried many times to buy it in raw and replicate but it cant be the same. can anyone here tell me how to cook it to become very very tender and a li’l saucy?

    Jun 23, 2010 | 12:13 pm

     
  19. Magck says:

    I remember my mom used to make these as well. If I remember correctly – it was a bit dark (probably with soysauce) and salted up, placed on bilao then sun-dried. Results when cooked are exactly the same as you describe… a bit on the tough side, with crunchy edges.

    I’ll tell my kapot to try this one out, it looks really good. Thanks, mm!

    Jun 23, 2010 | 12:21 pm

     
  20. Roberto Vicencio says:

    Chreylle – we live close by Sta. Ana Race track so we’ve had our fill of horse tapa. And yes they are very good too. Pretty sad considering you might be feasting on the loser of the 3rd race that day.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 2:08 pm

     
  21. Ed B. says:

    I would imagine that the drying process would yield a more flavorful tapa (just as with dry-aged steaks), but doesn’t this also leave you with a tougher piece of meat (since the thin pieces of meat cannot retain much moisture)?

    Regarding the horse tapa, the tapsilog places here in Paranaque (Don Galo to be precise) supposedly use horse meat for their tapa and it is yummy. If you get to try it, you definitely won’t mistake it for beef because the meat’s grain and texture, as well as the color and taste, is very different.

    @Roberto, I’m not too sure about eating the losing horse in the races because aren’t race horses fed a steady diet of antibiotics, pain killers, etc.?

    Jun 23, 2010 | 3:27 pm

     
  22. Trissa says:

    Okay, am definitely going to be trying this soon – plus your tocino!

    Jun 23, 2010 | 6:44 pm

     
  23. Footloose says:

    Ed B, one should be concerned more immediately with the anabolic steroids they have been giving to race horses in the last twenty or so years. Ben Johnson, a Canadian/Jamaican speed runner lost his Olympic gold due to test results that yielded equine anabolic steroids. So I would definitely say neigh to bouchers chevalines (horse butchers).

    Jun 23, 2010 | 6:52 pm

     
  24. calorie-shmalorie says:

    junb is right MM, looks like you could use a food dehydrator. i have one and have used it for a lot of things – drying herbs (keeps its color well), sliced fruit, crystallized flowers, icing flowers. i’m thinking it’ll work for meringues (how do they ever get the commercial ones so white??) might try your tapa recipe soon, just pull it out early before it totally becomes beef jerky.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 7:15 pm

     
  25. chinky says:

    Yes–have been craving for the casajos that my lola used to make. No one in the family seems to have done this. I remember she used to dry them the whole day under the sun but the cook had to keep a watchful eye on this as the cats just might beat her to the casajos! Will try this, MM

    Jun 23, 2010 | 7:55 pm

     
  26. noes says:

    Just had that for breakfast.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 8:06 pm

     
  27. EbbaBlue says:

    I have been making beef jerky using our local packed Tocino Mix with little red wine vinegar – and home dehydrator. The beef – I have it sliced paper thin (milanesa) by the butcher. Four hours and we have a great (no need to cook) jerky. My grandchildren loves them. I will try your method and dehydrate them for only two hours, freeze, and then fry the next morning. Wish me luck.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 9:25 pm

     
  28. Connie C says:

    Don’t race horses get tested for drugs too?
    So, caveat emptor or among other things you might grow hair in your chest or get tissue shrinkage or bulking up in undesired places of your anatomy…….. if horse meat is your thing,he, he.

    Jun 23, 2010 | 11:22 pm

     
  29. Chris Davis says:

    My “mama” (grandma) used to make tapa from thinly sliced beef dried on a bilao covered with a screen to keep out the flies– she was paranoid about those flies :) I know what you mean about those edges. When fried up, I remember those as being thin, crunchy and beefier. Yum, I’m getting hungry.
    I’ve made both the oven-dried and the dehydrator version of tapa, and while both were good, I guess it’s hard to compete with those happy memories of childhood.

    Jun 24, 2010 | 12:46 am

     
  30. jean says:

    Adopt.Me.Now!

    Jun 24, 2010 | 4:53 am

     
  31. tamale8888 says:

    I miss casajos! My maternal grandmother (a Cebuana) used to bring those (along with dried pusit, danggit, otap, rosquillos and dried mangoes) to Manila after her vacays in Cebu. I think she used to get the casajos from Victoria Farms (?). Dunno if its still around.

    Jun 24, 2010 | 9:06 am

     
  32. Michael says:

    Hi Marketman. I know this is a stupid question, but I am just wondering how are you able to make such a perfect sunny side up egg? Can you just briefly tell me the procedure? I have tried frying up a sunny side up numerous times but it never comes out right. Thanks.

    Jun 24, 2010 | 11:55 am

     
  33. present tense says:

    Much of commercial philippine meat is steroidized and pumped up antibiotically. Steroids tend to retain water in tissues – pork meat comes to mind. Race horses too. And God knows what they do to wet market meats in our country. But your typical kalesa horse may be your safest bet. It pays to know your suki. And best consumed in moderation

    Jun 24, 2010 | 3:15 pm

     
  34. joyce says:

    this is making me crave tapa…. yum

    Jun 24, 2010 | 5:09 pm

     
  35. marissewalangkaparis says:

    yum…hungry….

    Jun 24, 2010 | 5:55 pm

     
  36. maddie says:

    omg thank you. never thought you can do drying process in an oven. i also have longed for the jerky type of tapa that my lola used to make.

    Jun 25, 2010 | 12:18 am

     
  37. atbnorge says:

    I love beef tapa. I am also planning on making some as it has been hot here during the last few days…My mother made moose meat tapas when she was here. She hung them up on the clothes line in the attic to air dry the meat for several days.

    Jun 26, 2010 | 5:01 am

     
  38. Gay says:

    This would make a perfect breakfast, MM. And no preservatives.

    Jun 26, 2010 | 10:38 pm

     
  39. stilldrops says:

    I can taste it from your pictures! Savory pictures!

    My father used to make “beef tapa” as Mr. Ernie Bautista does. Father stretches the thinly sliced beef as far as it could go with pins on a wood board before sundrying it covered with plastic. Best with fried rice dipped in local vinegar with garlic and hot chili!

    Jun 27, 2010 | 11:17 am

     
  40. wahini says:

    @ bettyq: would the pork jerky be marinated the same as the casajos?

    Jun 28, 2010 | 10:56 am

     
  41. zippo says:

    The best tapa I’ve had is the “Mega Tapa” sold at the San Andres Market. It’s not sweet, it’s not salty. The way it’s cured, the meat retains it’s beefy goodness. It is quite tender with just the right amount of yellow fat at the side.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 7:39 am

     
  42. Chowhound says:

    When I was a kid, I remember my grandpa making beef and kalabaw tapa. They’re really really good. I actually prefer the kalabaw. The very thinly sliced meat is cured with a marinade similar to adobo (soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, freshly cracked black pepper and garlic) then chopped siling labuyo and lemongrass and then air dry them. Then they’re fried and served with garlic fried rice, chopped tomatoes, fried eggs and of course the sili, vinegar and kalamansi dip and nilagang kapeng barako. Sooo good, I really miss eating tapang kalabaw.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 12:15 pm

     
  43. betty q. says:

    Wahini: there are 2 versions of the Malaysian Pork Jerky..one uses ground pork ( not my thing though it is good too) and the other uses pigue. I use the pork picnic SHOULDER sliced thinly…more tender! I lost your e-mail and cannot locate it in the archives (cannot remember which post!). Please send me your e-mail….if you cannot locate mine, please ask Artisan or MM.

    Jun 29, 2010 | 11:42 pm

     
  44. MrELV says:

    Tapa, galic rice, fried eggs and thick tsokolate from freshly roasted and ground cacao beans… memories of childhood that I want to go back to. My grandmas dressed the beef slices with salt, garlic and sukang Iloco, threaded the meat in long bamboo skewers and were hung to dry above the wood burning stove. This not only kept some of the flies away but also imparted a smoky flavor to the tapa.

    Jul 3, 2010 | 8:03 am

     
  45. Tagudinian says:

    Over the years I couldn’t help but notice the slow but steady “sugar” creep, or high fructose syrup and its incorporation even into some of the most fundamental and basic items of Filipino cuisine. And may I qualify that statement by saying, I am talking about the basic cuisine of Ilocandia. Such is the recipe for BEEF TAPA (or dried marinated beef) and basic LONGANISA from Ilocandia, Vigan to be exact. It is just sickening to bite into an unexpectedly sweetened sausage (longanisa) or to tear off a strand of “beaten and tortured” beef tapa that tastes more like Korean Bulkogi. I do declare – this notion of globalization is being taken into the extreme. Hello OFW… stop adulterating our Ilocano recipes with your newly found sugary-sweet concoctions.

    To the point, TAPA is a simple recipe of marinating the toughest slices of beef, carabao meat, or horse meat – and even Wallabees (bottom round, top round, chuck, and if you are wealthy and filthy rich, yes, even the sirloin) for a couple of reasons: 1) To impart a delicate flavor and taste to an otherwise tough cut of beef and 2) to tenderize the meat and preserve it for the rainy season.

    The recipe includes several fresh garlic bulbs (peeled and diced), sugarcane vinegar 5% acidity, cracked peppercorns, and kosher salt. Simple marinade. No preservatives except the acidity of the vinegar. It is in the drying process that the TAPA is preserved. The most important aspect of the recipe is in the way you cut the meat. Slice the meat WITH THE GRAIN, making them into no less than 1/4 inch thick strips, about 3 fingers wide per piece. Cover all the meat with the marinade. On a daily basis, keep turning the meat in the marinade.

    Of course refrigerating the marinated meat is necessary specially if you live in warmer, much more humid climes. Keep the meat in the marinade for about 5 days at most. Before drying the strips in the full sun, drip them using the oven racks with newspaper liners to remove excess marinade. DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN. Notice that the pieces of meat will begin to caramelize (appear shiny on the surface). Take a hefty skewer (asador) and pierce several beef strips into the skewer leaving room between the pieces for air circulation. Hang the skewers with the beef pieces in the clothesline or somewhere in your lanai or patio.

    Allow the meat to cure for 3 days. Gather and bag them and keep them in the refrigerator ready for frying and consumption. By the way, cut the long strips into 2-inch long tapa strips for better and quicker frying. Do not burn and use only a little oil and moderate heat.

    Epilogue: The other recipes that suggest cooking the pieces of “raw” quickly marinated pieces of beef with a little water first and then allowing it to sautee afterwards… well, no wonder you are using cuts like sirloin, Delmonico, Loin strips, rib-eye and all that expensive stuff. In this case what you are preparing is NOT BEEF TAPA. It is a variation of Korean Bulkogi using tender cuts of meat – which is delicious mind you, but not pure BEEF TAPA from Ilocandia.

    Nov 3, 2010 | 2:01 am

     
  46. migoyinthedesert says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. I tried it myself and I couldn’t be prouder how it turned out to be a feast to my palate. Keep ‘serving’!

    Feb 6, 2012 | 2:30 am

     
 

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