Beef Bulalo / Bone Marrow Soup a la Marketman


This is the perfect meal for a large family gathering on a Sunday. And while I have eaten Beef Bulalo innumerable times, oddly, I have never made it from scratch. Somehow, my visions of enormous steaming cauldrons at some well-known Batangas or Laguna roadside Bulalohan bubbling away with several cows worth of beef shank and bone marrow seemed daunting and unattainable in a small home kitchen for a limited audience. I was and still am a huge fan of Sop Buntot, an Indonesian dish of boiled oxtails that is flavor rich and inches deep in beef fat and gelatinous richness, and I used to eat it frequently at one of the restaurants in Jakarta that was famous for it, but I never made that from scratch either. But I decided a few days ago that I was going to get over my Bulalo fears and attempt a Marketman version I could blog about…


First I did some research, and in the process may have stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest. I went on-line and searched beef bulalo and several recipes were identified. I checked Sassy Lawyer’s (Connie V) recipe; then clicked on an article from the Manila Bulletin, that oddly, had a recipe almost exactly like the one I read on Pinoy cook just seconds earlier. Hmmm, could this be a case of plagiarism? I emailed Sassy Lawyer and the next day she replied that she thought the Manila Bulletin might be in trouble… oops. Glad I caught that one, and look out for Connie’s newspaper column on Tuesday where I suspect she is going to raise a stink about the possible lifting of her recipe without attribution… Connie/Sassy Lawyer wrote a post about it instead, link in her comment below. I know what it feels like, after all, I had a photonapping incident once before…

I went further than a google and checked every single one of my Filipino cookbooks and decided that the only thing in common were the beef shanks, the water, salt, onions, peppercorns, and in many versions, the corn. Beyond that, the variations of vegetables seem to depend on the cook entirely…some add potatoes, carrots, pechay, green beans, leeks, etc. Method wise, it just says to boil everything. So I decided to focus on the beef broth first and taste the soup, unfettered by many vegetables… and to do that, I needed a beef broth I could be proud of…


In the largest Le Creuset pot I have in the city, I added 3.25 kilos of beef shank purchased from S&R Price. This was about P700 worth of beef shanks, and about 10 thick pieces ranging from small to bison-ic. I covered this all with water and put it over high heat until the water came to a rolling boil, after a minute or so, I lowered the heat so that the water would just barely gurgle (barely bubbling, the bubbles rise sporadically and rather slowly compared to boiling liquid) and left it like that for 2.5 hours. Yes, read 2.5 hours of just gurgling the beef bones. Skim the scum from the surface of the liquid religiously, because the more you de-scum it, the clearer your broth is going to be. Is there a difference between gurgling beef and boiling beef, yes, I think there is. In the meantime, I stepped out to the market and purchased my goodies. And yes, I started this process at 6 a.m. in order to be ready for lunch.


After about 2.5 hours, and it was clear that the beef was rather soft (folks like to say fork tender, but what the hell is fork tender? the meat is tender? the fork is tender? it is easy to pierce the beef? what? and relative to what, no matter how you cook it, the beef is almost always toughter cooked than before you cooked it, unless you have stewed it for hours and hours) and the broth possessed reasonable beef flavor, you can do one of two steps… (a) if you have too much broth, remove the beef shanks carefully and boil down the broth to concentrate it a bit more or (b) you are happy with broth, then add in the chopped onions, peppercorns, corn on the cob pieces and some salt to flavor the broth some more. Now, I wanted an all natural bulalo version, so I used everything pure and from scratch, but I can see how some folks would drop a beef bouillon cube into the soup just about now to trick unsuspecting diner’s tastebuds… After about an hour or so of more “gurgling,” test the soup for salt and add salt and perhaps some freshly cracked pepper if necessary. At this stage, the soup is ready for consumption and the early photos up top reflect the purist version of Beef Bulalo… just a nice beef broth with beef shanks and marrow in it, with a little seasoning from onions and the unique sweetness that the corn on the cob provides. I can see this simmering away near some cattle pasture in the Southern Tagalog region, beside a corn field. Total cooking time to this stage is 3.5-4.0 hours. This tasted quite satisfying at this point, but what really upped the ante was the sawsawan I made of premium Malabon patis (fish sauce), lots of freshly squeezed dayap juice and chopped siling labuyo (bird’s eye chillies). This sauce brightened up the dish immensely and the dayap was a refreshing change from kalamansi or calamondin. Yum.


But I did want to take this further and also wanted to get my leafy greens in the same soup pot so that this would have more of a semblance of a balanced meal…hahaha. So to this broth, I added green beans and baby bok choy or pechay leaves… the resulting soup/meal was beautiful to behold and incredibly satisfying to eat. My first attempt at this took a good 5 hours of simmering as I wanted to see if that would yield a broth with verve, and it did. The huge pot served 10 for lunch yesterday and there was enough leftover to serve another 4 for dinner. At PHP900 in total cost including gas bill, that was a very reasonable PHP67 per person plus rice… Excellent. Some final Marketman tips… gurgle don’t boil. You can strain away the impurities if you want a clearer broth. Use the yellower corn rather than the white corn for color contrast. Pick greens that pop out at you. Serve VERY HOT. The quality and variety of your sawsawan is very important. Now if only I had a bulalo spoon… :) Enjoy!!!


62 Responses

  1. OMG, I will be at the neighborhood butcher and will be raiding the aisles for shanks as soon as I wake up! I am definitely doing this for lunch. There is so much about bulalo that evokes wonderful childhood memories. I enjoyed just watching my dad rise up early to get the best bony cuts with the fattest marrow from the butcher and simmering it at least half a day, just like he way it’s supposed to be cooked. When days are hectic, I run through my list of comfort foods and bulalo is on the list. Way to go, MM. As for Ms. Connie, I cannot wait for the bulalo article. Hell, yes! If the Bulletin copied it without attribution, they deserve to be boiled if not in broth, pure lard! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!!

  2. lunchtime namin dito and i sneaked into ur site and wow !! doble gutom tuloy ako!!! yummy… the fat in the marrow looks sooo jelly soft – sarap sipsipin!! :)

    for sawsawan i sometimes use mashed-boiled eggplant, with minced garlic and salt and pepper… sarap din!

  3. I have to get some osso bucco(shin beef) tomorrow from our butcher and try to duplicate this dish ala Marketman. Thanks for sharing!

  4. My favorite part is scooping out the marrow and topping it on my soup soaked rice plus a sprinkle of the sawsawan (patis, sili, a bit of calamansi).

  5. yummy! haven’t tried cooking bulalo yet.. hopefully one of these days… fortunately for us, whenever we crave for bulalo, we just go to hosena’s bulalo in kalentong (near haig street).. hosena’s one of the famous bulalohan in batangas.. there’s also RJ’s bulalo along boni avenue (near boni circle) =D

  6. This is the reason why my granny have bunch of bulalo spoons. My granny used to serve Batangas specialties to expat neighbors/friends in Batangas City. Later on those friends convinced her to open a joint in Makati during 50s. She got several bulalo spoons thru them whenever they are back in the Phils. She was so hooked into the spoons she used her old coins for a goldsmith abroad to make customized ones with her name engraved in it. A meal with bulalo in our home always brings back good memory of my abuela. She made local dishes irresistable to any foreigner she knows. Her bulalo is great.

  7. Next time bring the water and beef to a boil and immediately drain off all the water. Rinse beef quickly and add more water. It will save you hours of skimming. Do not allow to boil rapidly, just a very slow simmer will do. Avoid salt until after the beef is tender. Pictures are very appealing.

  8. I made nilagang baka with corn, potatoes, baby green beans and red bell pepper for dinner last Friday. Sarap! This is an easy way to get all those veggies into my kids – they argued over who would get the leftovers for breakfast the next day :)
    Great pictures, as usual….

  9. Oops, I forgot, plus baby bok choy and of course a sawsawan of patis, siling labuyo (bottled) and (previosuly frozen) calamansi juice.

  10. aro abe, a mountain of rice was consumed at this meal… Sam, definitely comfort food. cay, sorry, I have never cooked lomi, though I enjoy eating it! aleth, that sawsawan sounds good to me! linda it was my first attempt and it turned out pretty good… Mila, think CRESTOR or LIPITOR. edel, prior to this, it always seemed easier to order this at restaurants… tulip, those spoons are definitely useful for this dish! sister, never came across the rinse your bones trick, sounds like a good one, will have to try that next time! ykmd, did the red pepper color the broth a bit? Aridelros, I learned most of my cooking ability from my sister, and she is a terrific cook… Considering this is the first time I have made bulalo, it turned out pretty good I think, but that is subjective of course. :) Btw, in 22,500+ comments left by readers on this blog, you are the only one who has elevated me to BlogGod, how flattering indeed. annette and jam, kain na!

  11. Yummy! Loads of rice indeed!
    My vegetable of choice for bulalo is petchay, napa cabbage and lots of corn, I do not like carrots and potatos in it. I boil it with lots of onions, salt and peppercorns. But I fish out the peppercorns before adding the veggies. Love it with the obligatory patis with calamansi (or lemon) with siling labuyo.
    I usually boil it for I say 30 minutes and take the scum off, then off it goes to the pressue cooker for another 45 minutes to an hour. A pressure cooker comes in handy for a lots of Pinoy dishes, especially for folks like me that juggles work and maintaining an household with no house help to my disposal. LOL.
    My mom would be so unhappy about that as she does not believe in rapid cooking food. Mom also labors for a good 3-4 hours making bulalo.

  12. You won’t believe it but there’a small, hole-in-the-wall cheap steak place by the roadside near the entrance to Wack-Wack Country Club that offers bulalo, aside from its usual cheap P120 steaks. It’s called Jake’s Steaks. Their steaks are ok lang, but we ordered the bulalo one day just to try it without expecting anything much.
    It is so, so good. Looks much like what you have in your photos. Costs P235., good for 2. Not bad…

  13. Love this! If it weren’t for the cholesterol, my hubby and I will be eating this everyday. Filipino food is definitely the best.

  14. when those bulaluan joints started to pop up in sto. tomas batangas (late 70’s ?), i remember the first one i had was simply meat, marrow and an intensely flavored broth….no vegetables. the only thing you ate it with was white bread (tasty)…and yes, the sawsawan kicked up the flavor even more….gotta make some soon !

  15. MM,

    just want to ask how many gallons of water for 3.25 kilos of beef shank with bone to be perfect the taste of bulalo?


  16. Great version of bulalo! :)
    My dad (he’s the “chef” in our household) adds saba bananas for the sweetness, and kamote instead of potatoes when he’s cooking bulalo.
    Bulalo is not only nutritious and filling, but also fun to eat – we would suck the “utak” (marrow), instead of picking it with a small knife or toothpick, to the annoyance of my mom!

  17. MM, we don’t like mushy bell peppers so I add them and the bok choy at the same time (i.e., last). So they are still bright red and no they don’t change the color of the broth at all.

    Annette, I was sooooo happy when we started getting frozen calamansi juice here, so many of our viands just don’t taste the same without it :)

  18. i do my bulalo same as sister does hers – bring beef to a boil, then drain and rinse out everything, including the pot. put meat and cold water and onions to boil again, and lower the heat to a gurgle, as you put it, until the beef is tender. our favored veggies are potatoes, carrots, cabbage and green beans. the best sawsawan is bagoong balayan- calamansi-sili. yum! beef kneecaps make for very good bulalo, too (hmmm…can you put crestor into the dipping sauce?)

    MM, am sure you have tried Cebu’s version of bulalo, called “pochero” thereabouts. it’s equally delicious, and is cooked with ginger, onions, julienned bamboo shoots and corn. the ginger makes a big flavor twist.

  19. MM,

    Would there be a difference if the bulalo is pressure-cooked for say 1.5 hours rather than “gurgled” for 3-4 hours? I would think that both methods would produce fork tender bulalo, but I’m interested to find out if there’s a diff in taste, texture, etc. Any thoughts? Your blog rocks! I log on to it everyday and have tried many of your recipes :)


  20. MM,I was just wondering if it’s gonna change the overall taste if I used my pressure cooker to save on time,gas or electricity?What do you reckon? It only takes 15 minutes on the pressure cooker. Salamat!

    It’s this time of the year and I have to tell everyone that 1 week from now it’s your birthday or should I keep that a secret?

  21. Just to add…for us, who are quite conscious of our LPG consumption, we have the charcoal-fueled kalan for long hours of boiling bulalo or making our own coconut oil by scratch. My husband and I learned how to stoke the embers by putting a small portable fan in front of it. Thanks!

  22. same sentiments as randyb and linda about using a pressure cooker to save on time and gas. though connie says she uses the pressure cooker too, connie is there a difference with the bulalo if we use the pressure cooker? thanks in advance : )

  23. hi mm.

    adding kinchay or celery while simmering the beef does kick the taste of the soup a few more notches up. once, tried adding brussel sprouts to the left overs for our next meal, dipping the sprouts in patis con calamansi was just so good.

  24. Bulalo or nilagang baka is a viand you’ll never get tired of eating. Just had it last week. The texture of the meat is better if you slow cook it, well that’s my opinion. Plus, the process brings out the flavor gradually. However, 1.5 hrs of pressure cooking beef is quite too long though, unless you really want the meats to fall apart or disintegrate. ^_^

  25. Sarap naman! MM I’m glad you really liked the patis from Malabon. Even if my family moved to QC my mom makes a monthly trip to buy staples from Malabon. Also, I cooked gambas last night. I used olive oil,garlic, peperoncino and added a dollop of butter after I turned off the stove. My husband made tikim and he dashed out to buy a bottle of white! Buti na lang malapit yung store-sa baba lang ng flat. The bulalo made me drool. At home in the Phils we usually use 2 whole onions,peppercorn and leeks plus corn and some cabbage and pechay. I also miss the sop buntut from Borobudur with sweet soy sauce and lime and mashed green chilies on the side. Also, I always look forward to the messages given by Sister. Bow ako sa kaniya!

  26. Hello Marketman. First of all, thank you for the tip on the Manila Bulletin ripoff. I already posted an entry last Friday. I felt it was something personal and my newspaper column was not the proper venue for ventilating the issue. Nonetheless, tomorrow’s column still mentions the incident and discusses the issue of lack of respect for other people’s work further.

    I was not sure that you would have wanted to be identified as the person who tipped me off. But, since you have posted this entry, I will edit my own blog entry.

    Again, thank you. The idea of writing a cookbook — in the can for over a year — has never sounded so much better as now. Blog less and finish the darn thing once and for all.

  27. i noticed that when using the pressure cooker, it lessens the flavor of the soup as compared to slow boiling.. i also use a pressure cooker especially if am under time pressure with guests arriving in less than an hour but most of the time i’d rather do it the long way especially with pata and beef.

  28. Hi Marketman. this is my fisrt time to post my comments.

    randyb, slow boiling and pressure cooking would both result in tender bulalo. the BIG difference however is, slow boiling makes the litid bloom, releasing more of its gelatin into the broth. this is hard to achieve in pressure cooking. the gelatin gives body to the soup aside from making the litid really, really soft.

    add chopped spring onion or better yet leeks, a minute or two before taking off the bulalo from the fire. it will enhance the flavor of the broth. and for a wonderful extra kick, I add fried chopped garlic before serving the bulalo. Sarap!

  29. aside from the crucial ingredients that go into this heavenly soup (i don’t mean to associate eating bulalo to visiting heaven, although bulalo may aid in speeding things up a bit doesnt it?), what is really important is the beef shank you choose. i’ve posted somewhere here before that God has installed art in beef, particularly His beautiful piece called the ‘rib eye’ where the masterful dna brushstroke called ‘marbling’ is found.

    another equally artistic meat is the kenchie, found in the shank. pics 4 and 5 show it, where instead of fat, God employs a more gelatinuous medium. it’s not exactly litid, but maybe in His palette, He mixes litid and fat. magnifico

    anyway, the shank must preferably be from a young cow so it won’t be too tough. from what i know, even the batangas bulalohans have altogether shied away from batangas beef because they’re tough as… well… batangas beef. i hear they have shifted to younger imports.

  30. this is great. MM, do you have a recipe for balbacoa? my late cebuana grandmother used to cook it and i loved it. unfortunately she’s been gone over three decades now. hope you can post a recipe if you have it. or if any of your readers do. thanks in advance!

  31. hmmmm…. perfect to warm up the family this winter. will be hunting for some bone marrows this weekend and make it for lunch or dinner. have to eat it fast though, before the fats solidify :D

  32. This post comes at the perfect time! My husband has just been saying how he misses this and I have been meaning to look for a recipe (as I have never made this either, despite having consumed more than my fair share all my life!). Now I have one! Thanks! :) (and thanks to you and sister for all the tips)

    I love putting my bulalo on rice too (like Mila)…this was a precious commodity during my childhood when my dad, my brother, and I used to fight over it!

  33. Hej Marketman,
    The bulalo fotos are so terribly enticing that I’ll definitely try to make one this week, if I find the right beef shanks. I’ll take advantage of the newly-harvested corn cobs in the market that are soooo unbelievably sweet as well as fresh cabbage and haricot verts. My Swedish husband loves bulalo and learned to like it while we were living in Manila. I like your take on the sawsawan. I presume Dayap is a more aromatic version of lime? I’ll try even the bagoong balayan (almost patis by now after standing for ages in the fridge) and chili combination. Am getting hunger pangs, as I write this. And yes, how does a bulalo spoon look like? Is it a big spoon with the end of the handle shaped like an elongated ice cream scooper?

  34. am shocked MM! even I can cook bulalo/nilaga. ok i did once but it took so loooong so i just make nilagang manok from time to time.

  35. Hello MM! I never thought about adding corn to bulalo (but again, I don’t really cook! Ha! Ha!). I will definitely put yellow corn next time I make bulalo. Although I do prefer white corn over the yellow but for you are right about giving it “contrast.” Ciao for now . . . It’s only 9:23 a.m. here at work and I’m already starving just by looking at the photos.

  36. I cook mine the way Sister and Millet do theirs. I let it boil the day before when cool keep in the refrigerator and the following day I will arrest all the fats that settled on top and heat it up again and add some canola oil and let it boil vigorously and add the veggies of choice. It has to have grease to make it tasty.

  37. Yummy! Sarap naman ng bulalo Marketman! I’m from Batangas and I grew up eating the stuff. I live in Manila now and I still go home twice a month with my hubby and 4 year old son. My mom calls this dish “pampabata”. I think coz consuming lots of marrow and gelatinous fatty stuff will ensure that you don’t have to get all wrinkly to RIP. Does my mom have a weird sense of humor or what? Back to bulalo, I think everybody who gets a taste of the stuff just craves for more. Even my kid, who is a verrrry finicky eater got curious enough to taste the broth, then seconds later he was asking for rice and drowning it with the uber delicious soup!

  38. Hey Marketman, this is one meal that stands out among all the rest, definitely comfort food for the family Sunday meal and the siesta afterwards. We cook it with pechay, cabbage, potatoes, onions, peppercorns… haay heavenly soup.

  39. @Jade186
    be careful in “sucking” the utak (marrow) because there is a tendency that your lips will be sucked instead, especially if the bones are still hot. We used to do that also, but my Nanay will reprimand us so we just make “taktak” the utak since we dont have a bulalo spoon.

    nice picture MM. I love my bulalo with corn, pechay,cabbage and saging na saba.

  40. we seem to have a two variations of nilagang bulalo in our household.

    MM’s recipe is more of the traditional type though we use patis instead of salt and we put potatoes in.

    We also do one where we put garlic, kamote and saging na saba. Atsuete extract is added for color. We call this LOYA. The soup would be slightly sweeter than the first type.

    Both are superb with lots of rice and patis, sili and kalamansi.

  41. Another variation for the dish here in Bacolod. Put langka (raw jackfruit with pampaasim like sinigang mix,(we use batwan here in Bacolod)siling labuyo, tanglad ang luya. Just be sure you have lots of rice because the sourness of the soup will indulge you to eat more rice … Happy eating!

  42. this entry really inspired me to drive 25 miles (one way) to the oriental store so i can get beef shanks among others. i also have my yellow corns waiting in the fridge, all i need now are the leafy vegetables and im all set. i cant wait for the final result. i hope it’ll be as tantalizing and delicious as MM’s pics posted here.

  43. The skies are threatening with a deluge, the supertyphoon that is threatening the northern part of Luzon and Taiwan has affected the weather here in Manila. No schools, children are still sleeping. I think it is bulalo time. Off to market we go. Thanks for the inspiration.

  44. i think the reason why typhoons pass by our country is for some hot bulalo. whatchatink???

  45. Thanks for the link to the bulalo spoon, MM! Obviously missed that interesting post. You know you could check the age of your spoons through the engraved markings. I read Sister’s valuable comments on this.

    In Scandinavia there is a little guide for all the silver produced from the early 1300s so one knows which silver is of greater value and which is not. Your bulalo spoon seems to be of English origin. If you enjoy using silver cutlery (which I presume you are and use regularly, good for the silver and even better for the user) then you’ll enjoy browsing through the auction houses here in Stockholm. Try if you’re curious.

  46. This comment is a bit belated, but, I just couldn’t resist saying that that dish looks so damn good. I used to cook a Guatemalan beef soup dish called caldo de rez that’s pretty similar to your bulalo soup, MM. I start with olive oil, garlic and onions, pop in the beef shanks, top it with water, throw in a couple of bay leaves, boil it for about an hour, then simmer for a couple more hours. I add chayote/sayote, corn and achuete right before serving.

  47. perfect! Its depresingly cold here in san francisco right now, and I think that you’re bulalo is just the cure for it! Thanks!

  48. Oh one more thing. Do you think its true that when you put a fork inside the cauldron while “gurgling” the meat, it helps make the meat more tender? heheh

  49. To Millet: you wouldn’t be Ilocana by chance? It’s balayan-kalamansi-chili as sawsawan for me–taught to me by my Ilocana grandmother. This was one of the first dishes I learned to cook by ouido when I lived in the US to feed my (then) 3 yr old girl who just loves the marrow….



Subscribe To Updates

No spam, only notifications about new blog posts.