Cebu Style Beef Bulalo / Pochero


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… :)


37 Responses

  1. this is the only dish that my husband eats with his aunt’s homemade guinamos. it’s made with fresh anchovies, salt and lots of crushed garlic, ginger and finger chili.

    i use “sliced” shanks,too, but somehow, the whole shank bone sticking out of the bowl has more visual appeal, and provides more litid to pick!

  2. im learning a new way of pochero :) back home we put in cabbage, potataoes & saba … but patis, kalamansi w/ chili are also my favorite sawsawan !

  3. pagkalami!!! im drooling…. somehow over here in US they remove the skin from the beef shank, parang kulang tingnan tuloy. but this pochero sure takes me back to when i was still in cebu savoring every bit of the marrow. for me, that part is the best (just like bangus’ belly).

  4. Unhealthy option but taste sooo good.. Very timely to cook now that winter is just around the corner.need to buy that osso bucco the next time I go to the butcher shop..

  5. We discovered early in our evolution that this hard to get at substance lodged inside bones of animals is delicious. Time and again archeologists find fossilized fragments of bones that have been broken precisely to get at the marrow. It seems such a waste to just allow it to liquify and vacate their niches though I am sure it enriches the broth but if we have ascended this far to have devised a special implement for getting at it, we’ve got to fish out the bones well before the meat tenderizes even if only to make good use of our marrow spoons,. Otherwise, I am with Millet in leaving longer sections of bones to keep the marrow. After all marrow bones are not as unsightly or Flintstone primitive as rib bones sticking out of your soup bowl.

  6. Wow! ESPN must be in full sensitivity. Just returned from my meat monger with some bulalo meat. Checked in to the page and…voila! A bulalo article. Thanks again marketman.

  7. HI MM!
    Wow sarap. I remember when we were still young, my mother used to cook nilagang binti ng baka during week ends with pechay and repolyo. Sarap talaga, miss ko nanay ko.

  8. had this for dinner the other night, sarap with the saging na saba. just thinking about the bone marrow makes me drool.

    Lee, what was that place again in Shopping Area where you can get great kansi/ bulalo? Am going home home in a couple of weeks and I plan to try their version. Thanks.

  9. Tricia, we don’t own a pressure cooker so I haven’t made pochero in one. I styled this recipe after pocheros I have seen made in cebu in humongous cauldrons over charcoal fires… those soups just gurgle there for the entire day rather than relying on pressure cookers… Apicio, I would definitely take bones out earlier next time… I didn’t even need to take out the marrow spoon for this soup…

  10. Pity that the marrow melted into the stock, it’s my favorite part of pochero/bulalo. Another cooking option is to use a slow cooker, that way you won’t have to worry if you have to go off for 8 or 9 hours.

  11. this is the stuff i miss from cebu. i also like the sizzling version in a hot plate. used to eat this scrumptious dish at abuhan.

  12. does the bamboo shoots have to be fresh? or can I use something in the can? I usually just have the butcher chop the shanks and then boil them….put some onions, and leeks then potatoes. sometimes have some cabbage. lately been using the packe ot instant gives me a reason to use MSG.

  13. I can understand your intention for throwing out the stock/soup from the first boiling, but wouldn’t the final stock/soup be tastier if you kept the stock/soup from the first boiling?

    In our home we always have nilagang baka every Sunday…growing up I was taught that the method for keeping the stock/soup clear is to skim off the scum once it floats to the top.

    This is a bit more labor intensive because you have to wait for the scum to float to the top, at which point you have to lower the flame (so that the scum doesn’t break apart and mix back into the stock), skim off all the scum that formed, and then wait for more scum to form and skim them off too. :-)

  14. my father would usually put the soup in the ref and leave it there until the fat hardens on top. it’s easier to remove them that way. kaya lang, it takes some times.

  15. i’m a big bulalo fan… your version albeit a bit different because of the bamboo shoots looks comforting and yummy! you’re right- the marrow is the best bit and skimming off all the fat is like removing the flavor :-)

  16. The sawsawan is just perfect! I also add a little of chili-garlic sauce which I buy from binondo to make it more appetizing.

  17. Like I said I’m about 290+ lbs. and by reading your website everyday, It’s difficult to git rid of the weight. Ha ha lol :>) I’m hungry now

  18. MM, Try charring the onions and ginger in an open flame first, then remove the charred skin and chop and add to the simmering broth. Makes a lot of difference with the broth.

  19. Ted: If you have relatives coming back from Manila, ask them to bring you back a couple of packages of “Simbot” which is available at any SM stores, Cherry Foodrama and Rustan’s. It is good in only beef nilaga, beef barbecue marinate, Korean beef ribs stew. I find simbot excellent in any beef dishes but not like it in chicken or pork dishes.

  20. Could you explain the difference(s) between bulalo and nilaga? I feel as if the dish described above is one that I have loved my whole life, but have grown up knowing it as nilaga. Was my mom just trying to simplify things for her american-born children?

  21. What a coincidence. Just served this for dinner last night with the family and my daughter’s friends. I didn’t think the Western kids would appreciate this that much, but they were making slurping sounds and going “m-mmm”. Had seconds and thirds, too. This dish always brings back memories of our grandmother. I cook this at least once a month for my sister and I to have, as it is her most favorite dish. Then we reminisce about our family as we eat.

  22. The pochero we could at home is different from this version because we put cabbage, saba, tomato sauce and pork & beans…

  23. i’m cooking this now MM…what can i say? i got inspired when i read it a few days ago =) and had to rush to the market to get some marrow bone. i’m following your recipe to a tee =)

  24. This post made me rush to the nearest Seafood City Filipino Market and bought the heaviest package of beef shank bulalo they ever got!!!!….But I used a pressure cooker (cheater me!!!) so I was able to tenderized the meat in under 30 minutes. Lets say I have to take aspirin as a precautionary measure after that.. oh I just put baby bokchoy and nothing else besides garlic and onions and of course patis/lemon on the side….yummmmm



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