Freeman Cebu Lifestyle


The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Cebuanos may claim "balbacua" as their very own dish, although they are said to have inherited the dish from the Spaniards. There have since been other versions of the dish in other areas of the Visayas and Mindanao; the original recipe may have been brought there by Cebuano migrants in the past.

The name "balbacua" reportedly comes from the Spanish word "barbacoa," which means "to cook meat very slowly on an open fire," a process that could take several hours. Interestingly, "barbacoa" has remained to this day - the barbecue. And the stew version of the slow cooking process has taken on a slightly different name.

Indeed, cooking "balbacua" is a very slow process, until it is gelatinous and extremely tender. It can take several hours - at times up to seven hours! The patience required in such a long cooking time alone already makes the dish special. The modern turbo boiler has certainly been a great help for "balbacua" cooks.

At posh restaurants or culinary circles in the city, "balbacua" is actually "Ox Tail Stew." In ordinary home cooking, though, the cow's tail is often extended - or replaced altogether - with cow's skin. The tail can be very expensive compared to the skin. A happy compromise would be a combination of cow's tail and skin, to come up with more "balbacua" even with just a small amount of cow's tail, which is supposed to be the main ingredient.

The following recipe from www.panlasangpinoymeatrecipes.com delivers the "balbacua" that is quite very Cebuano:


• 1 kilo ox tail, cut into serving sizes (NOTE: Half kilo of ox skin and half kilo of beef ribs may be used instead)

• ½ kilo beef briskets, cut in serving size

• 150 grams raw peanuts, shelled and peeled and ground

• 1 small can salted black beans (drain and rinse in running water then drain again)

• 1 red onion bulb, peeled and cut in four

• 1 fresh turmeric or luyang dilaw, about 3 inches long

• 2 stalks baby leeks, sliced (optional)

• 3 cloves star anise

• 2 pcs chili peppers

• 1 Tbsp. annato oil

• Patis or fish sauce to taste


1. Boil ox tail in salt and water for 15 minutes, and then drain.

2. Boil ox tail again in water with turmeric, anise and onion then simmer for about 2 to 3 hours, or until semi-tender.

3. Add beef briskets and peanuts; then continue boiling over low fire for another 2 to 3 hours.

4. When tail and briskets are almost tender, add chili peppers, salted black beans, leeks and annato oil.

5. Cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then season with patis to taste.

6. Serve while hot.

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