Bistek is steak, but one transformed by its encounter with soy sauce and citrus. My addition is browned butter, an ingredient not so common in Southeast Asian cooking. This was one of my lola’s signature dishes: She’d cut the onions half-an-inch thick, sear them briefly, then add a little water to make the pan flare up, so they’d get extra crisp. She would always plate it in a casserole dish, with enough pan sauce to sop up with rice. The beef fat should coat your lips, and then the citrus cuts through it. It’s worth investing in good olive oil; every ingredient matters, because there are so few, and you can taste them all.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Prepare the steaks: Trim and discard any excess fat to your liking. Halve each steak horizontally into two thin steaks, then cut each into 5 or 6 pieces. You want the pieces to be nonuniform, roughly chopped rectangles and triangles. The important thing is that they’re all an even thickness. Set aside.
  2. Step 2

    In a large, lidded skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add the bay leaves, pressing to flatten, and cook until toasted at edges, turning halfway through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer bay leaves to a plate. Add the smashed garlic cloves and sear over medium-high, flipping frequently, until golden on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the bay leaves.
  3. Step 3

    Add the onion rounds, keeping them intact, season with salt, and cook, undisturbed, just until the onions start just begin to lightly brown underneath, about 2 minutes. Flip rounds, add 2 tablespoons water, cover with lid and quickly steam, 2 minutes. Remove lid and cook until onions are crisp-tender and liquid is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer onions to plate.
  4. Step 4

    Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high until ripping hot. Season beef all over with salt and pepper. Working quickly and in batches to avoid crowding, sear beef until caramelized and golden brown (like mini steaks!) but not fully cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side for medium or medium-rare. Transfer to a platter and repeat with remaining meat. Arrange meat in an even layer on the platter.
  5. Step 5

    Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium-high, swirling the pan, until browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, orange juice and soy sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until glossy and slightly looser than maple syrup, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Step 6

    Drizzle pan sauce over steak. Top with onions and garlic and tuck bay leaves into dish. Serve immediately.