Big Fan o’ Tapa


Filipino Tapa is thinly sliced beef that is cured and dried with salt, sugar, and other spices and then cooked in oil.  In other words, Tapa is fried beef jerky. And, as seen in the picture above, Tapa is usually served for breakfast along with garlic fried rice and a fried egg or two.  This breakfast trinity of fried foods is known as Tapsilog: TAP is from Tapa, SI is from sinangag (fried rice), and LOG is from itlog (egg). Substitute Longanisa for the Tapa and you've got Longsilog. Filipinos. Crazy wordsmiths we are.

I could be wrong, but I imagine that early Filipinos (by "early" I mean a long long time ago, as opposed to the opposite of "Filipino Time") cured and dried their beef to preserve it, and then later fried it to wake the flavors up a bit. Or, maybe we just like to make perfectly healthy foods unhealthy by dousing them in oil. Nah, that can't be it.

Anyways, in researching Tapa, I found many many recipes consisting of simple marinades but excluded the traditional curing and drying process. Heck, even I had one of these "quick" tapa recipes sans the curing and drying  Why no curing and drying? Well, because those are magical culinary processes that a home cook cannot duplicate because leaving raw beef out to dry can lead to things like bacteria, mold, and explosive diarrh…

You get the point.

But, in all actuality, anyone can cure, dry, and dehydrate beef at home with none of the ill effects I mentioned above.  It's true. Just ask The Goog for Beef Jerky recipes and he will gently whisper them into your ears, or at least flash them in front of your eyeballs.

After finding a gajillion and one recipes for beef jerky, I figured I could just make up my own Tapa marinade and then dry my marinated Beef Tapa in the same fashion as an American jerky. Why the heck not!

And so that's what I did.  I created my own marinade and chose a drying process that would be quick, easy, and AWESOME.  What could possibly be AWESOME about drying meat?  Well, I used a box fan, a couple of paper furnace filters, and some bungee cord to mummify my marinated meat.  I'm serious.


Tools of the trade

I've professed my man-crush on Alton Brown and his MacGuyver-like cooking apparatuses (apparati?) before, but his rig for drying beef jerky really wet my whistle–it's effective, simple, and cheap (my box fan was $11, and I bought a four-pack of furnace filters from the hardware store for $7).

Confused? Let me explain.

First, all yous has to do is marinate some beef (with as much fat trimmed away as possible) over night in a salty, acidic solution of your choosing (I used soy, cane vinegar, and nummy nummy beer). After marinating, drain the beef and dry on some paper towels:



Then, place the beef within the grooves of the furnace filters–for me, one filter was enough for 2 pounds of meat:



Then place an empty filter on top of your meat-filled filter(s) and strap the filters on the business end of a box fan with a couple of bungee cords. Plug the fan in, set to medium speed, and let 'er rip for 8 hours:


Yes, I know, I was a bit dubious about all this at first too.  But trust me, it works! Still a bit scared to leave raw meat out for 8 hours? Don't be.  First of all, the salt from the soy and the acid from the vinegar will discourage any cooties from settling on your meat. Secondly, the continuous circulation of dry air around the meat will also keep any bacteria, mold, or other yuckies from spoiling the party. Before you know it, the 8 hours is over and you'll end up with perfectly dehydrated, and preserved, beef:


Quite the difference between that pic and the pictures of raw meat, no? I don't know about you, but I was pretty effing impressed after seeing how dehydrated the beef turned out.  Even though no heat was involved at all, the jerky/soon to be Tapa was completely dried out, but still supple and perfectly chewy:



At this point, you will also want to pick off any remaining fat. The jerky will keep for a few months, but if there's any fat on it, it will get funky on you.

As is, this was the best beef jerky I've ever had.  I'm not just saying that. The dehydrated beef had a nice balance of salty, sweet, tangy and spicy. It was AWESOME! Take some jerky with you to work, on a picnic, a quick jaunt to the center of the earth, what have you.

But, this isn't just jerky.  Heat some oil up in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry the jerky for a few minutes, and then drain on some paper towels:



And now, ladies and gentlemen, you have Tapa. But perhaps I'm oversimplifying things a bit.  For the record, you can't just go to the store and buy pre-packaged beef jerky, then bring it home and fry it.  That's just fried beef jerky and not Tapa.  The thing that makes Tapa, Tapa is the marinade and the texture.  If you were to fry store-bought beef jerky, you'd probably have to chew on that mofo for a good long while.

However, the method I described here is very conducive to the proper Tapa texture–you should still be able to eat it with a fork and spoon and be able to chew it normally.  Also, I realize that traditional slices of Tapa are wide and flat as
opposed to the long and narrow strips I presented here.  But the meat
is cut into thin strips so that they can easily fit into the grooves of
the furnace filters.

I also realize that many of you will not put in the time and effort to recreate this crazy drying rig. But I assure you, the results are danged tasty.  For those of you that are still apprehensive, I found a beef jerky recipe in my handy-dandy copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie in which he places his marinated beef on a rack on a baking sheet, then puts it in an oven on its lowest possible setting for 16-20 hours. So you can try that too, or not.

The Beef Tapa recipe I provide below is all my own, but the drying process is borrowed from this Alton Brown recipe.

Beef Tapa

2 lbs. flank steak, fat trimmed and removed
1/2 bottle of beer (San Miguel if you like)
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup filipino cane vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, smashed

Remove any excess fat from flank steak and slice, with the grain, into  1/4-inch wide strips (about the width of your pinky finger). Place the beef strips into a large, gallon-sized zip top bag.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour marinade into plastic bag with beef.  Marinate beef overnight in the refrigerator.

After marinating, let beef drain in a colander for 5 minutes. Then place the beef on a layer of paper towels and pat dry.

Place the strips of beef into the grooves of a paper furnace filter (DO NOT use fiberglass filters!!! Fiberglass is bad for you and will make your insides bleed, literally), then place an empty filter on top. Using two bungee cords, strap the filters onto the front of a box fan. Stand the fan upright, plug in, and set to medium.  Allow fan to run for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, check the meat. The meat should be completely dehydrated. Enjoy as is for beef jerky, or fry in a small amount of oil for Tapa. Serve with garlic fried rice, fried eggs, and a side of sliced tomatoes for a Tapsilog breakfast:


  • Mila April 2, 2008, 10:30 pm

    Wow, my friend and I spent a few days trying different tapsilog, some were chewier than a rubber band, and others too salty to be healthy. It’s hard to get a good plate of tapsilog!
    I’m still not sure I’d be able to eat the jerky though. I’d still want to douse it in oil and fry it!

  • manggy April 2, 2008, 10:56 pm

    Gasp! That looks totally authentic! Good job. I actually prefer “wet” tapa because I don’t like gnashing my teeth too much, but I’ll still eat your tapa anyday :)
    Will be waiting for when you prepare tocino… :) (It’s just not worth it to make here– there’s already an awesome brand!)

  • Janice April 2, 2008, 11:18 pm

    damn i love me some homemade beef jerky…hurray for unhealthy Filipino meat products!

  • bernadette April 3, 2008, 4:05 am

    quite an ingenious way to dry the “Tapa” meat! I take your word for it that it works! Good thing that I can buy tapa nearby :-)…

  • Katrina April 3, 2008, 4:57 am

    How intrepid you are! I don’t think I know anyone who’s made their own tapa! It looks authentic and good, too, just the way I like it. I’m not that into chewy food, though, so my favorite tapa (which I rarely see) is the kind that’s sliced really thinly, then dried and fried till crisp.

  • Babette April 3, 2008, 6:44 am

    I like to watch Alton Brown too, I’ve learned a lot from him. I cannot say I’ve tried any of his contraptions though, too much work for me. LOL I love Tapsilog too. I might try your tapa recipe this summer, I’ll dry it under the sun. I tried making tapang bangus one time, it sure attracted a lot of flies. :( Good think I have a huge food net over it.
    Btw, how long did it take you to get rid of the ‘tapa’ smell? I’m sure your wife wasn’t too thrilled about it. LOL

  • Babette April 3, 2008, 6:46 am

    Sorry for the typo:
    Good THING I have a huge food net over it. :)

  • oggi April 3, 2008, 8:11 am

    Hey MacMarvin you are very creative!
    And what a coincidence, I also made beef tapa last week which we had for last Sunday’s breakfast.

  • Julie April 3, 2008, 8:22 am

    I’ve never had tapa because it never looked good to me. Until just now. Kudos to you for making your own, and channeling the spirit of AB to do it!
    Also … how did your house smell after you fumigated it with marinating beef scents for 8 hours?

  • veron April 3, 2008, 8:24 am

    Thank you! Thank you! I really appreciate your demo of making tapa…I really want to make some for myself so I can control what goes into it. Now I’m craving a tapsilog for lunch!

  • Fearless Kitchen April 3, 2008, 8:38 am

    I’m with you on the jerky-making rig – I’d love to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, given the remarkably doorless design of our home, I’m a little perplexed as to how to keep the cats out of it. Looks like a great breakfast though!

  • Wandering Chopsticks April 3, 2008, 9:23 am

    Trust you not to use the much easier method of low temp in oven for a long time. Or even a food dehydrator. 😉
    Umm, I hope you don’t use those filters in your air ducts. Unless you like having a beefy smell throughout the house. I’m a carnivore but even I have my limits.

  • Penelope April 3, 2008, 10:47 am

    Brilliant! Boy–now I want some tapsilog in the worst way. Tapa–longanisa–it’s all good. You’re not going to try making tuyo, are you?

  • elmomonster April 3, 2008, 10:52 am

    High five! Ever since seeing that episode, I’ve been curious if Alton was the only guy crazy enough to try it. But now, you’ve field tested it! And for tapa. Awesome.

  • dp April 3, 2008, 12:50 pm

    My mom made fried beef jerky all the time when I was a kid. It’s called One Sun Beef and we ate it with sticky rice and chili sauce.
    Oh, this brings back memories!

  • junemoon April 4, 2008, 2:12 pm

    Wow! What a concept with the drying method. I will definitely try this out as I love jerky. Do you think this method would work for salmon jerky?
    The whole meal looks very tasty as well. Thanks! junemoon

  • Grace April 5, 2008, 11:25 pm

    How aweseome! I love how you added tomatoes to the plate too. It is the perfect compliment and shouldn’t be forgotten when eating Tapa.

  • White On Rice Couple April 6, 2008, 5:53 am

    We’re rolling on this post! You are quite ingenious and should send this to Alton…really, you should. I don’t think he’s made a filipino dish yet.
    Love the double fried eggs! Yes!

  • Pat April 7, 2008, 10:10 am

    Marvin, you are hilarious!! Normal people would just use a food dehydrator or the oven! I have to admit I’m not a big fan of jerky but I’m going to have to try it out now just to experiment with this far-out drying method :).

  • Burnt Lumpia April 14, 2008, 3:41 pm

    The jerky is delicious, Mila. But I too had the urge to douse it in oil;)
    Thanks manggy, but with this tapa you won’t have to gnash you’re teeth too much either.
    I second that, Janice. Hurray!
    You’re very lucky to have good tapa nearby, bernadette.
    This tapa isn’t overly chewy, Katrina. I think you’d be surprised;)
    The tapa smell was delicious, Babette! My wife didn’t mind it too much. I think after the first hour she got used to it;)
    Thanks oggi! An ordinary fan works wonders.
    My house smelled GLORIOUS, Julie! If people are worried about the smell, they could always point the fan out a window if they try this recipe.
    That’s the good thing about this, veron, I could decide what goes into it and adjust the seasonings accordingly.
    Hi Fearless Kitchen! I’m pretty sure with the bungee cords, everything would be difficult for your cats to get to. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    WC, the low oven temperature method is fine, but the heat changes the texture completely. And, with the weather heating up, it’s better to use the fan than the oven;)
    Tuyo, Penelope? I don’t think I’d be able to deal with that smell at all!:)
    Thanks elmo. And it definitely works!
    Hi DP! I’ll have to look for One Sun Beef, it sounds good with chili sauce.
    Hello junemoon. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with salmon. Although I’d make sure I was using the freshest salmon I could find, what with the smell and all.
    You’re right Grace. Tomatoes and tapa are perfect together, especially when the tomatoes are doused in patis.
    Hello W.O.R.C. Thanks, but I’m not so sure that this recipe would fit in with Alton’s demo audience.
    Thanks Pat! Food dehydrators are expensive!

  • Krizia April 17, 2008, 6:40 pm

    Dude, so like how much could I pay you for some of that Tapa? 😉 I totally saw this Good Eats episode and wanted to try it out too! Alas, I am still college po’ folk. You should have caramelized some thin slices of onion in the leftover drippins! It’s delish.

  • Margaret May 6, 2008, 4:19 pm

    Hey, don’t forget about tocsilog (tocino) and bangsilog (bangus)! Those wacky Filipinos.
    Also, as an engineer, I am most impressed by your ghetto-rigged food dehydrator!
    Btw, found your blog when I was Googling the correct spelling of “baon” (b/c it’s so hard to spell, durr). Great blog!

  • Natz February 15, 2009, 8:51 pm

    I have been looking for an “authentic” tapa recipe- A “just like how my grandmother made it” recipe and am very happy to have chanced upon your site.
    When I was much younger, back in the early 1970’s, I remember my Lola stringing the Beef Tapa and hanging them above the stove to dry. That is how I have always remembered beef tapa and preferred it that way. At breakfast time, she would simply cut strips from the hanging beef and gently fry them in a little oil to warm. That completed the trinity of sinangag and iltog.
    After she passed away, It was really dissapointing when I couldn’t find this “dry” type of tapa in our supermarkets and wet markets. All I could find were the “wet” type marinated beef that claimed to be tapa!
    Thanks for this recipe. Will definetely try this out!

  • becklund August 2, 2009, 8:47 pm

    this is so cool. The meat and rice for breakfast reminds me of my friends in Japan who would eat sausages and rice for breakfast.

  • Unhealthy foods June 22, 2010, 5:49 am

    It’s my favorite breafast, the process looks nice. But there are some of this which are reported to be harmful in our health. It has additives and food color which the ingredients can harm our body.

  • Chicken Salad Recipes August 1, 2010, 8:13 am

    Ummm… I’m sure it’s delicious, but it doesn’t look it 😉

  • Liren May 12, 2011, 8:21 am

    I am speechless! Way to MacGuyver your way through Beef Tapa!

  • lito lim July 11, 2017, 12:40 pm

    i’ve been working in ksa (kingdom of saudi arabia) for years and been frustrated by the homemade and marketed tapas available in supermarkets.they’re not tapas by any stretch of the imagination. more like tocinos because they’re all overly sweet and sticky when fried. I got lucky once invited for dinner in a friend’s friend home. what they served was the traditional , dried and crunchy tapa I know from childhood. the real thing courtesy of the patriach of the house who knows the original way of curing and drying the meat. by the time i got the courage to request for the recipe, the man had flown back to the philippines.From then on ,it’s been a quest for the grail. Your recipe, something tells me, approximates best what I’m looking for. Good luck to me and tons of thanks and gratitude to you!


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