I never really learned how to cook until I got here to the United States. I have always jokingly told friends it was an undiscovered talent which didn’t come out until I was left on my own with the responsibility of feeding Alan, and now, Angel. But even from way back, I had a knack for replicating tastes and flavors and cooking from scratch. So despite a lack of knowledge about meat cuts and its translations in Tagalog, I managed to discover on my own that I could cook Nilagang Baka without going to the Chinese grocery for ingredients.
Soup bones with marrow are sold dirt cheap even at the local Waldbaums we go to. However, they are already cut into small pieces which are, at most, an inch thick. The good soup bones with tons of marrow are available for $1 a bag, though, at my favorite Chinese grocery in Main Street (here in Queens) called HONG KONG SUPERMARKET. I usually grab a bag which would have a piece or two of good tendons and then at least 2 pieces of 2-3 inch long bones with ample marrow. My favorite part of Nilagang Baka has always been the kinste (kinche?) which turns out to be the not so cheap beef shank here.
I had to call my Mom long distance to find out how I could cook this right. She said to simply boil the meat in enough water to cover it, tenderize, then add whole black pepper, some patis (Fish sauce), an onion, and cook until tender. The bone marrow should be added later, but any bone parts with meat clinging to it should be cooked ahead. Vegetables were to be added later and cooked through but not to the point of wilting.
One thing I have discovered is that you cannot microwave the marrow because it liquifies into fat. So when I develop a craving, I do my nilaga.. a taste from home, serving one.