Skip to Content

Sri Lankan bistek(steak with onions)

Beef bistek(bistec,bisteak) is basically a Sri Lankan version of a steak and onion dish.

The pepper beef is made by first marinating the beef in vinegar, pepper, and other spices then cooking until tender.

The beef strips are then tossed and cooked with onion and green peppers.

The origins of the term, “bistek” or “bisteak” according to Wikipedia are derived from the Spanish word, “bistec” which also means loosely, “beefsteak”.

Variations of Sri Lankan style steak and onions recipe(bistek).

The Portuguese version of this dish is almost a full meal spread named, bitoque.

You would assume as a Portuguese colony we would also have the same dish yet a little different to suit our Sri Lankan palate.

Not so.

Interestingly, there are a few variations of our Sri Lankan-style bistek(bistec or bisteak) which are from countries that the Spanish colonized.

Our beef bistec visually looks and has certain similarities, like the use of vinegar or citrus fruits to marinate.

For example,

You have the traditional Puerto Rican Bistec encebollado or the Filipino beef-and-onion dish, Bistek Tagalog.

But the preparation of the dish is not similar, each recipe has probably evolved and adapted to suit the tastes of their countries, this includes our own Sri Lankan bistek as well.

Save the recipe to your favorite Pinterest board

Tips on making Sri Lankan bistek recipe

Ingredients to make the beef bistek

Beef– While flank steak is ideal to make this steak and onion dish, any beef part with less fat trimmings between the meat is preferred.

Most meat counters will probably have pre-cut beef slices for stir fry which you can use.

Vinegar- Vinegar is used to marinate the beef as well as tenderize. But at the end of cooking the bistec, you should clearly identify the tang of the vinegar.

At the same time, you should not overuse vinegar.

Preparing the beef to make the bistek.

The beef should be cut into thin slices and whacked a few times to break down the tough fibers.

Utensils and appliances needed

Chopping board and knife/cleaver

Large bowl and medium-sized bowls

Large frying pan

More Sri Lankan beef recipes

Sri Lankan slow-cooked beef curry(my grandmother’s recipe)

Sri Lankan devilled beef

Coconut milk beef curry

Sri Lankan beef fry

More beef recipes from around the world

Beef rendang

Beef korma curry

Beef teriyaki

RECIPE DIFFICULTY-EASY

How to make Sri Lankan bisteak

Please make sure to read the recipe instructions carefully to avoid mistakes.

Ingredients.

The ingredients mentioned below use standard measuring cups and spoons.

500g of sliced beef(you can use flank steak)

To marinate the beef slices

1 tablespoon of garlic(3 cloves minced)

1/4 of a cup vinegar(use any type of white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar)

1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

2 teaspoons of cumin powder

3 tablespoons of pepper powder

Salt to season

1 tablespoon of sugar

To cook the bistek

4 tablespoons of oil

1 large onion chopped

2 cloves of garlic sliced fine

A sprig of curry leaves(substitute with a bay leaf)

2″ piece of pandan leaf(optional, you can cook without pandan leaf if you are unable to find it)

2″ piece cinnamon

For the final assembling of the beef bistek

4 banana peppers(substitute with green peppers)

2 green chillies cut or split in the middle

2 large onions(cut into rings)

1 tablespoon of minced ginger(1 and 1/2 inch garlic piece grated or minced)

1 teaspoon of mustard

Method

Prep work before making the Sri Lankan bistek(beef and onion steak)

  • Have all your ingredients ready.
  • The onions are used to cook the beef as well as at the end. They are cut differently for each of the cooking stages.
  • Chop 1 of the onions to cook and the rest should be cut into rings.

How to cut and prepare the beef for the bisteak.

Place the beef slice on a chopping board, pat dry with kitchen paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Cut them into thin slices against the grain.

To break muscle fibers, you will need to pound the slices of beef which is a quick way to tenderize the beef.

Either take each piece of sliced beef and pound them individually or place them together and use the blunt side of your cleaver to whack them a few times. (read beginner’s tips above)

How to marinate the beef slices for bistek

Place the beef slices in a bowl and add minced garlic(1 tbsp, about 3 garlic cloves minced), salt to season, turmeric powder(1 tsp), pepper powder(3 tbsp), sugar(1 tbsp), cumin powder(2 tsp).

And vinegar(1/4 cup, any type of white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar).

To give a tangy taste to the beef slices as well as the bistek dish, add extra 3-4 tablespoons.

Combine well and set aside for 30 minutes. The longer you marinate the beef for the bistek, the better it tastes.

If marinating for 1-2 hours, then cover with cling film and refrigerate.

How to cook the Sri Lankan bistek

Once the beef is marinated, place a medium-sized cooking pan over a stovetop.

Add the marinated beef, pandan leaf(2″ piece optional), curry leaves(a sprig, substitute with a bay leaf), cinnamon(2″piece), garlic(2 cloves sliced fine).

Cook over medium heat until the beef releases its natural juice. 10-12 minutes.

Cook until the beef juice thickens and reduces in half.

Transfer the cooked beef steak slices and thick beef juice into separate bowls.

Place the same cooking pan or a larger frying pan over the stovetop and pour in the oil(4 tbsp).

Add the banana pepper(4), green chillies(2), minced ginger(1 tbsp).

Cook over low medium heat until the peppers are soft, add the mustard seeds(1 tsp), and cook for another minute.

Add the cooked beef slices.

And stir-fry for about 3-5 minutes over medium fire.

Pour in the beef juice, reduce heat and slow simmer until the beef slices are covered with it.

Add the onion rings and toss with the beef bistek.

Taste and season with salt if needed.

Serve warm.

JOIN ME ON ISLANDSMILE YOUTUBE CHANNEL

LOVE SEAFOOD? COME JOIN ME ON MY NEW SEAFOOD BLOG.

Beef bistek(bistec,bisteak) is basically a Sri Lankan version of a steak and onion dish. The pepper beef is made by first marinating the beef in vinegar, pepper, and other spices then cooking until tender.

Sri Lankan bistek(steak with onions)

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Beef bistek(bistec,bisteak) is basically a Sri Lankan version of a steak and onion recipe.

The pepper beef is made by first marinating the beef in vinegar, pepper, and other spices then cooking until tender.

The beef strips are then tossed and cooked with onion and green peppers.

Ingredients

  • The ingredients mentioned below use standard measuring cups and spoons.
  • 500g of sliced beef(you can use flank steak)

To marinate the beef slices

  • 1 tablespoon of garlic(3 cloves minced)
  • 1/4 of a cup vinegar(use any type of white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 3 tablespoons of pepper powder
  • Salt to season
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

To cook the bistek

  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced fine
  • A sprig of curry leaves(substitute with a bay leaf)
  • 2″ piece of pandan leaf(optional, you can cook without pandan leaf if you are unable to find it)
  • 2″ piece cinnamon

For the final assembling of the beef bistek

  • 4 banana peppers(substitute with green peppers)
  • 2 green chillies cut or split in the middle
  • 2 large onions(cut into rings)
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger(1 and 1/2 inch garlic piece grated or minced)
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard

Instructions

Prep work before making the Sri Lankan bistek(beef and onion steak)

Have all your ingredients ready.

The onions are used to cook the beef as well as at the end. They are cut differently for each of the cooking stages.

Chop 1 of the onions to cook and the rest should be cut into rings.

How to cut and prepare the beef for the bisteak.

Place the beef slice on a chopping board, pat dry with kitchen paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Cut them into thin slices against the grain.

To break muscle fibers, you will need to pound the slices of beef which is a quick way to tenderize the beef.

Either take each piece of sliced beef and pound them individually or place them together and use the blunt side of your cleaver to whack them a few times. (read beginner’s tips above)

How to marinate the beef slices for bistek

Place the beef slices in a bowl and add minced garlic(1 tbsp, about 3 garlic cloves minced), salt to season, turmeric powder(1 tsp), pepper powder(3 tbsp), sugar(1 tbsp), cumin powder(2 tsp).

And vinegar(1/4 cup, any type of white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar).

To give a tangy taste to the beef slices as well as the bistek dish, add extra 3-4 tablespoons.

Combine well and set aside for 30 minutes. The longer you marinate the beef for the bistek, the better it tastes.

If marinating for 1-2 hours, then cover with cling film and refrigerate.

How to cook the Sri Lankan bistek

Once the beef is marinated, place a medium-sized cooking pan over a stovetop.

Add the marinated beef, pandan leaf(2″ piece optional), curry leaves(a sprig, substitute with a bay leaf), cinnamon(2″piece), garlic(2 cloves sliced fine).

Cook over medium heat until the beef releases its natural juice. 10-12 minutes.

Cook until the beef juice thickens and reduces in half.

Transfer the cooked beef steak slices and thick beef juice into separate bowls.

Place the same cooking pan or a larger frying pan over the stovetop and pour in the oil(4 tbsp).

Add the banana pepper(4), green chillies(2), minced ginger(1 tbsp).

Cook over low medium heat until the peppers are soft, add the mustard seeds(1 tsp), and cook for another minute.

Add the cooked beef slices.

And stir-fry for about 3-5 minutes over medium fire.

Pour in the beef juice, reduce heat, and slow simmer until the beef slices are covered with it.

Add the onion rings and toss with the beef bistek.

Taste and season with salt if needed.

Serve warm.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 609Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 264mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 8gSugar: 10gProtein: 38g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Each recipe on this blog has been written with great care and love to the best of my ability with you in mind.
It’s free and on the blog, for you to try anytime.

All I ask is that you do not save it on any apps, recipe boxes, or online groups which will affect me as a food blogger and the growth of this blog.

I would appreciate it if you only share the link rather than the full recipe. 

All images and text on this website are protected by copyright.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe