Bulalo is a rich, meaty soup that has been made in the Philippines since before the Spanish conquest. It contains marrow bones, cow shanks, cabbage, potatoes, and maize and is simply seasoned with fish sauce. The town of Tagaytay or the province of Batangas, one of the three main islands of the archipelago, is where it first emerged. The cow hocks and bones used in this soup, like in many other Filipino meals, provide both flavor and nutrition. However, as long as you have the marrow, you can make bulalo because one of the dishes’ appeals is getting the marrow out of the bones. Depending on the location and the restaurant, different vegetables, such as maize, potatoes, and cabbage, may be included. For instance during one of my visit to the beautiful island of Negros Occidental which is located in central Philippines, I ate a variation of Bulalo called Kansi. Kansi is a sour pig and vegetable stew, while Bulalo is a soup made with bone marrow that is tangy, astringent, and flavorful.


How to prepare Bulalo

In my adaptation of bulalo, the main ingredients are roasted corn, potatoes, and marrow bones, which are topped with a delicious soup base created by boiling cow shanks with vegetable trimmings. While the final soup may not have a strong flavor, it is full of interesting textures and perfectly reflects the flavor of the food.

I begin by making the broth for the bulalo in a big Dutch oven. I first brown the shanks in oil before sautéing the onions and garlic in the rendered fat. As soon as they turn golden, I set them aside to make the soup. Next, I quickly make a vegetable broth with the trimmed vegetables, and then I re-add the browned shanks, cooked garlic and onion, as well as the tendon and knuckles.

I let everything boil until the meat is completely soft, then I add the cabbage and let it cook for a similar amount of time before adding fish sauce to season the broth. I roast the potatoes and bone marrow about an hour before the soup is finished, cooking the potatoes until they are soft and delicious and the bone marrow is just beginning to break away from the bone.

After the soup has finished cooking, I divide the meaty pieces among serving bowls, add the potatoes, corn, and cabbage to each, and then ladle the broth on top. The end product is a hearty soup with a variety of textures from the beef and the individually cooked veggies that can be enjoyed throughout the year.



  • 3kg beef marrow bones, cut crosswise into small bits
  • 2 bone-in beef shanks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cobs sweet corn, shucked
  • 4 tablespoons of canola or other neutral oil, divided
  • 2 medium-size garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Napa cabbage,sliced (reserve trimmings)
  • 2 scallions, ends trimmed and sliced thin
  • 450g beef tendons(optional)
  • 450g beef knuckles, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels (optional)
  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • 5 to 7 yellow fingerling potatoes , scrubbed and cut into small bits
  • Cooked white rice, for serving



  1. Rinse beef shanks and marrow bones under cold running water. Place in a big bowl, cover with cold water, and soak for about 60 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels before seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C) with the rack in the middle position. Toss corn with 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil in a medium bowl. Place corn on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. Set aside until it is cool enough to handle.
  3. Place a large bowl on your work surface and invert a small bowl within the large bowl to remove the kernels from the cobs. Place one end of a cob, one at a time, on the inverted, smaller bowl. Slice downward, as close to the base of the kernels as possible, taking care not to angle the blade into the cob itself, with a chef’s knife. Continue rotating the cob of corn until all of the kernels have been removed. Repeat with the remaining corn ear. Set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over high heat until it shimmers. Add the shanks and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic and onions to the stockpot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden brown and the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Scrape onto plate with shanks.
  5. Cover stockpot with water and add reserved corn cobs, onion, cabbage, and scallion trimmings. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove cobs and trimmings with a spider skimmer and discard.
  6. To the stockpot, add the reserved shanks, garlic and onion, beef tendons (if using), and beef knuckles (if using) (ensure that the tendons and knuckles are fully covered with water). Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover with a lid, and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 90 minutes. Cover and cook until the cabbage is tender. 1 tablespoon at a time, stir in fish sauce until well combined.
  7. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil in the meantime. Toss potatoes with the remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) oil in a large mixing bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Roast potatoes for 20 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and fork-tender on the inside.
  8. Place the marrow bones on the second baking sheet that has been prepared. Roast the marrow bones for 20 minutes, or until the marrow is soft and pulling away from the bone.
  9. Divide the marrow bones, shank, tendons, and knuckles among soup bowls to serve. Serve with cabbage, potatoes, and corn on top. Ladle the broth over the top, garnish with scallions, and serve with white rice.

By Elijah Hughes

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