The sight of a bison brings up images of the tumultuous American West: pioneers in wagon trains, native chiefs hunting from horseback, and the tragic greed of the white settlers that reduced enormous herds almost to extinction. After years of careful management, bison (also called buffalo) are no longer threatened, so now we can enjoy this lean, gamey meat as an interesting alternative to beef.
Barbeque sauce and grilled steaks are certainly appropriate for a meat with such a rugged history, but bison is also delicious in plenty of dishes that aren’t evocative of cowboys around a campfire. This traditional Filipino recipe features the flavors of a different continent, with bison shanks and Asian vegetables floating in a clear, flavorful broth. Although it comes from across the world, bulalo has one thing in common with Native American bison recipes: it uses the whole animal, not just the prime cuts like steak. Shank isn’t a luxury meat, but the bones in this recipe make the broth incredibly nutritious, and you can add extra marrow bones for an even richer broth if you like. Many butchers will almost give them away because most people don’t realize how valuable they are.
Like many soup recipes, this one is very simple to alter and customize exactly to your taste. If you can’t get bison, don’t worry about it: bulalo is usually made with beef bones, which are equally delicious and usually cheaper. You can also add pretty much any extra vegetables you have, so this soup is a great way to clean out the fridge.
The key to the rich, smooth broth is to be patient with the recipe: the longer you cook it, the more of the marrow and nutrients in the bones will dissolve into the broth. I recommend 3-4 hours, especially since bison is leaner than the beef usually used in bulalo, and the best way to cook tougher lean meats is long and slow, until they’re falling off the bone. Some bulalo recipes recommend refrigerating the broth between steps 4 and 5, so that the fat hardens at the top and you can remove it. But luckily Paleo dieters know better than that, so leave all the fat in to make a rich, hearty broth, and enjoy the delicious results!
Bison Bulalo Recipe
Serves 6 to 8 Prep. Time: 20 min. Cooking Time: 3 to 4 hours.
- 2 lbs. of bison shanks with the bones;
- 1 lbs. bison or beef marrow bones
- 1 big onion, quartered;
- 1 big celeriac, diced;
- ½ Napa cabbage cut into thick slices;
- 5 to 6 baby bok choy;
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half;
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce;
- 1 tbsp. black pepper seeds;
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste;
- Place the bison shanks and the marrow bones in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil on a medium high heat. Continue boiling for about 10 minutes.
- After the 10 minutes, remove the meat and the bones, empty the water and clean the saucepan. Clean the meat with cold water to remove the scum. (This step is important if you want a nice clean broth later.)
- Place the meat back into the saucepan and add the onions, garlic, black pepper seeds and the fish sauce.
- Fill the saucepan with water (8 to 10 cups). Cover the saucepan with a lid and let simmer on a medium heat for 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to be easily removed from the bones.
- Once the meat is cooked, remove the meat and the bones from the broth and set aside. Strain the broth into a big bowl, using a fine mesh sieve to remove the onions, the black peppers seeds and the garlic cloves.
- Return the strained broth to the saucepan and season to taste. Add the meat, the marrow bones, the celeriac, and the Napa cabbage into the strained broth, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are nice and tender.
- Add the bok choy about a minute before you take the broth off the stove, and serve.