Reasons to try beef pares (and places where you can in Cebu)

The term “pares” was coined by Lolita Tiu, who together with Roger Tiu, opened “Jonas Pares House” in Quezon City in 1979. It was located near Calle Retiro which goes by a different street name now. This is also why some pares spots claim they serve authentic “Retiro”-style beef pares. “Pares” literally means “pair,” which refers to the pairing of a beef dish with garlic fried rice and completing the meal with a light beef soup.

The original and most common version is the beef asado paired with a beef-based broth and garlic rice. Another variant is the “pushcart pares” or “pares kanto,” named so as it it sold on the streets by mobile sidecar vendors. The beef and broth are combined, and cornstarch is used as a thickening agent. Some also serve it as beef pares mami, which uses egg noodles instead of rice.

Here’s a further breakdown of what makes beef pares more than just an everyday street fare:

A gastronomic adventure

With roadside eateries and carinderias as popular chow points for pares, the location is an experience in itself. And you know those spots are doing something right if the queue seems never-ending.

Fall-apart tender beef

Because the cooking process involves simmering it for hours, the beef is tenderized, its flavors extracted and the broth thickened.

Loaded with beef tendon (litid), ligaments, bone marrow and fat come together for a broth you can’t get enough of, and this is what is commonly served in roadside pares spots. While tendon is tough, the long cooking renders it sticky, gelatinous and melt-in-your-mouth.

Sweet-savory flavor profile

Filipinos love anything sweet and savory so it’s no surprise that beef pares would be an instant hit. Basic pares has beef chunks cooked asado-style in a mixture of soy sauce, water and sugar, with just a hint of star anise and enough salt and pepper to counter the sweetness. Some eateries serve the stew slightly spicy to cut through the unctuous mouthfeel.

If you haven’t tried it yet, here are eight pares places in Cebu to check out: