This drool-worthy Filipino-inspired breakfast brings this chef's family together

Naomi Tomky
·4 min read

Take the Yahoo Life post-Thanksgiving 5 Day Reset Your Breakfast Challenge to kick start your week. Follow along with us as we feature celebrity chefs who show us how to make a different breakfast every day this week.

Chef Leah Cohen makes a big, savory breakfast to eat with her family
Chef Leah Cohen makes a big, savory breakfast to eat with her family

Before the pandemic, chef Leah Cohen, the author of Lemongrass and Lime and owner of Pig and Khao in New York City, didn’t eat breakfast very often. But since she’s been staying at home during the pandemic, she eats breakfast each day with her husband, son Carter, and dog kimchi. “Now that the holiday season is upon us,” she tells Yahoo Life – and even though it looks different than last year – “starting your day off right is more important than ever.”

For her, that means beginning with a meal that comes packed with protein: beef tapa, which she serves with a sunny-side up egg for even more protein, garlic fried rice for filling carbs, and a little freshness from a tomato and cucumber salad. She describes the dish as essentially a Filipino version of steak and eggs. “It’s something that I grew up eating, and it just really reminds me of my childhood.”

The key to both the beef tapa and the garlic fried rice comes the night before: while both can be made the day of, she recommends getting the steak in the marinade the previous evening and cooking the rice then, too, so it can dry overnight in the refrigerator.

She marinates the thinly sliced sirloin in a mix of low-sodium soy sauce, sugar, coconut vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. “The vinegar is what kind of preserves it,” she explains. “It’s like a semi-beef jerky.” How much black pepper and garlic to add is up to the cook, but Cohen notes that Filipinos love them, so she uses a hefty portion of each. Then she mixes it up with the best tool she has: “I get up in there with my hands and just massage the beef.”

“It’s something that I grew up eating, and it just really reminds me of my childhood.” Leah Cohen

Because the beef is so thin and marinated, it only gets a char on one side – and cooks quickly. That requires a super-hot pan to start – Cohen waits until the canola oil starts to smoke before adding all the meat at once.

This Filipino-inspired breakfast includes steak, rice, eggs and cucumber salad.
This Filipino-inspired breakfast includes steak, rice, eggs and cucumber salad.

“It’s going to splatter a little bit,” she warns, because the marinade is wet. “You want to just spread it out, and then leave it alone,” she says. After the marinade completely evaporates, she instructs, then flip it over quickly. If you tried to char both sides, she explains, it would overcook. It means you don’t get to choose a temperature like medium-rare, but the marinade keeps the meat juicy.

As the beef cooks, she finishes up her garlic fried rice, slowly frying garlic in a wok, then adding a little Filipino shrimp paste and the dried-out rice. Fresh rice won’t get as crispy and might stick together, she explains. “If you want, you can also just serve it with plain Jasmine rice,” she says. “But I love garlic fried rice and it's very traditional for Filipinos to eat for breakfast.”

To finish up the plate, she fries an egg. It works with any style of egg, she says, but she likes the runny yolk of sunny side up. Then she adds a quick tomato, cucumber, and shallot salad, lightly salted and spritzed with lemon juice. “This just adds a little bit of freshness to the plate, to get your veggies in the morning,” she says, part of her effort to reset everything and eat breakfast with her family.

“It's really important to spend as much time with your family as possible and to eat meals together,” says Cohen. “I really feel that people come together over food, and this is definitely a dish that my family will be eating over the holidays. For brunch, a special occasion, or just a regular Tuesday.”


  • 4 1/4 cup Kikkoman light soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for cooking

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic

  • 1 pound nicely marbled sirloin steak, sliced 1/4 inch thick

  • Garlic Rice

  • 4 sunny-side-up eggs


Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the garlic and beef and toss to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (2 days is ideal)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan or workover high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add half of the beef to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden-brown and just cooked through. Repeat with the remaining meat, adding a bit more oil, if needed.

Serve the meat over garlic rice and top with a sunny side up egg.

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