Dec 20, 2018 headed to Mindanao to explore the diverse cultures of the region through food, arts, crafts via narratives often overshadowed by news of conflict. This series strives for nuanced storytelling, with dispatches highlighting the rich culture and landscape the region has to offer.


“It’s not a celebration without tiyula itum,” says Diana Maulana, a 58-year-old Tausug woman, while she was guiding her daughter Sharmia, 18, cook the black souped beef stew for us. Now living in Cotabato City (she grew up in Basilan), she owns a couple of eateries, serving dishes she learned from her mother and grandmother. Her mother was a cook, on-call whenever their family or friends have feast.

I once read on NPR that heirloom recipes are love letters to future generations. It’s also an avenue for them to let the world know that they were here and they cooked damn good food—in this case, beef stew.

Tiyula itum translates to “black soup,” and honestly it’s easy to get intimidated by its dark broth. But this Tausug dish is more than just its color—its spices like ginger, turmeric, and chilis give character to it; tanglad or lemongrass and burnt coconut add depth.


1/2 kg. beef (preferably ribs) sliced into cubes
1 cup burnt coconut, powdered
3 tbsp. cooking oil
2 bulbs onion, sliced
1 head garlic, diced
3 in. ginger
1 in. turmeric
7 pcs. siling labuyo
4 stalks lemongrass, tied


  1. In a bowl, toss in beef and burnt powdered coconut. Mix well.
  2. Toss in ginger and turmeric. Set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.
  3. In a pot, sauté onion and garlic.
  4. Add lemongrass. Let it sit for 3 minutes.
  5. Then put marinated beef in the pot. Mix well with other ingredients.
  6. Cover the pot for a few minutes. Wait until the beef releases its juices. When the juices dry up, add water enough to cover the beef. Bring to a boil.
  7. Mix in chilis when it starts boiling. Let it simmer until the meat softens.
  8. Serve.


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TAGS: armm basilan mindanao food sulu tausug tiyula itum