This Beef Stew is Made With Burnt Coconut [Tiyula Itum from Mindanao]

When you think of beef soup, what’s the image that comes to your mind? You imagine the its vibrant brown tinge, and the pops of color from the vegetables.

This Filipino beef soup is quite the opposite. To be specific, this dish comes from all the way down south: Sulu, Mindanao. In Tausug, tiyula means “soup”, while itum means “black”. This beef soup is exactly what the name suggests.

The Famous Black Soup of the South

Tiyula Itum is not just a popular dish from Mindanao. It’s highly revered by the Tausug. It’s a mainstay in weddings, Hari Raya (breaking of the fast), and all kinds of occasions in Tausug culture. In fact, tiyula itum is a dish typically served to royalties. At the same time, it’s quite difficult to find it in typical Filipino restaurants. Since pork is not used in Filipino Muslim cuisine, tiyula itum makes use of goat or beef.

Take a closer look and you’ll see that the beef soup is black with a greenish tint, and quite gritty. The distinct appearance comes from the burnt coconut, an ingredient commonly used in Tausug cuisine.

Not Toasted, Not Roasted… Burnt. 

If you’re not familiar with Tausug cuisine, the concept of burnt coconut might seem strange. It’s a coarse black powder that resembles ground charcoal. But add it into a dish, you’ll find that it imparts a deep, toasty, and almost nutty flavor. You can typically find them at markets in Mindanao, though they may be difficult to find in other parts of the Philippines.

For this recipe, we’ll be making burnt coconut from scratch.

How to Make Burnt Coconut

All you need is 1 niyog coconut and a stove for charring.

  1. Crack open the coconut in half using the dull side of your knife.
  2. Chop it into smaller, manageable pieces.
  3. Remove the meat from the shell. A trick to make it easier to remove is to char it on both sides, then remove.
  4. The coconut meat should be black and charred almost all the way through. Wash to remove the excess char and grind with a blender or a mortar and pestle.

 You can use the burnt coconut for other dishes such as curries and pyanggang manok.

Making Tiyula Itum

Now that you have the difficult part out of the way, it’s time to make tiyula itum! Watch the video for the step-by-step process, scroll down for the complete recipe.


  • 600 grams of beef brisket or beef ribs
  • 2 thumb sizes of ginger, sliced
  • 1 thumb size of turmeric
  • 1 thumb size of galangal (optional)
  • 5 tbsp of burnt coconut
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 2 tbsp of sauteeing oil
  • 1/3 cup of shallots, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of lemongrass
  • 4 chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 Liters of beef broth
  • additional water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop beef into cubes. In a bowl, combine beef, sliced ginger, minced turmeric, oil, and burnt coconut. Marinate for at least 45 minutes.
  2. Mince garlic, shallots, and chilies. Cut the white part off the lemongrass and pound flat. Tie the green stems into a knot and set aside.
  3. In a pot over medium heat, saute shallots and garlic. Once fragrant, add beef. Place in lemon grass and cover with equal parts water and beef broth until submerged. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and bring it down to a simmer for 2 hours. Replenish with beef broth or water if the soup starts to reduce quite a bit.
  4. Right before serving, add chilies and season to taste.


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Erwan Heussaff
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