Rodolfo Lagua, a thirty-year California barbecue veteran of Filipino heritage, was the inspiration for this recipe. Lagua learned this way of preparing tri-tips from his friend Sammy Ariola, one of the area's first Filipino immigrants. "I have no money for you to inherit," said Ariola, as he lay on his deathbed, "but I'll give you the recipe for my marinade." Since then Lagua has won numerous barbecue contests with his Filipino-style tri-tips, raising thousands of dollars for Filipino community charities.
1Rinse the lemons. Cut each in half and squeeze out the juice with a citrus press. Place the lemon juice in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Cut the rind of 1 lemon into 1/4-inch dice and add it to the juice. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves, coriander seed, and pepper and whisk to mix. Set aside half of the lemon juice mixture to use as a sauce.
2If using flank steak, score it on both sides in a crosshatch pattern, making shallow cuts on the diagonal no deeper than 1/8 inch and about 1/4 inch apart. This will keep the flank steak from curling as it cooks; you don't have to score sirloin or top or bottom round.
3Spread half of the remaining lemon juice mixture in the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold the meat. Place the meat on top and spread the other half of the lemon juice mixture over it. Let the steak marinate for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight. The beef can also be marinated in a resealable plastic bag.
4When ready to cook, drain the meat, scraping off most of the marinade with a rubber spatula. Cook the beef, following the instructions below for any of the grills, until cooked to taste. To test for doneness, use the poke method; when cooked to medium-rare the meat should be gently yielding.
5Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut the meat into broad thin slices, holding a sharp knife blade at a 45-degree angle to the top of the meat. Spoon the reserved sauce over the slices and serve at once.
6If You Have a… CONTACT GRILL:
When cooking on a contact grill, you're best off using a thick cut of steak, like sirloin or round (flank steak will most likely turn out well-done). Preheat the grill; if your contact grill has a temperature control, preheat the grill to high. Place the drip pan under the front of the grill. When ready to cook, lightly oil the grill surface. Place the beef on the hot grill, then close the lid. A thick slab of sirloin or round steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 7 to 10 minutes; flank steak will be cooked to medium after 3 to 5 minutes.
Place the grill pan on the stove and preheat it to medium-high over medium heat. When the grill pan is hot a drop of water will skitter in the pan. When ready to cook, lightly oil the ridges of the grill pan. Place the beef in the hot grill pan. Sirloin or round steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 5 to 8 minutes per side; flank steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Preheat the grill to high, then, if it does not have a nonstick surface, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the beef on the hot grate. Sirloin or round steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 5 to 8 minutes per side; flank steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Preheat the grill to high; there's no need to oil the grate. Place the beef on the hot grill. Sirloin or round steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 6 to 9 minutes per side; flank steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 5 to 7 minutes per side.
Rake red hot embers under the gridiron and preheat it for 3 to 5 minutes; you want a hot, 2 to 3 Mississippi fire. When ready to cook, brush and oil the gridiron. Place the beef on the hot grate. Sirloin or round steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 5 to 8 minutes per side; flank steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 4 to 6 minutes per side.