Archive for the 'Main Course' Category

Bò Lúc Lắc – Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Bo Luc Lac - Vietnamese Shaking Beef

When I was gifted four beautiful steaks this past Christmas, I briefly considered wrapping the fillets in bacon or chopping them coarsely for a tartare. But when it came down to it, The Astronomer and I both desired Vietnamese food, so “shaking beef” ultimately and unsurprisingly won out.

Since my family does not have a go-to recipe for bò lúc lắc, I turned to Chef Charles Phan of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door to guide me through the process. You could say that he’s got a way with shaking beef

Traditionally, this dish is prepared in a seasoned wok over a flame, which imparts an intense sear on the beef and cooks the entire dish with a flick (or two) of the wrist.

This pared down recipe caters to the home cook and yields immense reward for very little effort. While using a saute pan on an electric stove offers significantly fewer BTUs, the results were most satisfactory. We’ll be making this recipe again and again.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
  • 1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rice or white wine
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bunches watercress, washed and dried, or 1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, dried and separated into leaves
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Bo Luc Lac - Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Marinate meat with garlic, half the sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon oil for about 2 hours at room temperature. (Refrigerate if your kitchen is very warm.)

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, remaining sugar, wine, soy sauce and fish sauce. Taste, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Mix about 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Bo Luc Lac - Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Divide the meat into 2 portions, and do the same with the onion and scallions. Put a wok or a large skillet over maximum heat, and add about 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil smokes, add the meat in one layer. Let it sit until a brown crust forms, and turn to brown the other side. Browning should take less than 5 minutes.

Add half the onion and half the scallions, and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add about half the vinegar mixture, and shake pan to release the beef, stirring if necessary. Add half the butter, and shake pan until butter melts. Remove meat, and repeat. Continue reading ‘Bò Lúc Lắc – Vietnamese Shaking Beef’

Bún Bò Huế – Vietnamese Beef & Lemon Grass Noodle Soup

Bun Bo Hue

With the help of Grandma and my aunts these past couple of years, I’ve learned how to prepare almost every noodle soup that I giddily slurped as a child and hungrily craved as an adult. Grandma taught me how to tame pho bo and bo kho from her home kitchen, while my aunts showed me the ins and outs of bun rieu and hu tieu through detailed emails and patient telephone calls.

I’ve amassed quite a repertoire of recipes on this site over the years, preserving a small piece of family history in the process and guaranteeing that all future cravings are swiftly satisfied.

Most recently, Grandma and I tackled bun bo Hue, a complex and heady beef noodle soup scented with lemongrass, packed with pork trotters, and littered with congealed pigs’ blood.

While the city of Hue is known for its spicy fare, Grandma’s version of the former imperial capital’s famous noodle soup is quite tame because she’s needed to refine and adjust it over time to placate the palates of her American-born, spice-averse grandchildren. What can I say? My cousins and I were weak when it came to heat when we were younger.

The most magical part of making bun bo Hue happens around hour three when the beef, pork, and lemongrass broth is transformed into the familiar fiery orange soup. Grandma uses a sizzling mixture of vegetable oil, scallions, fish sauce, and paprika to impart the broth with its characteristically bright hue and rich, umami flavor. Never in a million years would I have guessed that a jar of paprika resided in Grandma’s cupboard for this very recipe.

A heavy dose of fermented shrimp paste, along with a touch of sugar and salt, add the finishing touches to the broth. The soup is ready to be served when the slices of beef and the pigs’ feet are both perfectly tender, after approximately 4 hours total.

For broth

  • 2.5 pounds pigs’ feet, cut into chunks
  • 2.5 pounds beef shank
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salt, separated
  • 9 stalks lemongrass
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, white parts only, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon monosodium glutamate, optional
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar

For garnish and noodles

Bun Bo Hue

To prepare the broth, begin by cleaning the pigs’ feet under running water to remove any bits of bone debris that the butcher left behind. Don’t forget to run your fingers beneath the skin where unsightly debris may have gotten trapped.

Bun Bo Hue

Place the cleaned pigs’ feet and beef shank in a large stockpot filled with enough water to submerge them and bring to a boil. The shank and feet are full of impurities, so once the water comes to a boil, dump it out and collect the feet and shank in a colander.

Continue reading ‘Bún Bò Huế – Vietnamese Beef & Lemon Grass Noodle Soup’

Sườn Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ribs

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

One of the perks of having a mother who works for a meat distribution company are the random acts of kindness meatiness that occur from time to time. I love it when Mom surprises me with pounds of jumbo shrimp, bags of frozen chicken fingers, or most recently, racks of baby back ribs. With Memorial Day, the official start of the summer grilling season, around the corner, the timing could not have been any more perfect. These racks o’ ribs were destined to meet the heat, Vietnamese-style.

Sườn nướng was a mealtime staple growing up. Not only was it served often on weeknights for dinner, but it also made regular appearances at beachside family gatherings—La Jolla Shores, represent. The ease of prepping and cooking the ribs, as well as their intrinsic deliciousness, made them a standby for every occasion.

Comprised of just five ingredients—fish sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, and shallots—this easy marinade treats pork to a sweet, salty, and wholly umami bath. Soaked overnight, then grilled over hot flames, the ribs’ exterior caramelizes beautifully, while the innards remain tender and flavorful.

The recipe below produces ribs that are savory enough to pair with a heap of rice, the Vietnamese way, but for those looking to eat their meat straight up, ease up some on the fish sauce and salt.

According to Mom, this is the best marinade ever. And she’s absolutely right.

  • 2 to 3 pounds pork ribs, separated
  • 2 large shallots, finely minced
  • 4 ounces fish sauce (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (approximately 1/3 cup)

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

To prepare the marinade, whisk together the shallots, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Transfer the marinade to a gallon-size Ziploc bag, along with the ribs, and let the meat and marinade marry in the refrigerator overnight.

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

Let the ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Over medium-high flames, grill the ribs on both sides until slightly charred and fully cooked through, approximately 6 to 10 minutes per side. Optional: brush the ribs with leftover marinade.

Once the ribs are fully cooked, transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

Continue reading ‘Sườn Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ribs’

Tết 2013: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng

Banh Chung

Growing up, Tết was all about not screwing up. It was imperative that on the first day of the New Year, everything ran as smoothly as possible, which meant acing tests, being respectful to my elders, and not arguing with my brother. My mother made me believe that everything that happened on this day, both good and bad, would be repeated throughout the year. This superstitious notion scared me straight into action and, truth be told, continues to taunt me as a full grown adult.

These days, Tết has become less about “being good” and more about gathering with family, cleaning house, and of course, honoring food traditions. There are many dishes associated with the holiday including candied ginger and coconut, braised pork, and preserved pineapples, but the most iconic and essential of all is the square and squat bánh chưng and its cylindrical cousin bánh Tết.

Banh Chung

In honor of the upcoming New Year, which falls on February 10th, a group of friends and I gathered to tackle making bánh chưng from scratch. While we were all wholly enthusiastic about the task, none of us were very experienced, as evidenced by our poor, boiled-over mung beans early in the day.

Banh Chung

Leading the charge was Chef Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. Diep didn’t have a recipe (or YouTube tutorials) to guide us this afternoon, just vague memories from years ago of preparing bánh chưng with her grandmother.

Continue reading ‘Tết 2013: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng’

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