Archive for the 'Vietnamese' 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’

Cháo Cá – Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

I called dibs on the fish carcass following our baked catfish feast at Phong Dinh. While little was left of the fish’s flesh, I saw great potential in the remaining bones. Namely, an opportunity to transform what would have been waste into one of the most comforting dishes ever: cháo cá (Vietnamese fish porridge).

To start, I made a light stock using the bones along with fresh ginger, scallions, and cilantro. According to Mom, the aromatics are essential for balancing the fish’s intrinsically “fishy” flavor and aroma. Next, I added rice to the broth and let it simmer for the better part of an hour. Once the rice was fully bloomed, thickening the porridge just so, sautéed fish and mushrooms were added in. Chopped cilantro and scallions topped each bowl to finish.

Even though cháo cá  is essentially made with kitchen scraps, the flavor coaxed from the humble ingredients is rounded and rich. It’s hard not to feel utterly satisfied after finishing a bowl of this soulful porridge.

  • 1 large fish carcass, with any remaining flesh removed and set aside
  • Water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Small knob ginger (1.5 inches long), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated
  • Salt
  • Fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • Chili powder (optional)

Make broth

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

In a large stock pot, combine 4 quarts of water, fish carcass, cilantro (stems only), ginger, and half of the scallions (white part only, halved lengthwise). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.

Remove broth from heat and discard fish carcass and aromatics. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and 3 tablespoons fish sauce.

Make porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Over medium-low heat, return the broth to the stove and add in rice. Simmer until desired thickness has been achieved, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Continue reading ‘Cháo Cá – Vietnamese Fish Porridge’

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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