One of my family’s all-time favorite Saturday night suppers is bò nướng vĩ—a Vietnamese version of fondue with an additional DIY element. Tabletop braziers serve as the centerpiece during these special dinners.
With so many aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents in my family, it is impossible to fit everyone into one table. And there’s no way one measly brazier can handle all of our appetites. On this particular evening, we had a table in the family room, another in the dining room and four braziers on full blast to accommodate the hungry masses. Here’s my grandpa tossing some raw onions onto the buttered brazier to get the party started.
The highlight of bò nướng vĩ are thinly sliced pieces of beef marinated with lemongrass and a bit of oil. The oil keeps the meat from sticking to each other and the hot plate. My family downs mountains of meat like no other.
A lovely plate of ultra-fresh squid and shrimp. The shrimps’ skins, tails and veins are carefully removed beforehand, while the squid is scored and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Once we’ve melted down a knob of butter completely, in come the onions, meat, shrimp and squid. This dish is very communal—it’s not unusual for multiple chopsticks to be in the brazier at once! Eating bò nướng vĩ always reminds me of my cousin Andrew. Growing up, Andrew needed my cousins and I to alert him when a piece of meat was done because he was colorblind, and could not tell. Sometimes we tricked him into eating raw meat. Just kidding!
The butter caramelizes the onions just right and permeates the meat, shrimp and squid. Mmm, boy!
Bò nướng vĩ accouterments include rice paper, fresh lettuce leaves, mint, cucumber spears and most importantly, nuoc mam.
Here’s my grandpa carefully wrapping up the goodness in a sheet of cool rice paper.
Dip, bite, repeat.