Vietnamese Bo Luc Lac

  
As the arrival of our daughter gets closer, J and I have started perfecting some of our favorite restaurant dishes at home. We finally got this dish perfect and couldn’t be happier. The original recipe can be found here.

Beef Marinade Ingredients (makes the gravy):
1.5 pounds beef sirloin (or any cut you like) cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1.5 tablespoons sugar (we have found brown works pretty well)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce (we used regular, but the original recipe calls for thick)

Vinaigrette Ingredients (for quick pickling of the veggies and a tablespoon or two in some white rice makes a HUGE difference!):
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoons salt

Dipping Sauce Ingredients (this is our favorite part, it really brings the whole dish together!):
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Non-sauce Ingredients:
1 red onion, thinly sliced (you can use yellow in a pinch)
2 bunches of iceberg or watercress or romaine, long stems trimmed
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Cooking oil for frying

Directions:
Prepare marinade by combining garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil with the beef for at least half an hour, preferably 1-2 hours let marinate in the refrigerate. (Note: If you’re thinking ahead (like we occasionally do), feel free to combine the beef and the marinade and freeze the mixture. Then you can just take it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator when you leave for work.)

Prepare vinaigrette by mixing rice vinegar with salt and sugar. It should be a balance of sour, salty and sweet. It should look something like this:
Vinaigrette for quick pickling

Thinly slice the red onion and use about 3-4tablespoons tablespoons the vinaigrette to pickle and set aside covered in fridge for about 10 minutes (longer is better here too!). Prepare bed of lettuce and tomatoes in a serving platter and set aside.

Heat a large wok or pan over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons cooking oil and when it begins to smoke, add an even layer of beef and allow to sear for about 2 minutes, before “shaking” to sear the opposite sides for about another 1-2 minute more to brown all the sides. Do this in batches to cook all the beef if necessary. This will sear the beef so it looks like this:
Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Transfer beef to bed of watercress and tomatoes. Drizzle another 3-4 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the beef and greens and top with pickled red onions. Lastly, squeeze lime juice over salt and pepper in a small bowl and use for dipping the beef, or feel free to just drizzle it on. The dipping sauce should look like this:
Bo Luc Lac dipping sauce

My opinion:
This has to be in my top 10 favorite dishes of all time. I love the veggies and the balance of all five flavors. I also love that the rice isn’t even really necessary for this to be a filling meal. Plus even if you do all the prep work right before dinner, the whole start to finish time is only about 30 minutes.

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Thai Beef Salad

Thai Beef Salad
Summer finally arrived about a week ago and it’s been too hot to cook. Too hot for heavy meals and just generally too hot. My favorite thing about this dish adapted from this Shape.com recipe is it’s served chilled and for a light dinner, it is really filling.

Ingredients:
Well-marbled New York steak or a skirt steak, grilled (we broiled and pan-seared a couple of times when it was too hot to grill) to your liking, but preferably no more than medium rare
1 small red onion, sliced into skinny wedges
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, no stems
Large handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or 1/2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into wedges)
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 limes (or about 1/4 to 1/3 cup lime juice)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (you may need more. Note: the original recipe called for palm sugar, but we’ve had a hard time finding it)
1.5 tablespoon fish sauce
Thai chili powder to taste (we found a blend at Penzy’s Spices that we love for this dish – Bangkok blend)

Directions:
Grill, pan-sear or broil the meal as directed above and slice into thin strips after allowing to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Put the brown sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add some of the lime juice and mush into a thick liquid form. Add the rest of the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.
When the steak has cooled, Add it to the sauce mixture. Toss with your hands to incorporate all over the steak. Add the rest of the veggies, toss and taste. Tasting as you go is the most important part. Add more fish sauce if it needs more salt, or more sugar if it is to lime-y.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Then serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish cilantro.

My opinion:
You can add the cilantro into the sauce mixture, just give it a rough chop. If you want to quick sautee your veggies in peanut oil (or your favorite cooking oil), feel free it adds another layer of flavor. This is the perfect dish for a hot summer evening.

Homemade Beef Pho

Homemade Beef Pho

The more J and I cook at home, the more we find amazing recipes of meals we once thought were super complicated and therefore only available in a restaurant. Pho is one of those dishes. With the complexly deep flavors and food coma inducing warmth, we were sure we couldn’t make it in our own kitchen. We were so wrong. J found this recipe from Sarcastic Cooking (love!) and it was dead on. We adjusted a few things to our taste and suggest you do too.

Ingredients For the Broth:
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil (we used vegetable)
2 Yellow Onions, halved (we ended up quartering them)
1, 3-inch Piece of Fresh Ginger, halved (we left this whole but kind of crushed to infuse more flavor)
2 Cloves Garlic (we used minced)
4 Quarts Low-Sodium Beef Stock
In a tea ball we put: 1 Cinnamon Stick (broken),  3 Star Anise Pieces, 3 Whole Cloves
⅓ Cup Fish Sauce
3 Tablespoons Packed Light Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
Button mushrooms (we used about a cup sliced)
If you do not want to invest in cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves, some stores sell pho seasoning packs. But it’s worth it to have your own, plus, with a tea ball removing it is simple!

Ingredients for the Pho:
1, 12-Ounce Package of Bahn Pho or Udon Noodles (Flat Rice Noodles) These ended up being hard to find so we just used glass noodles (thin rice noodles).
1 Pound Flank Steak or charcoal steak
2 Thai Chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced (we left these out)
2 Handfuls Bean Sprouts (fresh is crunchier and we loved it!) 
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Bunch Fresh Mint
½ White Onion, sliced paper-thin
Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce for Serving
Lime Wedges for Serving

Directions:
Fair warning, these directions look complicated, but really aren’t. Promise.  In a large stockpot, heat the  oil over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger and garlic when the oil just starts to simmer/shimmer. Cook, turning a few times, for about 10 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low. Simmer, partially covered, for at least 50 minutes and up to 3 hours if you like a richer flavor. (It is absolutely worth it to let it simmer for 3 hours, do that). After desired taste is reached, strain broth (we didn’t strain the broth, we just removed the tea ball of spices) and add back to the pot. Note: If you are not serving the soup right away, you can store the strained broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

This is the best trick ever: Place the beef into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This makes it easier to slice.  Bring the broth to a slow simmer over low heat. Add rice noodles and cook according to package directions. Once the noodles are cooked, remove pot from heat. Using a very sharp knife, slice the beef as thin as possible. Ladle some broth into a few deep bowls. Add noodles to bowls. Serve Sriracha, bean sprouts, herbs, onions, lime wedges, and beef on the side so each person can add in what they want to their pho.

IMG_6613

 

My opinion:
This makes a lot. Enough for three of us to have two large bowls each and quite a bit left over. It’s in the freezer waiting for one of those cold, rainy late fall days when soup sounds best. I love this dish. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. 

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Tom Yum Noodle Soup
Or as a dear friend of mine calls this, sick soup. It’s perfect when allergies are high or a cold is settling in. We like ours a bit on the hot and sour side, so if you don’t feel the same way, make sure you adjust the spices. A good rule of thumb is you can add spice easier than you can take it away. Like the last recipe, J found the base on RasaMalaysia.com and with a few modifications, it is thisclose to our favorite Thai restaurant in town. If only we could get our hands on fresh ingredients…

Ingredients:
1 roll packaged soba noodles (We used rice noodles because we had a hard time finding soba noodles)
1 1/4 cups water
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, pounded and bruised (we finally found dried lemongrass from Thai Kitchen at our local grocer. If only we could find fresh…)
5-6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised (just like with the lemongrass, we could only find these dried from Thai Kitchen, but dried is better than none!)
4-5 slices fresh galangal (if you aren’t already noticing a trend, this is also only available in our area dried from Thai Kitchen, if you can’t find anything fresh ginger root will do in a pinch)
1/2 small tomato, cut into 3 to 4 wedges
6 medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined (we just used a whole bag of frozen, shelled, deveined ready to use. But we like shrimp)
one can straw mushrooms pieces (pieces were the only kind available)
1 1/2 tablespoons Nam Prik Pao (Thai roasted chili paste, we couldn’t find this so we just used Thai chili paste, it was a bit sweeter than we expected)
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce (we ended up using at least 1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
3 dashes chili powder (we used three squirts of Sriracha sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
Cilantro leaves, for garnishing

Directions:
Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and set aside. At the same time, bring the 1 1/4 cups water to boil in another small pot. Add in all the aromatics, follow by the shrimp, mushrooms and Thai chili paste.

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Keep boiling until the shrimp is cooked through. Add the fish sauce and Sriracha. Turn off the heat, add in the lime juice. Stir to combine well. We opted to remove the lemongrass stalks and the kaffir lime leaves because they didn’t taste very good on their own. We added the cooked noodles and stirred to combine.

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Top with some cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

My opinion:
This was one of the fastest dinners we’ve made in a long time. I’m sure if we had let it simmer a little longer, the flavors would have been even better, but we were hungry. Next time, we will add more vegetables like zucchini and onions. I was surprised at how much the noodles absorbed the broth, which I think is the best part. By the time we got around to a second bowl, there wasn’t a drop of broth left. To remedy this, we plan to add at least a cup  more water at the beginning.

Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill)

After watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations for Vietnam, J and I have sought out Vietnamese dishes to prepare. And as we’ve mentioned before, we are always looking for more  ways to eat fish . J found this recipe from the Ravenous Couple and it didn’t disappoint. Easy to prepare, delicious and fragrant, we’ve added this to our dinner rotation.

Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill.
Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill.

Ingredients:
1 lb of white fish fillets (We used tilapia fillets)

Fish Marinade
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (this gives the fish the beautiful yellow color)
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder (The original recipe calls for galangal powder, but we’ve had a hard time finding it around us)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce

Additions
1 large red onion, sliced (we only had a white onion on hand)
1 cup of green onion cut lengthwise into 1.5 inch segments
1 bunch of fresh dill coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
1/4 cup of dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed (we didn’t use this because we didn’t have any)
12 oz. bag of vermicelli noodles (boiled and drained, we used white rice because we didn’t have vermicelli on hand)
Fresh mint

If you’re ever interested in making your own fish sauce, the original recipe has instructions on how to do that. We opted not to for time purposes, as we made this on a weeknight.

Directions:
Combine olive oil, turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl and mix well. Cut the fish into smaller fillets and gently mix, and allow to marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.

You’ll need two skillets for this, one large and one medium. In the large skillet, saute the red and green onions with a bit of oil under medium low heat. At the same time have the medium non-stick skillet heating on medium high.

While the onions are cooking, cook the fish fillets about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice golden opaque color and a light brown crust. A minute or so before the fish is done, turn the large skillet with the onions to high and place the cooked fillets on top of the sauteed onions and scallions. Remove from heat and generously top with fresh dill and roasted peanuts (if desired). Serve immediately over vermicelli noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs.

My Opinion:
The dill, fish sauce and mint make te flavors really pop. If you’re skeptical like we initially were, try just a little of each on one bite. I promise, you won’t regret it. The only change we’ve made is to use a bit of a firmer fish. Tilapia was just what we had on hand the first time and worked fine, but cod, halibut, or the recommended catfish would be easier to sear. You won’t feel bogged down by this dish. It’s light and filling. We served it with rice, but that was almost unnecessary, the onions were enough.