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Sep 1, 2008 06:40 AM

September COTM “Vietnamese”: Meat & Charcuterie

September 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

Please post your full-length reviews of "main course" meat recipes, as well as charcuterie recipes, here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. This thread includes:


Chapter 5: Inviting the Ancestors for Tet (Recipes for Beef, Pork, etc.)


Chapter 5: Classic Meats
Chapter 6: The Art of Charcuterie

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Caramelized Minced Pork (ItVK page 131)

    This was the first of Nguyen’s recipes I wasn’t crazy about. She says it’s eaten in small quantities with lots of rice and says that when she was a child her father made rice logs (which I did and report on separately in the Rice thread) and they would press the logs into the minced pork and eat it out of hand.

    Finger food! Yeah! And caramelized pork. I thought, how could you go wrong? But the pork was actually too rich (I never *ever* thought I’d be typing those words; I guess “small quantities” is the operative phrase here) and a bit too salty, the rice logs too cool (even though the apartment was really warm), and the pork didn’t really stick to the rice. I was excited by the idea of this but the result was disappointing.

    The photo is awfully fuzzy, but I think you can get the idea.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Caramelized Minced Pork - agree with your review. Had high hopes, but turned out to not be very special. Mine was actually undersalted. Even with added salt, just ended up tasting like some lightly flavored stir fried pork. Maybe it needed more caramel?

      1. re: JoanN

        Caramelized Minced Pork

        I actually really, really loved this dish! So simple, yet so deeply flavoured. I did up the caramel sauce a bit (an extra tsp) and maybe used a little less meat, but thought this was just grand. The pork became quite brown -in fact I thought I had burnt it- but it was just very, err, caramelized. The darkened, chewier bits were quite prized and we sought them out. Served with chicken and rice w/herbs, daikon/carrot pickle, and nuoc cham. A fantastic combination for a wonderful meal. I will make this again.

      2. Shaking Beef p. 154 Pham ItVK
        I'm not much of a beef eater or cook, but we were in the mood for a salad with strips of beef on it, and a friend had talked a lot about this dish being great at a restaurant...
        I made it *without* the pineapple. It's basically a quick stir fry, with beef marinated. I love thai basil, and a lime juice dressing..
        it's very nice over mixed green salad, and/or the watercress, and rice.

        8 Replies
        1. re: pitu

          I've made this a few times - it's delicious. I've used canned pineapple.

          1. re: pitu

            Oh good! I'm making this tomorrow night. I rarely eat beef (and even rarer for me to cook it) so this will be a treat for my husband. I'm planning on doing it without the pineapple.

            1. re: pitu

              My turn on Pham's Shaking Beef.

              I've enjoyed this in restaurants, and the recipe is as good as I've had. I was unable to get watercress so just served it over field greens. I used more beef than she calls for (probably just over a pound for 2 adults and a toddler) and that was just about right for us. Served with baguette and we were very, very happy with the meal. We skipped the pineapple.

              1. re: LulusMom

                That looks tasty! What cut of beef does Pham call for? I have Nguyen's book but don't think there's a shaking beef (bo luc lac) recipe. I'm hoping to try her stir-fried beef w/ cauliflower soon...

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Thank you! Pham calls for either beef sirloin or flank steak, I went with flank.

                  Good luck with the beef w/ cauliflower, I hadn't even noticed that one in the Nguyen book (although I've had it less time so I haven't spent as much time pouring over it).

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    Hi CarbLover!

                    There is a bo luc lac recipe on Andrea Nguyen's website:

                    Wok-Seared "Shaking" Beef - Thit Bo Luc Lac

                2. re: pitu

                  I just (kind of) made this for dinner. I ordered some things over the phone, including the sirloin, from the market around the corner, so that I could pick them up while walking the dog, but when I got home, I had ground sirloin, not a piece of sirloin. I decided to make it any way and, while I'm sure it would be better w/ the pieces of sirloin, it was still pretty darn good. I used half a jalapeno instead of the other peppers, mint and a little cilantro instead of asian basil, and served it on watercress, with the tomatoes, and rice on the side. I hope I have enough rice left to make the fried rice tomorrow. I also omitted the pineapple - just not my thing in savory dishes.

                  1. re: pitu

                    I made this the other night and it was not a success. I omitted the pineapple but that wasn't the problem.

                    The recipe states to marinate the beef, then to heat the oil and add the garlic for 5 sec. No problem here.

                    Then, it says to add the beef and to stir fry until just charred on the edges, about 2-3 minutes. This was an issue. My beef (sirloin) threw off a lot of water. There was no charring to be seen or taste anywhere. My oil was hot and it was the requisite amount. My beef cubes were the correct size. Essentially, this was more like browning meat v. stir frying meat. I even kept it on a bit longer to have the juices run clearer, but then the meat was overcooked.

                    Also, the dressing, in her proportions just wasn't enough for the beef (and I used exact amounts for beef and dressing).

                    It was a disappointment and I'm not quite sure where I went wrong.

                  2. Lemongrass beef on cool noodles, bun bo xao, Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table,
                    page 120

                    This recipe is quite straight forward. I tripled the recipe to have left overs though the week, though I don’t have much left.

                    I cut the beef in thin strips, one inch long and marinated it for approx. 30 minutes in lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce and oyster sauce. Then I fried one thinly sliced red onion and stir fried the beef for few minutes. After marinating I realized that I was supposed to stir fry the garlic and not marinate the beef in it, it a little too late.

                    Taste wise? I think it was too garlicky, I shouldn’t have tripled the garlic along with tripling everything else. I think that garlic needed the much needed frying. DH liked it a lot and took a couple of extra servings, even though he is usually not a garlic fan and I am the one who loves garlic. In the beginning of the meal I thought that other than being garlicky it lacked something else too – maybe just black pepper or some spice, but by the end of the meal I liked it better.

                    I served it with the cool noodles she suggests.

                    1. Beef Stew with Star Anise and Basil (PotVT, pg 155)

                      This was the first recipe I chose for this month, mostly because I am trying to clear out our freezer and thought I could sub 2 # of veal for the beef. This dish would have probably been much better with actual beef, but it was a fun experiment and now I have a bit more room in our small freezer.

                      The recipe seems simple enough. You start by making an annatto seed oil, which you use to brown the meat in the beginning, and again at the end to saute your additional shallots, garlic and chilis.
                      From what I could gather, this oil was purely for color, and I'm not sure I would bother making it again if I chose to make this stew again. It was mostly tasteless and really just made a mess on my stovetop, in my dutchoven and on my t-shirt. Anyone have experience with annatto? It seems like using tumeric to me, very subtle flavor, and mostly for color.
                      The stew part of the recipe is straightforward. You add your meat to the shallot/garlic mixture in your saucepan(I used a dutchoven), brown briefly and add your liquids. I doubled this recipe in order to use up my veal, so I used a mixture of 1:1 chicken stock and water, 6c total, then you add fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar and a bunch of bruised lemon grass. Bring to a boil, then simmer 40 min. Easy-peasy.
                      While everythings simmering, you toast the star anise, grind or mortar it(I used my spice grinder and sifted it to remove any larger residue, not something she mentions but I was glad we did this step when I saw what was left in the sifter), then you add it along with some curry to the above mentioned shallot/garlic saute in annatto oil with a healthy dose of chopped thai chilis.
                      15 minutes before the meat is tender (it was actually pretty tender within a half hour), you add sliced carrots which should be blanched for 3 min. We skipped the blanching step and also added about 8 small new potatoes, cut into lengthwise quarters.
                      I'm glad we added the potatoes as the liquid was quite brothy, and I think this gave us some satiety we wouldn't have had otherwise.
                      Once the carrots/potatoes are tender, you stir in the sauteed spice mixture, a bunch of Thai basil leaves and serve it in bowls with a plate of cilantro, more Thai basil and thinly sliced yellow onion for each person to garnish with as they see fit.
                      Honestly, the garnish plate was my favorite part of this dish, I love adding fresh herbs to Vietnamese food, ie, in Pho or lettuce wraps, so this really appealed to me.
                      Overall the dish was not my favorite though, it was way too salty for one, and I measured everything pretty carefully, unlike me, but I wanted to stay true to the recipe specifically for COTM. The meat wasn't so salty, but the broth was enough so for us to both leave it largely behind in our bowls.
                      Also, I would add more chilies at the end, or better yet, add them to the garnish plate so people could control their personal heat.
                      We served it without rice or noodles as she suggested, it would have been delicious with either I'm sure, but we're trying to shed a few pounds, so we decided to forgo the carbs. -And now I'm craving some steamed rice or those scallion noodles like crazy!
                      Instead, I stir fried some bok choy and oyster mushrooms in our wok, following the recipe for mustard greens on pg 198. So quick and easy, I should do this more often with all sorts of veg.
                      While we were eating, I was really trying to like everything, but after going for a walk and coming back into the apartment, the cooking smells hit us, and we both suddenly agreed it was not our favorite thing.
                      Now to find a great fish/shrimp/lettuce wrap recipe for tomorrow night. You've all made them sound SO good! Ooooh, or that poached chicken dish...hmmmm.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: rabaja

                        thx for the full report - i was eyeing that recipe....

                        1. re: rabaja

                          Thanks for your long report. Sorry the broth was too salty since that should be tasty for absorbing into rice or baguette. How much fish and soy sauce does the recipe call for?

                          Nguyen has a "beef stewed with tomato, star anise, and lemongrass" (p.151) in her book. No annatto or curry is used. I could see how the annatto would make a big mess and not be worth the hassle. I've not made Andrea's beef stew but have had the pleasure of eating it at her house (she lives in my town), and it is really delicious! Nguyen calls for chuck roast that simmers for about 2 hrs. total. Grass-fed beef worked very well, and warm toasted baguette was the perfect accompaniment.

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            Re: the salt - I read something similar to what you wrote in Pham's book.

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              The recipe called for 2T of fish sauce and 1T soy. Since we doubled everything, including the stock/liquid, I went ahead and doubled these ingredients as well. Maybe I shouldn't have, but in any case, if I made it again I would probably do one less T of each.
                              And yes, ditch the annatto. Also, the tomato addition is a nice idea, will have to try that soon.
                              That's so awesome that Andrea lives in your town! A friend of mine knows her as well and thinks very highly of her book. I will probably choose my next few recipes from ItVC.

                            2. re: rabaja

                              I made this for a dinner party last night, with a couple of small changes. I also doubled the recipe. I didn't make the annatto oil, but instead heated the vegetable oil, added the aromatics, and then the beef. I wasn't thinking carefully, as I didn't dry off the beef, and dumped all two pounds into the dutch oven. As a result, it did not brown nicely. I added in maybe two table spoons of caramel sauce and stirred for a minute or too before proceeding with the recipe, though I adjusted the sugar called for later on accordingly. I used dried Thai bird chilies. I added fewer carrots, as I'm not a fan of cooked carrots. I did look at the Nguyen recipe on line, and liked the idea of marinating the meat a bit, and also that it has tomatores. We all loved this dish - thought the house had a wonderful aroma too it. I served it with rice, stirfried bok choy with a little caramel sauce, the Pham eggplant salad, summer rolls (with some chicken in them) to start, and sorbet to finish. Oh - and mini banh mi before we sat down at the table.

                              I did think my meat was a little less tender than I'd have liked it to be, but I think that is a function of the market from which I bought it.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Meant to add - I doubled the recipe for 5 people, so used 2 lbs of meat, and there were no leftovers. The recipe says that it serves 6, with 1 lb of meat.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  I made this again for a dinner party on Monday, and it was just as good. I used meat from the proper butcher this time, and it was a lot more tender. I served pretty much the same menu, though we also had the Pham cucumber salad, as well as demitasse cups of the corn and shitake soup before sitting down. No photos, again. Next time I want to try the Nguyen one with the tomatoes.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I made this last night and we loved it too. I used beef shin (not sure what chuck roast is to be honest) which takes longer to cook, so there wasn't much liquid left after an hour and a half of stewing. I'd add more next time. I also overdid it a bit on the chillies - I've just got a box of CSI-stylee latex gloves for cutting chillies etc and got a bit carried away - so it was quite hot!

                                    I didn't bother pre-cooking the carrots - I just slung them in with the stew for the last 40 minutes or so of cooking time.

                              2. re: rabaja

                                Beef Stew with Star Anise and Basil (PotVT, pg 155)

                                I made this dish this evening, and it was a big hit with hubbie! I also really enjoyed it.

                                Like Rabaja, I'm not sure the annatto seed oil adds a lot other than colour, it was pretty subtle when I tasted it on its own. But the colour is very nice.

                                Hubbie is a bit of a chile wimp, so I used less bird's eye chiles, and replaced a few of them with milder red jalapenos. It was still tasty. I also used regular basil instead of Asian Basil, as I forgot to buy Asian basil. Whoops! Because Pham recommends using mint as a substitution because regular basil is too strongly flavoured, I used half mint, half regular basil. It still was delicious.

                                Re: saltiness of the sauce, I think the saltiness gets tempered by the addition of rice or noodles. The saltiness is intentional, as the assumption is that you will be having some kind of starch with this dish. So if you are avoiding carbs, you would need to cut down on some of the saltier elements like the fish sauce and the soy sauce. But it is terrific with rice!

                                I made the twice cooked eggplant dish as a vegetable side, not the best choice as both dishes are brown, and it makes the plate look a little monochrome. Oh well, still learning.

                                I really loved this dish. I have to say, for someone who was hoping to cut down her meat consumption, I am failing miserably. Pham's meat recipes are really great, it makes it hard to cut down.

                                1. re: moh

                                  My Vietnamese friend is a vegetarian, and she said that one of the things about this food is that any of the sauces can be used on any protein. I had raved so much about the ginger chicken that she made it for herself with tofu and liked it very much.

                                  Your stew has a gorgeous color!

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Thanks LulusMom! I bet this sauce would be great with tofu. It would certainly cut down on cooking time a lot, making it an even easier weekday meal.

                                    1. re: moh

                                      One of the amazing things I'm finding with these books is how great the food takes for so little time.

                              3. Grilled Garlicky Five-Spice Pork Steaks (ItTVK p.143)
                                I made this the other night using 2 pounds of pork chops instead of pork steaks. I used the marinade ingredients that were recommended. Grilled the pork chops on my Food Network indoor grill. While the pork shops were moist but I was hoping the marinade would carmelize a bit more than it did. I was tempted to add some of the caramel sauce that I made from her recipe but for this first go round, I wanted to follow the recipe as written so I would know what the end result would be. The flavor was good and I served the chops with rice. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to get that caramelized texture on the outside of the chops?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: dimsumgirl

                                  Grilled Garlicky Five-Spice Pork Steaks (ItTVK p.143)

                                  We made this last night and served it with Nguyen's roasted eggplant with scallion oil (page 81), and, Nguyen's simple dipping sauce (pg. 309). dimsumgirl, perhaps I am misunderstanding, but I wasn't really expecting this dish to caramelize, and it didn't. I think the marinade is just supposed to soak in and flavor the meat, as well as perhaps tenderize it a bit. I think what you're going for in this dish is char, not caramelization... Is that what you were thinking?

                                  Anyway, we did this recipe exactly as written, except that I substituted Splenda for the sugar and we did ours over a gas grill instead of over charcoal (which she says gives the best results.) Also, she says to marinate 1/2 hour to 8 hours and we marinaded overnight. We lost our nerve and didn't actually char the pork, but I think it would have definitely added something. Nevertheless, We thought this dish was fantastic and will definitely do this again.

                                  Also, the simple sauce was indeed simple and definitely added something to the pork, so, I do recommend that. You might as well chop the chilies for the simple sauce while you're chopping them for the marinade for the pork.

                                  Lonely looking photo attached. My husband had conservatively served himself 2 eggplants (he's not a fan of eggplant in general) and a piece of pork when I prevailed upon him to snap this photo. (He'll do anything to keep the meal moving along!)


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    TDQ: Your pork looks more browned than mine did but I only marinated for an hour before cooking on an indoor grill. Thanks for the encouragement. The dish was definitely tasty and next time I will turn up the heat on the grill to see if I can get more char. Great idea to pair it with eggplant!