Vietnamese culture is about sharing. The idea of one big steak for one is foreign to the Vietnamese people. Therefore it is often cut up into bite size pieces to share amongst friends and family. Not sure when the dish was introduced to Vietnam but bo luc lac is definitely French inspired by the way it is eaten, prepared and served.
I don’t know when beef was actually introduced to Vietnam but I remember reading an article sometime ago regarding how Mongolians brought beef with them when they invaded Vietnam back in the tenth century but that was about it. However, before French colonization, Vietnamese people did not slaughter cows for food but rather used them more for manual labor. By the 1920s the Vietnamese had adapted beef into their diet through dishes such as pho and beef steak.
Bo luc lac literally translated is shaking beef due to the constant shaking motion of the pan or wok to toss the beef while cooking the meat. The reason being is you want the beef to be cooked evenly and since they are cubed it is easily burned or undercooked. This is a very popular dish amongst locals and as such it has many variations. It can be served as a salad, appetizer, with a drink or as a main dish with rice, nui (Vietnamese for macaroni) or fries.
To make the dish you will need to have a nice piece of beef tenderloin cut up in one inch cubes. Marinate the beef with soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and garlic. Refrigerate for about an hour or so in order for the flavour to soak evenly into the cubed beef.
While the beef is chilling in the fridge, whisk the rice wine vinegar together with salt and sugar until smooth for a nice vinaigrette. Add sliced onions and refrigerate for about 15 minutes or so to pickle the onions and the slightly chilled vinaigrette.
Next step is to heat the wok (best option in my opinion), pan or skillet and add oil. My variations call for chunks of bell peppers and onions to cook first and then toss in the beef. Constantly shake the wok to cook the beef evenly for about two to four minutes or until desired. Another variation is to add macaroni or tube pastas to the beef.
When done, serve the cubed beef over a bed of lettuce or watercress and tomato slices. Sprinkle the vinaigrette over the salad and beef. Top with cilantro and a side of lime wedges. Last but not least a side of lime juice with salt and pepper dipping sauce for the beef.
This is a very simple yet sexy dish to make at home or enjoy out for lunch with friends. Make sure to share and enjoy with a nice Californian Merlot, an Australian Shiraz or a SaiGon Special.
1. Quan Le Hong (Le Hong Beefsteak)
489/27/39 Huynh Van Banh Street (between Le Van Sy and Truong Sa)
Phu Nhuan District, HCMC
Not so close to the city centre of District 1 but worth the trip.
2. Quan Beefsteak Nam Son
157 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia
Ward 6, District 1.\, HCMC
Open since 1991 and is one of the first to introduce beefsteak as the main dish to the local HCMC community.