Le Hong Beefsteak
What is it about a beefsteak that makes people travel a long way and gather in a huddle, like a circle around a bullseye? Beefsteak is basically a flat cut of beef perpendicular to the muscle fibers. Usually pan-fried, grilled, broiled or baked, the Vietnamese style is normally pan-fried and sliced very thin.
I, for one, am a fan of meat. As I’ve gotten older I tend to eat less of it, but that doesn’t mean I will turn down a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth steak when tempted. I think I cook enough in my own kitchen, so I tend to go out as much as possible with my family for a nice meal. It’s nice to have someone else create my dish.
So what do you get when you grill local beef in a metal skillet, combine it with French-style pâté and a baguette, US-influenced fried eggs and fries, Chinese siu mai and soy sauce, chili sauce, pickled cucumber and carrots? Vietnamese beefsteak. For this dish I’ll rephrase Anthony Bourdain’s infamous term ‘food porn’ as ‘Vietnamese food porn’.
Despite being a culture dominated by rice and noodles, Vietnamese love beefsteak, so it’s no surprise to find many beefsteak eateries in Saigon. However, finding the right one is not easy, so you have to rely on reputation or try one by one to find the best place.
Within the alley of an alley of another alley in Phu Nhuan District lies a bright, clean beefsteak restaurant called Le Hong. This is not an easy place to find but it is worth the trip. Early brunch or the afternoon are rather quiet and an ideal time to visit versus the evening when it is absolutely packed.
The wafer-thin beefsteak at Le Hong is quite tender and good. The side of pâté, siu mai, fried egg and a slap of butter makes the difference. A baguette, pickled cucumber, soy sauce and chili are added to complement the meal. Vietnamese-style beefsteak is always thin so don’t expect a thick steak, and most Vietnamese prefer their beef cooked well done so ask for medium rare and you might get medium well. They serve their beef in four different styles: bo ne (ducking beef), regular beefsteak, bo luc lac (shaken beef) and nui ne (ducking beef with noodles).
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.