d o c t o r a n d m a m a

Linda Shiue

Linda Shiue
San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
December 31
I am a physician and spend my free time with my husband and kids, reading everything in sight, eating, traveling, and cooking meals inspired by my travels. These days I'm spending more time at my food blog, spiceboxtravels.com. Please visit me there and follow me on Twitter @spiceboxtravels. Disclaimer: Health information presented here is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. © 2010-12 Linda Shiue. All Rights Reserved.

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FEBRUARY 13, 2011 10:07AM

Shaking Beef

Rate: 17 Flag

 limes by Linda Shiue 
Houston, Texas's most populated city, also has the third largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the country, numbering 64,000 in the most recent Census.  My friend Truong tells me that of those 64,000, 80 are in his immediate family.

Like many Vietnamese, Truong and his family escaped Vietnam after 1975 and came to this country as refugees.  Once settling in the Houston area, Truong's family flourished (as I said, now numbering in the 80s).  They adapted quickly to the local culture, embracing the best of their new home, including crawfish, Texas barbecue, and Truong's latest favorite, a Snuggie in which to watch reality shows on his humongous plasma TV.  After they moved to Houston, Truong's family opened a successful Vietnamese restaurant.  Truong grew up in that professional kitchen, and it shows.  The Vietnamese food he has cooked for me is, hands down, the best I have had anywhere.  He knows how to select the best fresh produce, meat and seafood, which he expertly combines in the complex symphony of flavors that make up Vietnamese cuisine.  

Truong's palate may have been honed by coming from a family of restauranteurs, but his technical skills come from his professional training as a surgeon.  He has special knives which he sharpens himself, and which only he is allowed to touch.  He slices with what can only be described as surgical precision.  When I watched him cook one memorable meal, he arrayed his knives carefully on the cornflower blue kitchen towels he had stacks of in the kitchen.  They looked familiar.  I thought to myself, they couldn't be, and commented, "You know it's funny, Truong, but those look just like surgical towels in the OR."

He barely looked up from his prep.  "They are.  But they haven't been used."  

With his thankfully sterile surgical towels at the ready, Truong whipped up pork and shrimp dishes typical of the Vietnamese kitchen.  With them, he served his homemade jar of nuoc cham, the ubiquitous Vietnamese dipping sauce made of lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, sugar and chillies.  Nuoc cham is the salt, the ketchup, the soy sauce, whatever all-purpose condiment you can name, of the Vietnamese table, and by far the tastiest of these.  

One Vietnamese dish which doesn't need nuoc cham is Bo Loc Lac, Vietnamese "Shaking Beef."  That's because this dish is dressed with a similar sauce of zesty lime juice, this one enhanced with loads of garlic and an unexpected amount of ground black pepper.  
by Linda Shiue 
Bo Loc Lac combines succulent morsels of beef dressed with this lime sauce along with lettuce leaves, sliced tomato, and jasmine rice.  This is a zesty, deeply seasoned dish.  When you taste it, you may understand Anthony Bourdain's love affair with the country and its cuisine:
“I think I've gone bamboo...I've gone goofy on Vietnam, fallen hopelessly, hopelessly in love with the place.”  
-Anthony Bourdain, A Cooks' Tour

*     *     *
Vietnamese Shaking Beef (Bo Loc Lac)
beef loc lac by Linda Shiue 
To answer the question that might come to mind, this is called "shaking beef" to describe the action of jiggling a wok to saute the beef.  The lime-pepper-garlic dipping sauce is typically associated with this dish, but for non-beef eaters, it also makes an intensely flavorful dressing for salads, fish, shrimp, and deep-fried tofu cubes.  

Serves 6.


2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

1 tsp nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil

Lime-Pepper-Garlic Dipping Sauce:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup soy sauce

15 green or red leaf lettuce leaves
1 sliced tomato

Steamed Jasmine rice, for serving


1.  Combine all ingredients for marinade and add cubed beef.  Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, then pour off marinade.
2.  Combine all ingredients for lime-pepper-garlic dipping sauce and let stand at room temperature.
3.  Heat oil in a large saute pan or wok at high heat.  Add garlic, sugar and black pepper and allow to caramelize for a minute.
4.  Add drained, marinated beef to the pan and stir fry for 2 minutes.  
5.  Add soy sauce and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Beef should be seared on the outside and medium-rare to medium on the inside.
6.  Garnish a platter with the lettuce leaves.  Mound the cooked beef on top.  Garnish with tomato slices.
6.  Serve lime-pepper-garlic dipping sauce on the side, or pour over the cooked beef just before eating.  Enjoy with steamed jasmine rice.
7.  Lettuce leaves can be used as wrappers for the beef.

Recipe adapted from Boston's Elephant Walk restaurant.

© 2011 Linda Shiue

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This has me lamenting the fact that good Vietnamese food is hard to come by in Paris. Hopefully your tangy dish will fill the void. It just so hapens I have some limes and a nice bit of bourguignon beef waiting in the fridge. Thanks for tonight's dinner idea!
This looks delicious! I love Vietnamese food - we have a number of good places here in the Twin Cities. But I've never tried to make it at home. Since none of our local restaurants make Shaking Beef, I might just try this.
i am gonna try that dipping sauce, no question about it. but i think i will try the tofu version. i wonder if it would be good with fish?
What a treat to be a guest at Truong's dinner parties! Shaking beef was one of the first Vietnamese dishes I tried years ago, and I remember my brother liking this as a child. Your recipe de-mystifies this lovely dish, I think I'll try this on my kids soon.
This sounds very good, Linda. I like the idea of using the dipping sauce on other possibilities.
That dipping sauce looks scrumptious! (not that's there's anything wrong with beef). With limes selling at a dime apiece here, and lemons as high as a dollar (not Meyer, just ordinary lemons!), they have become my citrus of choice.
ah, I actually know the Elephant Walk restaurant in Boston.
Another heart-healthy recipe on your part... beautifully presented.
Here's to you, your friend Truong and Anthony Bourdain. :) Rated
Vietnamese Cuisine abounds in Wheaton, DuPage County, famous Pho Bowls, and in the Little Chinatown community promoted by Vietnamese-Americans in Chicago, Illinois.
Another excellent post. Your friend sounds like a wonderful cook - where can I get surgical towels? Bonne chance!
The sauce sounds dreamy.
Linda, I can't wait to share this with my Vietnamese "son", Dat. His family hosted my son in Hue City and now he has been putting himself through college in the US by catering Vietnamese meals. That's a lot of spring rolls! I'll let you know how the Shaking Beef goes over when we make it.
This post is making me hungry! I used to live near southern California's Little Saigon (Westminster, in Orange County), and I dearly miss all the great restaurants and food shops there. Your description of your friend and the surgical precision of his cooking techniques was a pleasure, too!
Incredible. Always incredible. I so want your book.
I eat very little beef now, so I'm picky about what I choose. Thanks for the recipe. Think I'll use Worchestshire instead of soy though. Damn my Western taste-buds. :)
Oh my what a nıce pıece of news. I hope I go to Houston one day and sample that food there. I lıke Vıetnamease food a lot .It seems lıke sprıngtıme when I eat Pho or Chaı geau. Theır meat preparatıons are second to none and the sprıng rolls both frıed and transparent are always a thrıll. I would try to make thıs ıf I had the ıngredıents but thıs post has my mouth waterıng for some of that fıne Vıenamease food back In Montreal. Thanks for sharıng these ..