I must warn you that this is a deconstructed Vietnamese beef stew recipe. I did find a recipe for beef stew in one of the three Vietnamese cookbooks that I have but I felt that the list of spices was kind of “blonde.” It happens when you have Westerners cooking their version of Asian dishes and they are not that familiar with indigenous spices. So, what I did was to add more spices according to how my taste buds interpreted the ingredients in Pho Hoa’s beef stew.
Pho Hoa? Yes, the Vietnamese restaurant. Five out of the ten times we ate there, my husband ordered the beef stew served with buttered French bread. I’ve tasted it, liked it, and promised him that, someday, I’d cook Vietnamese beef stew at home. My husband, Speedy, was away for three days on a planning workshop and he’s coming back tonight. I thought that Vietnamese beef stew for dinner would make for a nice homecoming especially since the food at the hotel where they stayed was what he described as “lackadaisical.”
It’s a pretty simple Vietnamese beef stew recipe, really, and it’s the combination of spices that can be quite intimidating rather than the cooking procedure itself. But if you can get over the prejudice against what Westerners call “pungent” (or “funky”) spices, the cooked dish is just wonderful.
Vietnamese beef stew
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms stewing beef short ribs, crest, brisket or shank
- 3 green finger chilis
- 3 stalks lemongrass lower parts of stalks only
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- patis fish sauce
- 4 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil more if you’re not using a non-stick pan
- 1 cup meat pork, beef broth
- 500 grams very ripe fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
- 2 onions finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large carrot about 300 grams, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
- Cut the beef into two-inch cubes. Place in a bowl.
- Grind together the finger chilies and lemongrass until it forms a paste. Add to the beef in the bowl. Throw in the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, cloves and chili powder. Drizzle in about four tablespoonfuls of fish sauce. Mix well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Spread the marinated beef cubes in a single layer. Cook over high heat, turning them at intervals, until all sides are lightly browned.
- Transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Add the broth, tomatoes, onions, garlic, star anise and bay leaves. Cook on HIGH for two hours. Continue cooking on LOW for six to eight hours or until the beef is tender. Add the carrot pieces during the last hour of cooking.
- Serve the Vietnamese beef stew with crusty bread, rice or noodles.
A slow cooker is only for convenience and is no way a requirement for making Vietnamese beef stew.
You can cook this dish on the stovetop in any thick-bottomed pan.
If cooking on the stovetop, remember to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally. Check the liquid too once in a while. If, at any point, there appears to be too little liquid before the beef is done, pour in more broth and adjust the seasonings.
Depending on the quality of the beef, making Vietnamese beef stew on the stovetop can take anywhere from two to three hours.