Vietnamese cooking draws from a number of cultures including French. Vietnamese food in the north of this long, skinny country is heavily influenced by Chinese cooking and often features stir-fries and noodle-based soups. The south is tropical and has many rice paddies and coconut groves. The food here tends to be spicier. And all that coastline means fish and seafood are prominently featured at the Vietnamese table. The predominant flavors are mint, coriander, lemongrass, shrimp, nuoc nam and nuoc cham fish sauces, star anise, ginger, black pepper, garlic, basic and rice wine. Popular Vietnamese dishes include Pho, a beef noodle soup, sticky rice and a spring roll called nem ran.
Lemon Pepper Beef
This classic Vietnamese entrée features just a few basic ingredients including the essential fish sauce, which blends into the background to add a distinctively non-fishy Vietnamese flavor.
Makes 3 servings
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons fish sauce
3/4 pound beef tri-tip, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom 4-inches minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 walnut-sized shallots, thinly sliced
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add beef and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; stir until sugar is dissolved.
Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and butter; stir until butter melts. Add garlic, lemongrass, shallots and cook; stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and stir-fry, until it is seared on the outside and slightly pink in center, about 4 minutes.
Add sauce and toss to evenly coat meat. Serve.