The first time I cooked Vietnamese beef stew, I had to deconstruct it from a restaurant dish. I had to trust my taste buds to know what spices went in it and guess what the cooking procedure was.
This one, cooked by my daughter, Alex, is based on a recipe by Andrea Nguyen. As it turns out, my old deconstructed version of Vietnamese beef stew was almost authentic except for one ingredient — lemongrass.
Unlike Andrea Nguyen’s recipe however which uses beef chuck (more readily available in the States, according to her), our Vietnamese beef stew at home has short ribs. Another modification is the use of broth instead of water. Alex also added wedges of sweet potatoes.
Vietnamese Beef Stew
- 500 grams beef short ribs cut between the bones
For the marinade
- 1 stalk lemongrass (lower portion only), lightly smashed to bruise
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ¾ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 bay leaf
To cook the stew
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 shallots peeled and chopped
- ½ 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 star anise
- fish sauce to taste
To complete the dish
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into wedges
- Thai basil to garnish
- In a bowl, mix the beef with all the marinating ingredients. Cover and keep overnight in the fridge.
- Heat the cooking oil in a thick-bottomed pan.
- Scrape the beef (reserve the marinade) and brown in the hot oil in batches. Move to a plate as each batch browns.
- In the remaining oil (plus the rendered fat from the beef) over medium-low heat, saute the shallots until softened and lightly caramelized.
- Add the crushed tomatoes to the shallots and cook, stirring often, until pasty.
- Add the browned beef, the star anise and reserved marinade.
- Pour in enough bone broth to cover the meat.
- Simmer the beef for two hours (the actual cooking time depends on the quality of the meat) or until tender. Taste occasionally and add more fish sauce, if needed. If the stew dries out before the beef is done, add more broth, no more than a quarter cup each time to prevent the dish from turning soupy.
- Add the carrot and sweet potato wedges. Continue cooking until the vegetables are done.
- Serve the Vietnamese beef stew, garnished with Thai basil, over rice or noodles, or with crusty bread.