Vietnamese food varies greatly between geographic regions, the north is simple and mild, the central provinces are vibrant and heavy on spice, whilst the south prefers sweet and spicy food. I have travelled from the north of the country to the furthest town south, eating my way around small street stalls, hawker style markets and fine dining establishments. The food in the south is hot and spicy, with more additions to what would have been a simple broth in the north. I first tried a version of this dish in Ninh Binh, a small rural town south of Hanoi. It was lightly spiced, a simple combination of beef, lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime. Once I reached the south, I stayed on Phu Quoc Island and tried a more exaggerated and spicy version of this dish using the local green peppercorns. The differences reflect the philosophies of the people, the north is more traditional, whilst the south has embraced change. I found that I really enjoyed the mixture of a protein, chilli, pepper and lemon-grass. A combination which can be used on chicken, fish, lamb or tofu, to represent the dominant flavours in Vietnamese cuisine. I have combined what I remember of the two dishes into one a fragrant braised beef stir-fry.
Serves 2 comfortably or three.
Vietnamese Jungle beef
Ingredients: 350g Yering rump or Sirloin beef 2 tbsp oyster sauce 3 sprigs asian green peppercorns 2tbsp dark soy sauce 1tbsp fish sauce 3 garlic cloves 5cm piece ginger, grated 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, finely chopped 3 spring onions, sliced finely on diagonal 4 kaffir lime leaves Bunch of coriander, roots and half of the leaves chopped finely Remaining coriander leaves to garnish Juice of 1 lime 2 birdseye chillies, halved, deseeded or 2 long red, halved-keep seeds 1 1/4 cup coconut juice 2tbsp peanut oil *2tbsp cornstarch if needed Basmati rice or sticky rice to serve.
- Slice beef on diagonal thinly, mix in a bowl with oyster sauce and peppercorn sprigs.
- Leave to marinate for 30-60mins.
- Heat peanut oil in wok, add garlic and ginger, coriander, chilli, lemon-grass and kaffir lime leaves.
- Stir-fry until golden and soft.
- Add spring onions and beef, stir-fry quickly till brown but keep a pink tinge in meat for extra flavour.
- Add soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and coconut juice.
- Heat until sauce is thickened and sticky. It is not supposed to be too saucy.
- If it does not thicken enough, add a mixture of 2tbsp cornstarch and 2tbsp cold water, mix through dish. Heat.
- Serve with rice and garnish with coriander leaves. Enjoy