Ever since moving to California, we’ve staked out a couple of extraordinary places that we come back to (mostly to take our friends) even though there is so much more out there to try. One of these places is The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Of course, being in SF, your restaurant is likely not successful unless you use organic produce and ecologically sustainable meat products, and keep it fresh and locally sourced. Especially if you live at the Ferry Building.
Charles Phan created an epic establishment with national acclaim, and introduced me to combinations of flavors that I’ve never imagined possible. This man is my hero. Now, I won’t claim that I know a lick about Vietnamese cuisine, and Slanted Door is very distinctively American (California) with a blend of half the world’s countries (isn’t that what America is all about?), but I will say that if the menu reflects elements of what Vietnamese food is, I should really get more involved. A gateway to a world of discovery.
So, if you will kindly forgive me for my lack of knowledge about Vietnamese cuisine (and if you’re itching to know more, I implore you to consult your local internet), I am very excited to promote this most monumental of incredible dishes (and a signature dish at Slanted Door), Shaking Beef. This is actually a very popular dish, but the version I had at Slanted Door is one to be remembered. I have to thank Food and Wine magazine for publishing a recipe from CP himself, so that I might have the honor and the privilege to eat this dish, in my house no-less. I’m not worthy!
Shaking Beef, or Bò Lúc Lắc, is simply a dish of beef cut into cubes and marinated, and served with greens and onions (sometimes tomatoes). Why is it shaking? Because of the motion you use when stir-frying. But it’s more than beef stir fry, folks. Don’t believe me? Read the recipe ingredients I’ve posted from a very adapted (but in-the-same-spirit) version based on the Food and Wine recipe. And then get cooking.
Oh, one more thing – DO NOT cheap out on the meat. Pull out the paycheck and buy beef tenderloin (filet mignon) – and to be a true California hipster, make sure it’s organic, grass fed, locally sourced, and the like (a nod to how Charles Phan would want you to eat it. All hail Charles Phan). I also suggest making this slightly on the raw side (don’t overcook). You’ll thank me later.
Serves 2 – 3
Ingredients for stir-fry
1 lb filet mignon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp sherry or rice wine
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional) – or, add more soy sauce, sherry, or rice wine
1 tsp rice wine
¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional, if you like things on the sweet side)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Ingredients for vinaigrette
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp ginger, minced
1 lemongrass stalk, lower third of the tender inner bulb only, minced (or, if you’re intimidated, use dried lemongrass) Here is a helpful video on how to cut lemongrass
2 tbsp sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, minced
¼ red onion, sliced into half-moons
6 ounces watercress or flavorful green (I actually prefer arugula or spring mix, as shown)
In a bowl, toss meat with the marinade (everything but the scallions, red onion, half of the garlic, and 1 tbsp canola oil), and salt and pepper. Either let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, or if you’re feeling nervous, refrigerate for up to 5 hours.
A half hour before serving, combine all of the ingredients for vinaigrette (except for the lettuce and 3 cloves of garlic). Let stand and stir occasionally.
Add 1 tbsp canola oil to a pan or cast-iron skillet. When shimmering, add marinated meat and some of the marinade. Let cook undisturbed for 1 ½ minutes until browned on the bottom. Shake the skillet to release the meat and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Check one piece to make sure you are OK with the rarity. If shaking doesn’t work, there is no shame in using a spoon to toss the beef, I won’t tell anyone.
Use the remaining beef juices to cook the remaining scallions, red onion, and garlic, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Toss lettuce with half of the vinaigrette, add the beef, and then toss with the remaining vinaigrette and stir-fried onions and garlic.
Charles Phan photo courtesy of the Charles Phan Phan Page (ha!). Wayne's World photo courtesy of google image search, since it's reposted everywhere. And if you even get the reference, you're as old as I am, congratulations. Oh, and the shaking beef photos? Courtesy of moi!