12.06.2014

Shake it!


Centuries ago, when I was in my early 20s, I often went to Tanglewood - an incredible classical music festival in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts - with my friends Bill and Alan.

One evening - I wonder if they remember this - we stopped for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in West Stockbridge prior to the concert. The restaurant was the Orient Express, and it is still there.

As an orchestral musician, I should remember the concert that evening. I don't.

What I do remember was the meal. Shaking Beef or Bo Luc Lac. It is a delicious sauté of beef - beautifully flavored - served over a bed of watercress.

Shaking beef gets its name from the very quick sauté the beef gets while the cook shakes the skillet.

I haven't had it since then, because it was soon thereafter that my garlic allergy developed. And, as you may know, garlic figures prominently in Vietnamese cuisine, so much of that wonderful culinary tradition has been off limits to me.

I don't know what possessed me to think of this dish a couple of weeks ago, but think of it I did. I kind of obsessed about it and told Mark that I wanted to make it. I started googling recipes and, like many dishes in many countries, there is a large variety of authentic versions.

Using these as a guide, I created my own authentic (but non-toxic) version. Most of the ingredients were in my cupboard - all, in fact, except the sweet soy sauce. I had come across this problem once before and solved it by mixing some honey with regular soy sauce.

My Bo Luc Lac was fantastic. I can't say whether it actually tastes like the dish I had in the 80s, because that was a long time ago. But does that really matter if it tastes good? I have made it at least half a dozen times since putting together the recipe and have had no complaints from those who have tasted it.

It is amazing how important the bed of watercress is to the recipe and flavor combination. Once, when I couldn't find watercress (I do live in the desert, after all...), I substituted arugula and have to say that it was a great choice.

Aside from the use of shallots instead of garlic, and the honey-soy combination, the only other change I have made is using beef tenderloin rather than the more commonly recommended cuts. I really like the way tenderloin absorbs the marinade flavors, and it is so ... well ... tender.

Here is my authentic, non-authentic version of Bo Luc Lac.

- David

Bo Luc Lac ~ Shaking Beef

1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra
3 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 shallot, finely minced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 or 2 pinches salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
6 cups watercress or arugula, washed
2 tablespoon canola oil
rice, for serving

Trim any fat from the steaks and then cut each into 1/4-inch by 1-inch by 2-inch slices. In a bowl, whisk together the 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, shallot, oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce and honey. Add the beef and toss well to coat. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

In a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate the greens, combine the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, salt, several grinds of black pepper, rice vinegar and water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Put the watercress or arugula on top but do not toss.

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the beef and spread it out in one layer. Let the beef sear for about 1 minute, then shake the wok or skillet to sear the other side. Cook for another minute or so and shake, until beef is nicely browned and medium rare.

In between shakes, toss the watercress or arugula and divide among 4 plates. When the beef is done, divide the beef and place on top of the greens and serve immediately with lots of rice on the side.

Serves 4


32 comments:

  1. Of all the times I've eaten bo luc lac I've never had it with watercress. It's regular shredded iceberg lettuce at restaurants here. Something tells me I'd prefer it with watercress as it would go well with the black pepper.

    I've made this at home a few times and love it every time. Now I'm craving it!

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    1. Oh, John - you definitely need to try this with the watercress, or arugula at the very least. You will be amazed at the difference!

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  2. This looks very tasty! I had no idea you were allergic to garlic and love that you,worked around it. I am going to try to make this as long as I can make it wheat-free!

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    1. As you know from having to cook wheat-free, there are many ways around things! I thought I would miss garlic terribly when I found out, but really it has made me taste food so differently. Because garlic is so over-used in the U.S., we have forgotten so many subtle tastes. I hope o can fine GF oyster sauce! I know it is easy to substitute tamari for the soy, but I have no idea about the oyster sauce. Good luck - keep me posted, Nicole!

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  3. This looks and sounds wonderful! Sorry about the garlic allergy. That's so sad.

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    1. Don't be sorry about the garlic allergy, Mimi! I have more than 120 herbs and spices to keep me happy! Some of them even taste like garlic!

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  4. OK...I'm sitting in the car, heading home from Florida, and my mouth is watering! This looks wonderfully delicious...and I'm hungry! Time for a lunch break!
    Having grown up on Lebanese Cuisine, (we put garlic in almost everything) that would be a hard allergy to deal with, but then there are always alternatives!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! I hope you can find a Vietnamese restaurant on I-95! Sounds like you had a great time in Florida - wonderful family photos!

      I can imagine coming from a Lebanese background that no garlic would sound hard to pull off. But it really isn't! One of my exes was Lebanese and his family was mortified at first, but then they used shallots and all was mended!

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  5. So funny you remembered the food, but not the music. Sometimes I can't remember an acquaintance's name, but can conjure up the name of a gardening figure in the south of France. I guess it's all about focus! Looks yummy, David, and will give it a try...

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    1. Great point about focus, Kirsten! I have been told several times that I have what I call FADD - Food Attention Deficit Disorder... In other words, when there is food around, I can't think of anything else!

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  6. I totally understand that you'd remember the food and not the music! There have been many occasions where I have remembered the food, good or bad, and forgotten the people who were there! True foodies I think :) Like you I love Vietnamese food, but we also have a hard time because of the pork use and not being able to understand the language. Also, it's so hard to find Asian ingredients that aren't loaded with preservatives. We have two wonderfully huge Asian markets close to me but I can never really buy anything.
    These beef looks pretty amazing! I love those flavours. So, out of curiosity, what cuts of meat are traditionally used? I'm just thinking budget wise for my very carnivorous family...I might break the bank with tenderloin!

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    1. Nazneen - see my comment above about having FADD! I think you might be afflicted, too!

      I hear you about Asian ingredients with lots of preservatives and chemicals. Even our best places don't carry anything that pure. Sigh...

      As for the cuts of meat, I saw flank steak, sirloin ,and bottom round (I think - bottom round might not have appeared...). Give it a try with something flavorful and not too inexpensive. Smaller pieces might make it easier!

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  7. As a creature from the same pre-historic era as you, I think I can safely say, this dish is certainly beautiful. GREG

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    1. Ah, to be as young as you, Greg! And to have a full head of hair... Yu live the good life!

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  8. One of absolute favourites, as you know... sad that you have a garlic allergy, but I think your version of bo luc lac is outstanding, David.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I know you love it, too - and for good reason! No need to be sad about the garlic allergy - it has really taught me to cook using my brain and about 120 other flavors! In the greater scheme of things, I am not allergic to wheat/gluten, sugar, chocolate, dairy, alcohol (shudder), or nuts. In the end, garlic is an easy one to delete from the diet!

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  9. Hi David, this is one of my favorite types of meals, I happen to have all the ingredients except the tenderloin and the arugula, will prepare this next Saturday night for guest. Thanks! Happy Holidays to you and Mark!

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    1. Thanks, Cheri! I hope you like it as much as we do! It has become almost a weekly meal for us! Happy Holidays to you, too! Any big plans?

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  10. Wow, does this look and sound delish! I never can seem to find watercress when a recipe calls for it - and I do love arugula. Bookmarking this one!

    P.S: Regarding the tomato beef stir-fry - you are in luck - the recipe can be found online. I included the link at the bottom of my post. But you certainly would not regret buying the book - it's fabulous! Have a wonderful week!

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    1. Cathleen - I thought I looked for a link but, obviously, I missed it!

      I know you love Asian cuisine, so I really think you will love this Bo Luc Lac!

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  11. I always remember the food and maybe who I've eaten it with. That's it. This looks divine!!

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    1. Yes, Valentine, the food and people are the key things to remember!

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  12. I've GOT to make this! it looks like a great quick meal! I've put fish sauce on my list! And, as usual, I loved the photos.

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    1. Susan - you and Towny will love this dish - it is even perfect for a chilly winter evening!

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  13. Looks so delicious, D.
    I will have to make this tonight for dinner. I'm sure it'll be a hit!
    xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Colette - let me know what you think! xo

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  14. After reading this post yesterday, I couldn't get the meal out of my mind, so...I made it tonight and it was FANTASTIC! David, you wrote that it served four, but I could have eaten half of it ( I am embarrassed to confess!).

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    1. Susan - I think Mark and I ate the entire recipe by ourselves, too. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  15. Damn delicious!!!
    the term shake beef sounds cute and fancy too....

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    1. Thanks, Dedy! Yes, it is a pretty cute name for a beef dish!

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  16. Hahaha, I always remember most of my holidays or occasions by what I ate at the time. It's both a blessing and a curse I think! I've never heard of this particular dish but it looks beautiful. Love the combination of sauces and the freshness that comes from the peppery leaves. I can't wait to try it (being Summer, I am loving dishes like this at the moment!). The shake method of cooking sounds fun, too!

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    1. Considering your heat there, Laura (much like ours in the summer here), this is the perfect dish - cooks in just minutes. Let me know what you and Aaron think if you make it!

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