Beef is one of the primary meats in Vietnam, and it is found in everything from salads to Pho to grills to slow-cooked dishes like this one. The slow cooking process tenderizes the meat and the fats dissolve and make the sauce rich. I have substituted the beef for mutton shanks, you can also use bone-in mutton pieces, but I like the visual effect of the shanks when I serve the dish.
This is a classic Vietnamese dish that uses a French style of slow braising. The flavours are Vietnamese, lemongrass, chillies, star anise and fish sauce and the slow braise allows the flavours to come together beautifully. The trick is to get the meat to be very tender, fall off-the-bone tender, and the sauce penetrates the meat and keeps it moist. If the sauce is too thin, you can remove the meat gently and thicken the sauce to a consistency of your choice.
This is a fabulous cookbook on Vietnamese cuisine from the chef and owner of the famed Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco. The recipes are very authentic and every recipe I have cooked from it turned out amazing. I highly recommend this cookbook to those who want to try and master Vietnamese cooking.
For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.
2 lb mutton shanks or mutton rib chops
1 + 3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 onions, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons lemongrass, finely minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 pod star anise
2-3 Thai chillies, + for garnish
5 cups water or mutton stock
Salt, to taste
3 carrots, chunked
1 small daikon radish, peeled and chunked
A generous drizzle of fish sauce
Thai basil, for garnish
Rub the meat with 1 tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper. Add to a wide frying pan and fry in batches till all the sides are browned. Work in batches of 2-3 or the meat will crowd the pan and stew rather than fry. Set aside.
Add the remaining oil to a deep pot and fry the onions till they have a deep brown colour. Add the garlic and fry for an additional 30 seconds till the garlic no longer smells raw.
Add the lemongrass, tomato paste, ginger, star anise, chillies, and salt and stir well to combine.
Add the meat and any accumulated liquids. Add the stock/water and bring it to a boil. Simmer gently closed for 90 minutes till the meat is quite tender.
Add the carrots, radish and simmer for an additional 30 minutes till the vegetables are tender. The meat should be falling off the bone at this stage.
Take off the heat and add the fish sauce and mix in well. taste and adjust seasonings and salt.
Serve hot with jasmine rice.