In the spirit of cold weather and nice hot stew, this is a recipe I posted on the "other" site - very simple and very good. Different than anything you have ever had unless you have lived in Vietnam.
Well, as many of you know by now, Hue is a traditional Vietnamese woman. Spending 4 – 6 hours in the kitchen to boil an egg is normal for her. Me? I really love to cook, but it's the idea of learning and trying something new rather than a poop-load of work, that really gets my motor running. Hue can shake her head and call me “stupid white boy” 'till hell freezes over, but I'm still gonna use good 'ol American technology to make life easier. Guess I'm just, well, kind of American, that way.
So, what we have today is Vietnamese beef stew. In some ways it's not all that different from its American counterpart, in other ways, it's not even in the same ballpark. It is different (and really very good) because of the spices used. I admit to having modified the recipe slightly. Instead of a 50/50 combination of stew meat and ox-tails/short ribs, I just use stew meat. Sorry, I'm just not that crazy about bone-fragments in my food. Dinner should **not** be booby-trapped! I also use a little more flour than the “real deal” as the Vietnamese style gravy is a little bit too “watery” for my liking (I use 1 cup of flour instead of ½ cup for those who really want to be authentic). Oh, and yeah, there ain't no way I'm standing over a freaking wok for 6 hours – just not gonna happen! I'm thinking a crock-pot for the win! On the ingredients – if you don't recognize it, go to Lee Lee market!
2 lb beef stew meat (1 lb stew meat + 1 lb oxtails if you want the real deal)
2 tblsp annatto seeds (Lee Lee)
1 cup flour (or ½ cup if you want the real deal)
2 stalks lemongrass (bruised = beat the crap outta them, but don't break 'em). (Lee Lee)
2-inch chunk of ginger cut into ¼” slices (Lee Lee)
1 stick of cinnamon
5 stars (anise) (Lee Lee)
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 tsp Madras curry powder (Lee Lee)
2 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Yep, you gotta have that fish sauce) (Lee Lee)
6-oz can tomato paste
2 or 3 big grungy carrots cut into 2” chunks
5 large “new” potatoes cut into 2” chunks
1 large red onion cut into 2” chunks
Wash and prep (cut) all your veggies.
Put the annatto seeds in a cup with a some water and nuke 'em (gently). Stir. Repeat until the water is blood-red. Save the juice and toss the seeds. Now that all of the “hard” work is done -
Wash your meat (do not pat dry) and toss it into the crock-pot with the flour. Stir well (yeah I'm not big on doing dishes either – why use a mixing bowl when you have a crock-pot that looks suspiciously like a mixing bowl sitting there right in front of you?).
Add all of the other stuff **except** the veggies and stir well again.
Add your veggies and fill crock-pot with water.
Turn the crock-pot on low and go to work (or whatever it is you do during the day).
After about 6 – 8 hours you may proudly proclaim “Ta Da!” and enjoy some traditional Vietnamese beef stew. This ain't restaurant garbage that has been modified for the American palate and passed off as the real McCoy. This is honest down-home cooking from Saigon (well, 'cept for the crock-pot angle that makes Hue cringe). I highly recommend a baguette or two (or some good french bread) for sopping up the gravy. Enjoy!