The first time I had Vietnamese Shaking Beef or Bo Luc Lac was in Mui Ne, Vietnam, a beach resort town outside of Saigon. It was one of my earlier trips back to Vietnam with my then fiance. We were close to our resort when we pulled over to a random beach-front restaurant to freshen up and fill our bellies. In the beautiful country of Vietnam and in the town of seafood galore, I ordered a hamburger. You live and learn.
Luckily, someone in my party ordered Shaking Beef. I tossed my hamburger to the side, and had a bite of this simply prepared yet flavorful Vietnamese dish of seared cubes of beef. I don't remember who ordered it. I don't remember what happened to the hamburger. I just remembered I polished off that plate.
Vietnamese Shaking Beef is a dish of steak cut into cubes and "shaken" in a hot skillet to get an nice even sear on all sides. It's then quickly sauteed with garlic, onion, butter, and a soy-sauce-based marinade. The beef goes onto a bed of lettuce, watercress and tomato wedges. The meat sauce drips down into the salad, giving it little need for any other dressing. A dipping sauce of lime juice, salt and pepper is usually served on the side.
This is not a common home-cooked dish. It's more of a celebratory dish that is eaten as an appetizer while drinking beer, which explains why I rarely ate it growing up. However, this doesn't prevent me from pairing it with steamed white rice for a complete meal.
When making this dish, use a good quality steak. High-end restaurants opt for the fancy cuts such as filet mignon for a tender and juicy steak. I make mine with cheaper cuts such as a sirloin or tri tip. You may have to chew just a tad bit more, but the flavor is all the same.
- 2 lbs sirloin (trim off excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus 1/3 cup for frying
Soy Sauce Mixture
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 small red, white or yellow onion (slice into thin wedges)
- 1 bunch watercress or lettuce
- 2 large tomatoes (cut into wedges)
Lime Dipping Sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- To marinate the beef, add the beef, sugar, salt, black pepper and vegetable oil (1 tablespoon) in a bowl and mix well. Marinate for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in fridge for best results.
- To make the soy sauce mixture, mix together the sugar, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce and fish sauce in a bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare a bed of lettuce/watercress and tomatoes.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the vegetable oil (1/3 cup) on very high heat.
- Add the beef in a single layer and sear on all sides. Prevent overcooking as it will toughen up the meat.
- Add the onions, garlic, butter, and soy sauce marinade. Saute until onions are limp (about one minute)
- Transfer the beef onto the bed of lettuce, watercress and tomatoes.
- Prepare the lime dipping sauce. Mix together the lime juice, salt and pepper.
- Serve the Shaking Beef with a side of the lime dipping sauce.