A Plan-Ahead, Super-Fast Dinner.

It’s no secret amongst my friends that I’ve been embroiled in a torrid love affair with Vietnamese food.  Whenever I’m at a Vietnamese restaurant, a good portion of my time there is spent deliberating over what it is I’m going to eat.  I mean, I haven’t met a bánh mì I haven’t wanted seconds on, there isn’t a phở I haven’t found unslurpworthy, I want to lick the bottom of each clay pot that has ever held a serving of ca kho to.

Vietnamese-Style Sautéed Beef (Bo Luc Lac)One of my favorite things to order is bò lúc lắc, a marinated beef dish that’s served with a tangy lime dipping sauce.  It’s immensely flavorful and often served with bitter watercress and steamed rice — I prefer the nuttiness of brown, but any long-grained rice will do.

What’s so nice about this recipe is that it barely takes any time at all, just a bit of forethought; for the best results, the meat should soak in an oil-and-sugar solution for about eight hours.  After that, the key to a perfect plate is in the simple cooking technique: sautéing the beef in batches for even browning.  The batches scarcely add additional time to the whole process; you’ll be sitting down before your rice is even ready.

Vietnamese-Style Sautéed Beef (Bò Lúc Lắc), from Saveur
Makes four portions

1 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed  and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tablespoon canola oil
7 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoon freshly ground black
Kosher salt, to taste
1 bunch watercress, for garnish
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Juice of 2 limes
3 scallions, cut to 1-inch lengths
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  1. Toss the beef with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a large bowl and season with salt. Cover bowl and set aside to let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Dress a platter with watercress and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sugar, and fish sauce to make a vinaigrette; set aside. In a small bowl, make a dipping sauce by whisking together the remaining sugar and pepper with the lime juice; season dipping sauce with salt and set aside.
  3. Drain beef, pat dry with paper towels, and discard marinade. Working in batches, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. When oil begins to smoke, add half of the beef. Cook, flipping once, until well browned and medium rare, 3–4 minutes. Add half of the scallions, garlic, and red onions and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, 30 seconds. Add half of the vinaigrette and butter; toss to combine. Spoon beef and vegetables over platter of watercress. Serve with lime dipping sauce.

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