Vietnamese Beef Curry

Because my wife is vegetarian I very rarely eat red meat, I don’t miss it because the vegetarian meals that we eat are delicious, and so I will eat steak perhaps once a year, and if I don’t, well… I don’t. After discovering this recipe though, I may well eat it more often.

I came across this recipe in Bill Granger’s excellent ‘Easy’ and I was intrigued to learn how Vietnamese curries differ from the Indian and Thai curries that I am so familiar with. The ingredients are all familiar, just in unfamiliar combinations: Indian curry powder (home-made of course), fish sauce and coconut milk. Rather than being served alongside the more usual rice, this beef curry is served with crusty French bread, a culinary echo of the long French history in the region. The combinations work perfectly together: the creamy coconut milk tempers the chilli heat, the fish sauce together with the beef stock adds a deep umami flavour, and I could eat the gravy-soaked bread all day.

My apologies to all those who like to read the vegetarian and vegan recipes I post here, but this meat dish was just too good to leave out. Normal service will soon be resumed…

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RECIPE – Serves 4

1kg rump steak, cut into 4cm cubes

1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced

4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

a fat 3cm knob of ginger, finely chopped

2 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

500ml beef stock

3 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)

8 birds-eye chillies, left whole but slit down one side

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

400ml tin of coconut milk

1 long baguette


METHOD

Preheat the oven to 160C/ Fan 140C/ gas 3.

Toss the beef with the onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, turmeric and sugar, then season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Ensure the meat and onions are fully coated. Seasoning the meat while it is raw is important, as it can more easily take up the seasoning at this point.

Cover and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large shallow casserole dish over a high heat. Add the beef, in batches, and cook until it is browned on all surfaces. Remove and set aside once it has browned, while you cook the rest.

*Tip: Browning meat doesn’t seal it, as many think. Instead, searing over high heat caramelises the surface of the meat, which enhances the savoury flavour and fills the finished dish with complex layers of nutty caramel and coffee-like bitterness. This is called the Maillard Reaction and it is what makes meat quite delicious. Without searing, meat dishes can taste flat and boring.

Return all of the browned meat to the casserole, together with all the onions and spices, and add the stock, fish sauce, chillies, carrots and potatoes. Bring to the boil on the stovetop, then cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is meltingly tender. Add the coconut milk 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and a big smile. I’m going back for second helpings now…

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