I made this recently as the main course at a dinner party, although I’m told that in Vietnam it is usually eaten as a breakfast dish. I’d happily eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s so good. As with most stews it improves overnight so it’s best to start it the day before for maximum flavour and tenderness.
- 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and bruised
- 1 red chilli
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 star anise
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp ground annatto seeds
- nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 5 ripe tomatoes
- 2 carrots
- 12 purple Asian shallots, peeled and separated
- 2 tsp Ca Ri Ni An Do (Vietnamese Indian Madras curry powder)
- 1.5 kg of stewing beef, including some bone (I used 2 fat osso buco pieces plus some chuck steak)
- beans sprouts and Vietnamese basil, to serve
2. Score the tomatoes and cover with boiling water. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut each tomato into four.
3. Peel the ginger and garlic and smash using a mortar and pestle.
4. Add the chilli, lemongrass and bay leaves and give them a bash too.
5. Combine the contents of the mortar with the meat and add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, curry powder, annatto powder and a splash of nuon mam. Leave to marinate for as long as you can.
6. When you’re ready to cook the stew, heat a little oil in a large, heavy based pot.
7. First, brown the bones, then add some of the meat. Depending on the size of your pan you will probably need to brown the meat in 2 or 3 batches – you want each batch to brown, and overcrowding the pan will prevent this.
8. When all the meat has been browned and set aside, add a little more oil and the shallots and cook until slightly softened and caramelised.
9. Deglaze the pan with a splash of fish sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits.
10. Add the meat, bones, all the spices from the marinade, tomatoes and beef stock.
11. When the meat is tender, add in the carrots and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or until carrots are soft.
12. Check for seasoning: you may need to add a touch of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t particularly sweet, or a dash of lemon juice to balance the flavours.
13. Serve topped with bean sprouts and Vietnamese basil, and accompanied by either steamed white rice or a crusty buttered baguette. Delish.
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