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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef)

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 1

Does it look yummy? Would you like a closer look?

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 2
Bo luc lac literally translated is beef shaking. The luc lac refers to the "shaking" that occurs when the beef gets tossed in the wok. While most Americans would eat beef in the form of a big steak, most Asians use meat to flavor vegetables and eat it with rice. So take that big steak, dice it, and you'll get this plate of bo luc lac.

Add some Tom Kha Gai (Thai Galangal and Chicken Soup) and you'll easily feed six people. This is how dinner sometimes goes in my house, or rather how it went down on this particular evening. I went down to my second-youngest uncle's to grab some rau dang (Exact translation is bitter herb. Glinus oppositifolius. There's no common English name for this.) It's in the same family as watercress and I didn't have any on hand so I figured rau dang was an acceptable substitute. I also grabbed a few tomatoes, and when the oldest '87 asked me what I was making for dinner, I told her to come down in an hour if she wanted some. Then cousin Q came over to return my DVD and I invited him to dinner too.

The funny thing is, though my two youngest uncles regularly cook in their households, neither of them evidently make bo luc lac. And then later when lil' sis was ready to come home for dinner, she asked if there was enough for her best friend as well, and that's how I ended up feeding six people. And because everyone apparently enjoyed dinner so much, they all returned the next day when I made Cuban Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken. The directions are written in the order I would do each step so that it allows enough time for the beef to marinate, or for the onions to soften. Everything should come together fairly quickly.

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 3
Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 

You'll need:
1 lb beef, you can go fancy with filet mignon or any cheap cut, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 or 2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch watercress, or mixed field greens, or lettuce, or whatever type of greens you wish
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce) or soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar Hanh Dam (Vietnamese Vinegared Onions)

Optional: Add 1 or 2 minced chilies into the marinade.

Dice the beef into 1-inch cubes. Add 2 tsp fish sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp sugar to marinade. Set aside and let it marinate at room temperature.

Wash greens. Slice tomatoes. Top with vinegared onions (just the onions, you don't want the vinegar juices). Arrange your plate just so. Mince garlic. Now you're ready to cook! In a wok on high heat, drizzle a bit of oil. Add minced garlic. Add in the beef, minus the marinade, and "shake" it until edges are charred and the beef is cooked to your liking. Notice the reserved marinade on the side? You don't want to add it right now or the beef will get soggy and won't char.

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 4

Don't stir-fry the beef too much. Let it sear before tossing it in the pan. When the meat is all evenly seared, add in the reserved marinade and stir to make sure the juices are cooked.

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 5

Scoop beef onto salad, making sure to drizzle beef juices over the salad as well. You can serve this as a salad.

Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef) 6

Or with Com Do Ca Chua (Vietnamese Tomato Paste Red Rice) like the top photo. You can also serve it with a small dipping sauce of ground black pepper, salt, and a squeeze of lime or lemon.



  1. I'm 'shaking' with delight at the sight of your yummy beef dish! And I love that banana leaf plate too! :)

  2. I love this dish and I wish people would soak the onions in vinegar more often. I hate the sting of the onion! haha

  3. EMWK,
    It's Target. I got it on clearance for $4. :)

    You are so spoiled! No bac ha in canh chua, and now people aren't soaking the onions in vinegar long enough for you? ;)

  4. I need to shake my computer table to make the beef shake! LOL!

    I actually prefer my beef diced or cubed like that..one whole piece of steak sometimes looks too domineering for me :O

  5. This looks very good! Thumbs up!

  6. Oh damn, I'm gonna try this recipe tonight! :D

  7. Tigerfish,
    Just shake your head and it'll look like it's shaking. :)


    Hehe, can't wait to read how it turns out on your blog.

  8. It burned like fire. I don't think I've ever had bo luc lac with chiles =P

  9. Hi WC,

    Although luc lac means "shaking" it also refers to how you shake dice before you throw them. I was told that in Vietnam, since the beef for this dish is cut up into little cubes like dice, that is where the name luc lac comes from and not so much from shaking them in the pan.

    Another wonderful review of a great dish though! I sometimes use filet mignon, but for authenticity will use flank steak for Bo Luc Lac.

  10. Cuong,
    I like that version of the name too! :)

  11. I just stumbled across your blog yesterday (what a great read!) and made the bo lu lac today. Thanks for the lovely recipe. My husband wants to have you sainted. In return, since you seem to like Cuban food, I'm sending you my recipe for Cuban empanadas.
    I spend a lot of time in Cuba for my work and cook Cuban food 3 often, so if you want other Cuban recipes, I'm happy to keep swapping. Thanks again!
    Ruthie (Spoonbread for Hieronymus)

  12. Hi Backstory,
    I'm so glad you and your husband liked the recipe. I don't think I've ever had that nice of a compliment before! I'll have to bookmark your empanada recipe and try it one of these days. :)

  13. Hi mate,

    Thanks for the recipe. For many years I have tasted those while in Cambodia and Vietnam. Of course a little differences in method of preparation. When no longer visiting those countries felt a little lack in my apetite

    Been asking around BUT nobody can give exact recipe. Will try yours. Hey not just trying, will participate in a food fair...

    Wish me luck

  14. Lemonade,
    Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  15. i just tried this recipe last night from one of the vietnamese cookbooks my mother gave me when I moved out. It's very different and uses oyster sauce.

    I'll definitely have to try out your version later this week!

    p.s. this is quickly becoming one of my most favorite blogs since I recently moved out of my parents home and miss my mother's cooking so much. it's so resourceful that it makes the once daunting task of cooking not as daunting anymore. So thanks so for that!

  16. Seasonal Lust,
    Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Hmm. Wonder how different the recipe in the cookbook is, other than the use of oyster sauce...

  17. I'm making this tonight!

    I'll try to post up a synopsis of the recipe for you once i get a chance. =)

  18. Great recipe Wandering Chopsticks :) I ll make it tomorrow or Saturday for sure.
    Thanks and nice to know your blog :)

  19. Seasonal Lust,
    Hey lady, where's your synopsis? ;)

    Thanks! It's always nice to have new readers.

  20. Looking at the time you posted ts seems like you never sleep.

    This is making my friend and me so hungry, we're thinking about jumping into your computer, into your house, then stealng it. an running away.

    Ugh. Looks delish.
    <33 addictedtome314

  21. I always use a little cornstarch and oyster sauce in my marinade - I think it gives a richer flavor and helps the sauce to thicken up. I think the key to this recipe is to get a good char on the beef. Too many times I've had this dish and it seems that the beef has steamed instead of searing. I like your method of reserving the excess liquid of the marinade.

  22. I'm surprised that you hadn't already posted a bo luc lac recipe before. I could've sworn I've seen it. How long do you typically marinate the beef?

  23. Addictedtome314,
    You're just hungry b/c it's lunchtime. ;)

    I use cornstarch and oyster sauce when I stir-fry sliced beef. Don't know why, just how I distinguish the two recipes. :P That char is the most important part though! It's hard though b/c my stove is so old, it literally doesn't even boil water. :(

    I did. Several years ago. :) Just updated it with new pictures. I don't marinate the beef too long. How I wrote it in the recipe is literally how long I usually do it, just long enough to make the salad it's on. The stir-frying will let it absorb the flavors.

  24. I rarely see ketchup rice in restaurants in the US and looove it. Do you have a recipe for the rice too?

  25. Made this today for lunch and it was super easy. I wanted it to be more like how my Cambodian mother makes it, so I used lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes. She also uses cucumber slices but I forgot!

    Will probably make this any time I have beef on hand. Thanks.

  26. Gaga,
    I finally got around to posting it so click on the tomato paste rice link. I also have a ketchup fried rice with hot dogs recipe. :)

    Hehe. If you read my Battambang Restaurant post, you'll see that Cambodian lok lak is just borrowed from the Vietnamese luc lac. :)

  27. I love this recipe, in fact I just finished putting meat in the marinade. Except instead of using sugar I decided to try it with agave syrup (it was easier to reach), so while I dont think it will make that much of a difference Im curious to see how it turns out.

  28. D,
    A little agave syrup should be fine. That seems to be a pretty popular substitute for sugar these days. You can even tinker with the marinade and still have perfectly good results.

  29. How long do I marinate the meat for ? Can I use beef for stew that they sell in the market?

  30. Souderz,
    Not long. Just marinate the beef first while you prepare the salad ingredients. The flavor will sear in as you cook the meat.

  31. Thank you so much for this recipe. im making it as we speak so fingers crossed

  32. I've tried this recipe, but it turns out tough. Do you know what I can do to fix the beef's "toughness"? My mother don't never to add salt to it since that's the cause. I'm so confused. =/

  33. Twee,
    Depends on what cut of beef you have? If you want to tenderize a tough cut, you can sprinkle baking soda on the beef and let it rest for a while. Then thoroughly rinse off the baking soda and prepare the beef as normal.

  34. I made this tonight with the vinegared onions, served on M√Ęche, along with your recipe for Com Do Ca Chua. My daughters and I loved it, so simple, so tasty and came together in a snap!
    Here in France we get tomato paste in tubes (like toothpaste) and I used the kind for the rice made with 'petit legumes' (carrots, onions, garlic.) Such fabulous taste! I can see making this menu A LOT!
    Thank you so much for your beautiful recipes; I'm having such fun going through your site and making a range of different, interesting and delicious dishes.
    Kind regards, Kitty :)

  35. Kitty,
    Mache sounds great. I've never heard of tomato paste in tubes, but I love the idea! Sometimes, all I need is a tablespoon or two and I have to freeze the rest because I can't leave it in the can. Thank you so much for your lovely comments!

  36. I found some beef in my freezer and decided to make this last night and it was delicious! I love that there is minimal time needed for marinating. Didn't have watercress, so I replaced it with spinach. The bite of the hanh dam still ended up too strong for my taste so I ended up cooking it down a bit - I'd never had it before, so maybe my taste buds need to get used to it.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  37. 1e380130-b197-11e2-852b-000bcdcb8a73,
    So glad you liked it. It's nice to see this old recipe still get some play. You can leave the onions in the vinegar longer if you think it's still too strong. Or slice it thinner so the vinegar softens and absorbs the onion faster. It's personal preference.

  38. Bo luc lac is one of my favorite food but I never tried to cook it at home. will now.
    In France, at least in Paris, when u order a bo luc lac it comes with a fried egg on top.
    When I lived in Marseille and went in a Vietnamese restaurant, the dish came with no rice no egg nothing. And the beef was caramelized and tough. I watched mtg plate in disbelief. How come rice is not included in the plate? And where is my egg? Apparently it was the way the locals liked it. Hard to believe. It claimed to be authentic but i was very disappointed. Never went to a viet resto in Marseille again and that's when I started to look for viet recipe s on the net and stumbled on urn blog. it was 3 years ago and I made a lot of ur recipes ever since. they turned out great (after many tries for some) and close to what my mum used to cook at home while growing up.
    Thank u for that.
    Is there any difference in the way of serving viet food in the U.S (I mean between, say los Angeles and new York?)

  39. Deedee,
    I remember getting a side of sliced lettuce instead of herbs when I ordered pho in Paris. Granted, it was in the 7th arrondissment, so not where most of the Vietnamese restaurants are located, but still...

    I've never had Vietnamese food the three times I've been to New York so I can't say! Vietnamese food is different even from one part of Los Angeles to another.

    Even in Vietnam though, dishes will vary from one region to the next so what you expect might be different. That's why I don't like to say one is any more "authentic" than the other. It varies, even in its place of origin.


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