My travel companions and I had a splendid time in Vietnam in 2010, scouring Ho Chi Minh for street food vendors and Pho restaurants. I’d not long been introduced to Vietnamese cuisine but reading Anthony Bourdain’s tales of marvel and culinary delight drove me to spend a week there “going bamboo” as he put it. I have to say I don’t think I got the full benefit of being there. We struggled to find the best restaurants and street food, although I did acquire a taste for Pho, which the Vietnamese seem to worship as a meal for any time of the day. My favourite is the variation that has all types of beef in it: fillet, brisket, meatballs and tripe. Also I love the fragrant lemon balm herb they add to it – Asian basil, and the saw tooth herb, a jagged long leaf with a fragrant bittersweet kick.
Since returning to the UK I’ve eaten in one or two Vietnamese restaurants in London and have come to realise there is a spectrum of delicious dishes originating from the region we travelled through; we just somehow managed to miss them all! Too busy staring at the floating houses and villages and markets to bother to stop at any eateries as we chugged and wended our way up the Mekong delta. Still, only in a megatropolis such as London can you seem to find better representations of regional cuisine than in the regions themselves! Reading the menu at Mien Tay in Battersea for example gives me goose bumps on my taste buds if such a thing is possible.
This recipe was half-inched (rhyming slang for pinched) from a very gifted cook and blogger, namely one Angela Romero of San Francisco, whose inspirational blog can be found right here. Whilst Angela listed some ingredients I couldn’t get my hands on, I decided to make do with what was available and throw in some twists just to make it interesting, so here goes. If you do try this dish at home please tell me about it and let me know how the flavours worked for you.
Ingredients (serves two as starter portion)
150g fillet steak, cut in to thin strips or slices.
Four spring onions
1 small head of red Cos lettuce
Half a blade of lemongrass
A small handful of fresh mint
One red chilli
One small shallot
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce
Juice of half a lemon
Juice of quarter of a lime
1 tsp root ginger
Half tsp blackstrap molasses
Finely chop the ginger, chilli, shallot and lemongrass. Mix well with sesame oil, fish sauce, lemon and lime juice and molasses.
Slice the spring onion in to thin slices. Chop the mint roughly. Wash and shred the lettuce.
Sear the finely sliced steak very briefly on a SteakStone, then soak in the dressing for five minutes. Add all the ingredients in a large bowl, toss them together and serve.