Lemongrass Beef on Cool Noodles

Lemongrass Beef on Cool Noodles
(Bun Bo Zao)

Adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham (HarperCollins, 2001). Copyright 2001 by Mai Pham.

Serves 4

The last time I was in Saigon, I went back to the lively Cho Vuon Chuoi market near our house. I was so excited to find the same stall that my mother used to take me to for noodles. The lady who once fed me had retired and her daughter had taken over. After squeezing myself onto a low community bench in front of the hot charcoal stove, I found myself indulging in a delectable bowl of noodles with beef that had just come off a sizzling pan. These days, this dish remains a favorite, both for lunch and for a light dinner. For a delicious variation, try it with shrimp or pork.

Rice Noodles with Fresh Herbs (recipe follows), ready for serving in noodle bowls Topping:

*2/3 pound beef sirloin or another tender cut, thinly sliced into bite-sized strips
*2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
*2 tablespoons oyster sauce
*1 tablespoon fish sauce
*3 tablespoons vegetable oil
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1/4 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Garnishes:

*2 tablespoons Scallion Oil (recipe)
*4 tablespoons chopped Roasted Peanuts
*1 1/2 recipes Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (recipe)

Combine the beef, lemongrass, oyster sauce, and fish sauce in a bowl and let the meat marinate for 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the red onion and stir for 1 minute, then add the meat. Stir and cook until the meat is cooked and the onion is soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

To serve, divide the beef topping among the 4 prepared noodle bowls. Garnish each bowl with 1/2 tablespoon Scallion Oil, 1 tablespoon peanuts and about 1/4 cup dipping sauce. Toss several times before eating.