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Vietnamese Shaking Beef

It’s been a minute since The Koala and I visited Vietnam.

We visited in January 2011, completely unprepared for the winter. We got off the plane in the early, early hours of the morning, were accosted by motorcycle drivers, dropped our bags off at our hotel and went in search for our first meal on foot. We happened upon a little noodle shop that was packed first thing in the morning. We figured that any place that was packed with locals for breakfast would be a good bet. Once we were seated, we realised the shop only sold eel. Options included fried eel, eel soup, eel noodles or eel porridge. Every item on the menu was under $2NZ. And that’s how we ended up eating eel for our first meal in Vietnam.

We couldn’t speak a lick of Vietnamese but we got through our trip by pointing and our drawing skills helped us out more than once. Still, we made some incredible food memories and I still think fondly upon the Vietnamese way of cooking and eating. Fresh, simple ingredients that really let the individual flavours shine. I could eat Vietnamese food every day. I think of Vietnamese food in the summer, the flavours light and fresh.

Vietnamese Shaking Beef is super easy and a great dish for summer. Also known as Bo Luc Lac, this quick cooking steak dish has a gorgeous marinade with a balance of savoury, sour and sweet. Make sure you serve this with rice.


Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Serves 4


  • 400 grams grass-fed beef steak, thinly sliced or cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large bunch of watercress, washed and picked
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  • Rice to serve


  1. Combine chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil to make a paste. Mix with 1 pack sliced steak and marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Combine 2 teaspoons sugar with 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce and 1 teaspoon cornflour. Reserve.
  3. Put a wok or a large frying pan over high heat, once hot add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the steak in a single layer. Cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, give the pan a good shake or wok toss and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the sauce and stir or shake. 
  4. Stir in 1/2 a thinly sliced red onion and add 1 tablespoon butter. Shake pan until butter melts into the sauce and the onion has just softened.
  5. Place picked watercress on a plate, top with cooked steak, season with black pepper and scatter with cherry tomatoes halves. Serve with lime wedges and steamed rice. Enjoy!


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