Bo Nhung Dzam (Beef “Fondue”)

This dish is part of the famous Bo Bay Mon (Beef in Seven Ways), a popular Saigon feast consisting of seven different beef dishes. You will need a fondue pot, or some other means of cooking the stock at the table, and some utensils for letting each diner simmer their beef (the little wire baskets with long handles, sold in some Asian groceries, are ideal).

1 lb well-marbled beef fillet

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 recipe Do Chua (pickled carrot)

1 cup fresh coriander leaves

6 scalliions, slivered

2 heads Boston lettuce, or one head leaf lettuce

24 quarter-round Banh Trang (dried rice papers)

Fondue Stock:

1 T peanut oil

2 medium cloves garlic

1 T sugar

2/3 cup rice vinegar

3 cups water

1 stalk lemon grass

Dipping Sauce:

4 medium cloves garlic

1 1/2 Tsp Sambal Oelek

6 tsp sugar

1 oz anchovies, patted dry

1 lime

1/2 cup hot water

2 T finely chopped fresh pineapple

Two hours before serving time, put the beef in the freezer to chill for later slicing. Arrange the sliced onion, scallions, coriander leaves, pickled carrot and lettuce on a large platter, leaving room in the center for the beef. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

Heat the oil in a fondue pot (put it on a stove burner for this) and fry the garlic until its golden. Add the rice vinegar, water, and sugar. Cut off the bottom 6″ of lemon grass, remove outer husk, and halve it lengthwise. Cut into 2″ long sections, and add to the fondue pot. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.

In a mortar, pound the garlic and sugar together to a fine paste, then add the Sambal Oelek and anchovies and mash well. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze the juice of the lime into it. Rinse out the mortar with the 1/2 cup of hot water (to make sure you get all the mashed ingerdients), and pour into the sauce bowl. Add the pineapple, mix thoroughly, and divide, if you wish, into smaller individual serving bowls.

Remove the beef from the freezer when chilled firm and slice it into paper-thin slices. If the slices are too thick, pound them flat with the side of a cleaver. Arrange the slices in the center of the vegetable platter. Just before serving time, prepare the Banh Trang by brushing one side of each paper with water (use a pastry brush, and brush sparingly – the papers should be moist but not drenched). Lay the papers wet side down on a plate, overlapping, but leaving about 1/2″ of each one exposed. Put the Banh Trang on the table along with the vegetable/beef platter and the dipping sauce. Light the burner under the fondue pot and let the stock simmer.

Each diner immerses a little beef and onion in the stock and lets it simmer until the beef is cooked to taste. Peel off a sheet of Banh Tranh and lay it on your plate with the wide end nearest you. Arrange at that end  some lettuce, a little of each vegetable, and then the beef and onion. Roll up, tucking in the sides, and dip in the sauce before eating. You can also serve a bowl of Nuoc Cham, for those who don’t like anchovies.

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