Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Vietnamese Style Beef Stew

I have a love of Stew as it is one of those marvelous one pot meals that cooks on the stove for many hours and fills the house with the wonderful smell of something good to eat. I especially like stews when it is cold outside and we are having very stormy weather here in Seattle. Stews are one of those foods that is deeply warming and nourishing. And, because it cooks long and slow, it is considered almost predigested, which is so much easier for your Spleen and Stomach to handle.  So today I decided to make an Asian version of Beef Stew, much like the kind I sometimes order in one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants. I asked them what was in it and they kindly gave me the ingredients, but without the amounts so I had to guess. I ended up with a stew that I liked even better than theirs, but I'm not going to tell them that. The biggest difference is that my stew is not as sweet as I'm more into savory flavors, but it still has the deeply exotic flavor created by the combination of Star Anise, Cinnamon and Fish Sauce. In Vietnamese restaurants, they serve this stew with a freshly toasted baguette - I used a Gluten free version and also some Asian Pickles and it was one of the most satisfying meals I have had in a very long time. This stew is so delicious that it will become one of my standards from this point on!

Vietnamese Style Beef Stew

2 1/2 pounds Beef Chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 very large or 2 medium onions, chopped
1 Red Jalapeño, thinly sliced with seeds removed (can also use Green Jalapeño if you want it hotter)
2 whole Star Anise 
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 - 3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Tamari
3 cups Beef Broth
3 large Carrots, peeled and cut into 1' chunks
12 Button Mushrooms, washed and stems cut
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons Water

In a large heavy pot, heat the Oil and put in the Onions.  Cook for about 8 - 10 minutes or until they just start to brown on the edges. Add in the beef and cook until it just starts losing its' red color. Add in the Star Anise, the sliced Jalapeño, the Cinnamon Stick, the Fish Sauce, the Brown Sugar and the Beef Broth.  Bring to a boil and return heat to low. Cook covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Add the carrots and Mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes more.  Stir in Cornstarch Slurry and stir, cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with a crusty Baguette.  

Five Element Analysis

Beef is part of the Earth Element and the Carrots, Brown Sugar and Mushrooms add even more. And, stewing is a very Earthy form of cooking.  However, the Onions, Star Anise and Cinnamon bring in the Metal Element and the Jalapeño, Red or Green contributes the Fire Element and the Fish Sauce and Tamari add in the Water Element. Therefore, only the Wood Element is missing, so serve this with a regular Baguette if you aren't going Gluten Free as wheat flour belongs to the Wood Element or serve with some green vegetables or some sour Asian Pickles like I did to create a Five Element balance.

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