Vibrant and packed with flavor, Vietnamese butter beef is a great communal meal to share with family and friends. Similar to Korean barbecue, Vietnamese butter beef is also cooked on a tabletop grill and enjoyed with a variety of garnishes and sauces. A key difference is that Vietnamese butter beef is eaten wrapped in rice paper with herbs and rice vermicelli.
The main cooking equipment for butter beef is a nonstick electric griddle. Nonstick is essential — this ensures that the beef won’t cling to the grill, allowing diners to freely cook and choose their individual pieces. These electric grills also have good temperature control and are easy to clean.
Butter and Beef
The use of butter in Vietnamese butter beef originates from France. For almost a century, Vietnam was a French colony and its culinary influence can still be felt today in the baguettes of Vietnamese banh mi, liver pâté, and Vietnam’s vibrant coffee culture. Be sure to use good quality butter for Vietnamese butter beef. The flavor of beef cooked in butter is delicious combined with fragrant Vietnamese sauces and herbs.
For the beef, thinly sliced ribeye, sirloin, or center round are all excellent. Most Asian groceries will have these cuts pre-sliced in the meat section. To slice your own, partially freeze the beef as this will help for thin slicing. Beef can be served unseasoned since it’ll be cooked in butter and flavored with sauce and herbs when eating. You can also marinate the beef in salt, pepper, and finely diced lemongrass for extra flavor. To cook, simply melt some butter on the griddle and cook the beef to your desired doneness.
The most popular sauces for Vietnamese butter beef are a sweet and sour dipping sauce (nước chấm) or a fragrant fermented anchovy sauce. Nước chấm, a combination of fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and chilies, is a ubiquitous dipping sauce in Vietnamese cuisine. The fermented anchovy sauce is a pungent mix of anchovies, chilis, pineapple, and lime juice.
Besides beef, seafood is another popular aspect of the Vietnamese butter beef experience. Shellfish like scallops, squid, or shrimp are all tasty options. For shrimp, be sure to clean the shrimp properly before serving. Free feel to mix and match the seafood for your individual rice paper wraps.
Vegetables and Herbs
For the vegetable aspect of Vietnamese butter beef, get lettuce, cucumbers, sweet pickled carrots, and daikon radish. For the best results, use red or green leaf lettuce. To make the pickled vegetables, thinly julienne the carrots and radish before seasoning with rice vinegar and sugar.
Fresh green herbs are an essential part of Vietnamese cuisine as most meals will be accompanied by a generous plate of raw herbs. For butter beef, herbs like cilantro, mint, and sweet basil are all great options. These can be eaten in a lettuce wrap or folded into rice paper.
Rice vermicelli is an essential component of any Vietnamese rice roll (also called fresh rolls). Cook the vermicelli and rinse with cold water before serving. These can be eaten directly or wrapped with the other ingredients together into rice paper.
Vietnamese rice paper is available at most Asian groceries. In its uncooked form, the rice paper will appear hard and almost plastic-like. To prepare, quickly submerge the rice paper in warm water for a few seconds. Do not submerge for too long or the rice paper will become too sticky to properly roll. Then, add your desired ingredients and roll as tightly as possible. Dip in sauce and enjoy!
Vietnamese Butter Beef
(By Chef Sophina Uong, chef/owner of the soon-to-open Mister Mao restaurant in New Orleans)
Chef Uong was the Grand Champion of Chopped Grill Masters television show and was personally tapped by Andrew Zimmern to serve as Executive Chef of his restaurant, Lucky Cricket. Mister Mao opened on July 24, 2021, in New Orleans.
This recipe of Vietnamese butter beef is a stir-fried dish and delicious with rice. But it can also be easily modified into wraps for a more interactive dining experience.
- 2 lbs. beef tenderloin (filet) thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 3 Tbsp neutral cooking oil
- ¼ cup white wine or light lager beer
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup gluten-free soy or tamari
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 serrano chile, sliced thin
- ¼ cup Feliciana’s Best Creamery Butter (about 3-4 tbsp)
- 2 bunches watercress, washed
- 1 creole tomato, sliced thin into half-moons
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Marinate beef with garlic, ½ of sugar, salt, pepper, oil. Put in fridge.
- Make sauce with remaining sugar, wine, vinegar, gluten-free soy, and fish sauce.
- Heat up a skillet or wok until ripping hot. Add oil and cook beef in 3 separate batches. This will ensure a nice crust. Overcrowding a pan will cause the meat to steam. Brown meat for 4 minutes on high heat.
- Add the sauce and butter until everything is nice and glossy. Add onion and scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve over watercress and tomatoes with lime wedges. Enjoy with rice.
Tips: For additional flavor: add more chiles or 2 Tbsp of diced lemongrass to beef marinade.
To make your own beef rolls at the table
- Cooked rice noodles
- Mint, cilantro, rau rum (Vietnamese coriander)
- Julienned carrots
- Sliced cucumbers, thin
- Rice paper wrappers
Dipping Sauce (for lettuce or rice paper wraps)
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp chile paste (sambal olek)
- Juice of one lime
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- Combine all ingredients together. The sauce should be salty, sweet, spicy, and acidic.
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