Charles Phan is the chef-proprietor of the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco. See also our interview with Phan and fellow San Franciscan chefs Todd Humphries of the Martini House and David Kinch of Manresa, The Eats of San Francisco.
"This is a very classic Vietnamese dish, and in 1992, when I went on my first trip back to Vietnam after the war, I had this dish in the lobby of the hotel I was staying in - the flavours were amazing," said Phan, "But I have changed the recipe slightly at the Slanted Door: instead of using flank steak I use filet mignon and I cut the meat into bigger pieces to get it medium-rare."
INGREDIENTS (Serves four as part of a multi-course meal)
- 700g Niman Ranch filet mignon, trimmed of fat and cut into 3-4cm cubes
- 80ml canola oil for stir-frying
- 1 medium-sized red onion, roughly sliced
- 4 stalks spring onion, trimmed and cut to 2.5cm lengths
- 1tbs chopped garlic
- 2tbs unsalted butter
For the meat marinade
- 1tsp kosher salt
- 1tsp ground black pepper
- 2tbs canola oil
For the stir-fry sauce
- 11/2tbs white vinegar
- 3tbs sugar
- 3tbs light soy sauce
- 3tbs fish sauce
- 1tsp cooking rice wine
For the salt and pepper dipping sauce
- 1/2tsp kosher salt
- 1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of one fresh lime
- 1 bunch of watercress, washed and dried
Marinate the meat with the salt, oil and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for about two hours. Meanwhile, combine the stir-fry sauce ingredients. Stir and set aside.
Divide the meat into two portions, and do the same with the garlic, red onion and spring onion. You need to cook it in two batches.
Heat a wok or a large skillet over maximum heat until very hot. Add four tablespoons of oil to the wok. When the oil smokes, add the meat in one layer. Let it sit until a brown crust forms, and turn to brown the other side. Total time for browning should be less than five minutes.
Pour out excess oil, leaving about one tablespoon in the wok. Add half the red onion and half the spring onions and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add about half the stir-fry sauce mixture and shake the pan to combine ingredients.
Add half the butter and shake the pan until the butter melts. Remove the meat, and repeat steps with second batch of meat.
Place beef over the watercress.
Combine salt, pepper and lime juice in a small sauce ramekin. Serve beef with lime dipping sauce.