Chef Papa
42-05 162nd St., East Flushing, Queens

Cover art for "Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities"
Lap Cheong Fried Rice and other recipes are featured in “Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities.” Cover credit: Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet, Tina Zhou, Nat Belkov

Shaking beef, or bò lúc lắc, is a classic Vietnamese dish. The name describes the cooking method employed, in which the chef must vigorously “shake” the beef in a sizzling hot pan or wok. This movement ensures that the cubes of beef take on an even sear while retaining their moisture, and helps to deglaze the pan, infusing the dish’s sauce with caramelized aromatics and other pan drippings. Preparing bò lúc lắc in a ripping hot wok imparts the dish with a distinct smoky flavor, thanks to the unique shape and even heat conduction of the wok’s design. 

“It really makes a difference,” said John Truong, chef-owner of East Flushing’s Chef Papa. 

Everyone makes it slightly differently, as all ingredients can be adjusted to a cook’s palate and personal preference. Truong has a soft spot for the bò lúc lắc he’s used to having in Vietnam, which is savory and utilizes a generous amount of fish sauce, whereas he has observed that American palates prefer a sweeter taste. At home, feel free to change the recipe to suit your own preference. 

Prep time: 10 minutes • Marinate time: 25 minutes to 2 hours • Cook time: 10 minutes • Serving size: 4 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds beef tenderloin
    (or other lean, well-marbled steak) 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt 
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (*see NOTE 1, below)  
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (optional) 
  • 2 cups watercress 
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the minced garlic, oyster sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy sauces. 
  2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and cut it into 3⁄4- to 1-inch cubes. Add to the bowl and toss to coat evenly. 
  3. Cover the bowl and marinate for 25 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator. If refrigerated, bring the beef back to room temperature for 15 minutes (*see NOTE 2, below). 
  4. Prepare a serving dish or individual bowls with a bed of watercress. 
  5. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Remove the beef cubes from the marinade and place in a single layer in the hot wok. Allow to cook undisturbed for 1 minute. Don’t overcrowd the wok; cook in batches if needed. Reserve the marinade for later use. 
  6. Grip the wok by the handle and use a spatula to toss the beef while you shake the wok back and forth. Shake every 30 seconds for 2 minutes. 
  7. Add the sliced red onion and bell pepper (if using). If you cooked the beef in batches, return the reserved cubes back to the wok. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook everything for an additional minute, tossing occasionally. 
  8. Add the reserved marinade to the wok and toss, then remove from the heat. 
  9. Transfer into the serving dish (or individual bowls). The residual heat will slightly wilt the bed of watercress beneath. 

* NOTE 1: Soy sauce can contain wheat, but there are certified gluten-free versions of both light and dark soy sauce. Tamari can also be used here, although you won’t get the same balance of flavor that comes from a combination of both light and dark soy sauce. 

* NOTE 2: Adding the beef to the hot wok directly out of refrigeration will lower the wok’s temperature, preventing the meat from searing properly. Achieving a successful sear in a very hot wok is a crucial step in achieving this dish’s characteristic flavor.

Excerpted from Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from NYC’s Asian Communities. The result of countless hours of work by dozens of volunteer photographers, writers and illustrators, recipe testers, translators and many more, Made Here is a cookbook and a concept driven by New York’s community. Produced by the nonprofit initiative Send Chinatown Love, the cookbook features the stories of New York’s Asian-owned mom-and-pop restaurants and shops — many of which were hit early and particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top photo by Janice Chung


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