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What’s your beef?

02 Oct

Well it looks like today my beef is most definitely Cambodian. I’ve spent a lot of my cooking time lately with the cuisine of France and Italy, and tasty as their dishes have been, it’s time for a bit of a change so off we go to the complex flavours of the Far East. My ego absolutely needed a break from delicious yet snooty French food, I found myself during a team breakfast in Wetherspoons complaining that the hollandaise sauce on my Eggs Benedict had split. I mean, hello, I was in Wetherspoons and breakfast had cost me £3, what exactly was I expecting? I was rightly called a snob, and vowed to be less judgemental about the quality of a super cheap breakfast (Although the egg yolks could have been a bit runnier. Oh that’s right, less judgemental, sorry). So you see, I needed to get away from Europe and get to grips with the region of the world famed for amazing street food and delicious homely curries, not just for my tummy’s sake but for my oversized foodie head.
While I’m fairly certain I say this about every cultures food, I genuinely, really, utterly could eat the food of the Far East every day for the rest of my life. Admittedly, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this rich foodie culture and have stuck to relatively safe dishes, but I’ve not come across a meal I’ve disliked yet. Thai green curry, sticky chicken and mango salad, massamann curry, chicken satay, Vietnamese curries, spring rolls, beef pho soup…. It’s all good. Armed with Rick Stein’s book Far Eastern Odyssey though, I intend to be a bit more adventurous and branch out from my favourites, and with countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Bali, there really is no excuse not to try something different. You’ve got to try after all. So today I chose Cambodian marinated beef with a lime and black pepper dipping sauce, or in the local tongue, ‘Loc Lac’ which is snappier and just rolls right off the tongue. Sounds more mysterious too. Basically, this is cooked beef strips marinated in a Cambodian sauce, then wrapped in lettuce leaves with shallots and chopped peanuts. If you make this or something similar, don’t buy those sorry looking grey strips of pre-cut beef as they end up being really chewy and stringy which totally takes away from the dish. Plus they taste very meh. Get a small steak instead and trim and cut yourself. Will taste a million times better and you can clearly see the standard of meat you’re going to be eating. Don’t settle if you don’t have to. I would never want to tell anyone how to live and I’m not interested in lecturing anyone on what they put in their shopping trolley, but please buy the best meat you can afford, and if money is tight, try and have a few meat free days a week so you can afford better meat. I only say this for the sake of your tastebuds, but please feel free to ignore me. Chuck this in a marinade that consists of garlic, ginger, chilli and some truly awful smelling Asian condiments (fish sauce assaults your nostrils with its fermented anchovy pungency, but taste wise it adds huge amounts of flavour. Don’t judge it on the smell alone as it gives dishes a deep, salty flavour that can make the dish) alongside the surprising addition of ketchup. Cook in a wok over a high heat and serve with the accompaniments. This meal was absolutely delicious. The beef in its sticky marinade was tasty enough, but the added crunch from the lettuce and peanuts and sharpness from the raw shallots just made the dish. Sharp, sour, sweet, with a sticky coating, the flavours are big and spicy and whisked me away to the far shores of Cambodia. I’ve never been mind, but one can dream! It’s certainly cheaper than a flight to Asia anyway. Meals like this make me feel very sorry for those picky people who daren’t venture out of their comfort zone. Far Eastern food can be stunning and everyone should give it a go. Your tastebuds will be thankful, trust me.

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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Books, Cooking, Food, Thai

 

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