by Kate Heyhoe
by Kate Heyhoe
Tet, the celebration of the New Year, is a fabulous event in Vietnam. Fireworks explode in the skies for two days, and revelry fills the streets. During Tet, families are connected with both their ancestors and their future progeny, for time is observed as being a single continuous chain and the human spirits are embodied in its links.
Lavish meals are not cooked on New Year's Day. Instead, food prepared the day before is simply reheated, and casual snacking is the order of the day. But on the day after New Year's, a celebration of feasting begins. Holiday specialties are prepared throughout the day for serving that night. Course after delectable course is eaten with great festivity, and beef is usually a featured entree of this meal.
This dish borrows from many of the classic Vietnamese beef dishes, in which thinly sliced beef is seasoned with aromatic sauces and wrapped with lettuce or other leaves. Since the rare roast beef used here is purchased from a delicatessen, rather than being homemade, it is appropriate as a noncooked meal on Tet. For a near-instant meal anytime, the beef combines quickly and easily with mixed greens and noodles to for a hearty main course salad.
A special element of this dish is the use of Spring Onion Oil. One of the many condiments featured in Vietnamese cooking, it will keep refrigerated for two weeks. Use it to flavor fish, vegetables, soups and simple steamed chicken.
1 large cucumber, peeled if waxed
1 large carrot, peeled
1/2 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 piece ginger, 1/2-inch in length,
peeled and minced
1/4 cup Spring Onion Oil
1/2 pound rare roast beef, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons crushed toasted peanuts
Fresh cracked pepper
To Make the Salad:
Slice the cucumber into thin rounds. Lightly salt the rounds and leave in a colander to drain for at least 15 minutes. Slice the carrot into thin rounds and set aside. When the cucumbers have drained, squeeze out the excess water with your hands.
Cut 1 lime into wedges and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the juice of the remaining lime, the fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Toss the cucumbers and carrots with this sauce and let them sit 5 minutes.
Toss the spinach with 2 tablespoons of the Spring Onion Oil, or amount to taste. Arrange on a platter. Pour the cucumber and carrot mixture, with the dressing, on top of the spinach. Arrange the roast beef slices around the edges of the salad. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining Spring Onion Oil (with toasted onion bits) on top of the roast beef. Serve topped with the toasted peanuts, sprigs of cilantro, fresh cracked pepper and the reserved wedges of lime on the side.
1/4 cup canola oil
4 large chopped green onions,
including green part
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan on high until very hot. Add the green onions and salt (be careful: oil will splatter). Fry the onions until they become crisp and the edges begin to brown. Turn off the heat and let the green onions continue to cook in the hot oil until they become very brown. Drizzle sparingly on salads, cooked chicken, noodles, soups and other dishes, sprinkling a bit of the green onion bits on top. (This recipe doubles or triples easily. Seal the oil in a glass jar and refrigerate up to two weeks.)
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