Bo Xao Xa Ot Recipe (Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef)

Bo Xao Xa Ot Recipe (Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef) Recipe

Bún thịt bò xào xả ớt (chile lemongrass beef noodles) is one of my favorite Vietnamese "casual" everyday meals. I like the way lemongrass is used to spice things up in this Vietnamese classic. Tender, boneless stir-fried beef is cooked with fresh lemongrass, freshly chopped chile peppers and onions. The meat is served in a bowl filled with cold vermicelli rice noodles, roasted peanuts, fresh vegetables (usually cucumber and pickled carrots), fresh Vietnamese herbs and soy bean sprouts. The entire dish is drizzled with mixed herbed fish sauce as seasoning.

The cooking time is very fast, and call me crazy but I love the sound of the sizzling pan. I stir-fried the beef, but on hotter days, you could also thread the meat into skewers and grill them.

Note: Glossary of relevant Vietnamese cooking terms.

Bún = noodles

Thịt = beef

Thịt = meat

Xào = stir fry

Xả = lemongrass

Ớt = chile


Yields: 8 servings

2 pounds boneless beef (see tips), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1-½ teaspoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or regular salt)
2 red Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (see tips)
1 tablespoon mushroom salt seasoning (or salt)
1-½ tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, cut into small wedges
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed
1 tablespoon nước mắm (optional)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish


Marinating the beef:

Pat the beef dry using paper towels. Make sure the beef is thinly sliced.

In a bowl, combine the beef, red chili powder, baking powder and papaya paste. Mix well. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Prepping the lemongrass:

Wash the lemongrass. Remove all the white powder from the leaves. Cut the stalk in half. Crush the younger part with the back of a chef's knife and set it aside (you can use it for making broth).

Cut the remaining stalk into extremely thin slices using a chef's knife. In a mortar and pestle, grind the thin slices of lemongrass, then transfer and mix everything using a mini food processor. It should turn into a fine moist powder. Gather 3 tablespoons and store the rest (see tips).

Making lemongrass spice blend:

In a small bowl, combine the lemongrass, sugar, 2 teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt and chopped fresh chiles.

Cooking the beef:

Pat the meat dry one more time using paper towels. Season with salt.

In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion wedges and cook on high heat for about 2-3 minutes until slightly golden. The onions should still be crunchy. Transfer the onions to a bowl  and set aside.

In the same pan, add the shallots and cook on high heat until slightly golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer the caramelized shallots to a bowl. Set aside.

In the same pan, add the rest of the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the minced cloves of garlic and cook until slightly golden. Bring the heat to the highest setting, add 2 tablespoons lemongrass mixture and cook until slightly golden. Add the beef and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until all the beef starts changing color. Season with the remaining mushroom seasoning salt. Stir constantly and cook for about 5 minutes until the color changes. The lemongrass should coat the pieces of beef. Add the remaining lemongrass, shallots and onions. Stir well. Adjust seasoning. Add nước mắm (if necessary) and black pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts and cilantro. Stir well.

Let everyone assemble their own bowl (rice noodles, shredded cucumber, pickled carrots, bean sprouts and a drizzle of fish sauce).

Bon appétit!


Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can get it at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at the Marina -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.

Baking powder and papaya are both great meat tenderizers to ensure moist and juicy meat. Papaya paste was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tenderizing meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya with the seeds in a blender; place about 1 tablespoon of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. 

You can find lemongrass in most Asian markets. Lemongrass is sold in bunches of 5 stalks, so plan other dishes using lemongrass. You could also prep the lemongrass and store in the freezer by placing a few tablespoons in an ice-cube tray.

I used boneless sirloin steak for optimum tenderness. You could also use flank or skirt steak.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on October 5, 2011.


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