Ghost Halloween Lemongrass and Ginger Beef Noodles
Boo! I have to admit I'm a little ashamed of today's Halloween-inspired meal. I prepared Vietnamese beef noodles (bún thịt bò xào xả gừng in Vietnamese) today and I had in mind that I'd be able to have fun with the rice noodles and create scary mummies. In the end, it looked neither like a mummy nor a ghost. As we were eating dinner, little Lala asked for 2 whole black peppercorns and found a solution to our mummy situation. Et voila! What do you think?
Cold beef noodle salads are very common in Vietnam and they are definitely a staple in my home. Sauteed beef in lemongrass is served with thick rice noodles and an abundance of Vietnamese greens. It might not be the creepiest meal for the Halloween season, but it sure is delicious.
Yields: 6 servings1½ pounds filet mignon, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or regular salt)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 ounces thick rice vermicelli noodles, boiled, drained and cooled
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (see tips)
1 tablespoon mushroom seasoning salt (or salt)
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, cut into small wedges
1 tablespoon nước mắm (optional)
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
4 cups Romaine lettuce, shredded
3 cups soybean sprouts
4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish
12 whole black peppercorns (optional)
Marinating the beef:
Pat the beef dry using paper towels. Make sure the beef is thinly sliced.
In a bowl, combine the beef, grated ginger and baking powder. 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 to a mini food processor and pulse until it turns 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 and 2 teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt.
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 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 and onions. Stir well. Adjust seasoning. Add nước mắm (if necessary) and black pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Let everyone assemble their own bowl. Roll the rice noodles into ghost shapes, surround with shredded cucumber, bean sprouts, lemongrass ginger beef and a drizzle of fish sauce. Garnish with whole peppercorns (if using) to resemble eyes.
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.
You can find lemongrass in most Asian markets. It's 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.