While woks lend themselves perfectly to weeknight dinners (quick-cooking, high heat, lots of flavor), they can be somewhat tricky to master. In her new F&W Cooks video for Vietnamese Shaking Beef, Andrea Nguyen has a trick for getting your stir-fry even closer to the flame: a cast-iron wok ring.
"It seems so damn overly complicated for a lot of people, because the holy grail for cooking successfully in a wok is big heat," Nguyen says. "We are talking flames that are licking the bottom of the wok.”
To achieve this, Nguyen uses the ring to prop up her wok (with terracotta feet), allowing the flames to lick up around the sizzling, flavor-packed beef cubes, cooking everything evenly and quickly.
The dish, which is served atop dressed, wilted watercress, is perfect for sharing and comes together in 35 minutes. Here are Nguyen's tips for preparing it (and make sure to get the full recipe here).
Choose a lovely, thick cut of meat
Then cut it into small pieces (¾ to one inch in size), so the beef really soaks up the flavor and cooks evenly.
"The reason why this particular dish is so appealing and so Vietnamese is that we typically do not sit down to a steak dinner of one steak a person," she says. "The meat is always sliced up and always shared, because meat is very, very precious in Vietnam.”
Be liberal with the black pepper
The seasoning for the meat—which then becomes a sort of sauce for the vegetables—is what makes this dish really sing. Don't forget to add the corn starch, which binds all the seasoning together.
Give the sliced red onions a rinse
This will rinse out some of the harsh onion flavor before you toss it into the salad.
Resist the urge to finely chop
"Tear the herbs, so you don’t get stuff stuck in your teeth," she says. "We treat it like a vegetable, not a garnish."
Make sure your wok is hot enough
Flick a bit of water onto the wok, and once you hear that tell-tale sizzle it's ready to go. Coat the entire wok in oil, and use a wok spatula to spread the meat around (but not too much). Once the beef is done cooking, pour it over the herbs and vegetables, which the flavorful sauce will help wilt.