Vietnamese shaking beef, or thit bo luc lac, is a classic Vietnamese dish of perfectly seared cubed steak that comes together in less than 30 minutes. The term “luc lac” stands for the back and forth movement of the wok as the beef cubes are seared.
Growing up in Vietnam, there were only a handful dishes with beef that I ate regularly–pho, bun bo, and bo kho. Other than these street foods, luxurious beef dishes like shaking beef (thit bo luc lac) were reserved for the rich since quality cuts of beef were quite expensive in the post Vietnam war era. It wasn’t until we moved to the US that my mom began making this for us on special occasions.
My mom has been making this dish the same way for decades and I don’t dare change the recipe. Every family has their own variation but ours includes a tender cut of beef, shallots, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and freshly ground pepper.
Which cut of beef to use
For those willing to shell out money, filet mignon will give you the most succulent and flavorful result. Ribeye and sirloin are great alternatives but I usually stick to sirloin since it’s cheaper per pound and still turns out quite tender. Remember to pick well marbled pieces. To get the best flavor, marinate the beef for an hour to let the flavors of garlic, shallot, soy sauce, and oyster sauce permeate the meat. The only trick to getting perfect shaking beef is to get the pan really hot, don’t overcrowd it, and give the beef a quick sear on all sides so the meat is still medium rare to medium well in the middle.
What to serve with shaking beef
Many Vietnamese restaurants serve shaking beef with sauteed onions, lettuce, tomato, and red rice or on a bed of watercress. I prefer the latter because watercress with its peppery and refreshing taste lends a nice contrast to the deeply flavored beef while the cherry tomatoes add a touch of sweetness. If watercress isn’t your thing, butter lettuce is a delicious alternative.
My mom also serves shaking beef with a dipping sauce of salt, pepper, and fresh lime juice. It’s an extra step but it brings out the delicious savory beef note. To this day, shaking beef remains one of a handful of beef dishes that we enjoy and in less than 30 minutes, you can have dinner ready just the way the restaurants make it.
For more Vietnamese inspiration, check these recipes: grilled Vietnamese lemongrass pork ribs, lemongrass chicken with turmeric coconut rice, Vietnamese sticky wings.
Vietnamese shaking beef
- 1 lb beef (sirloin cut), cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsps oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil, for cooking
- 1 watercress, washed and cleaned with tough stems removed
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsps fresh lime juice
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and sugar until well combined.
- Add the cubed beef, garlic, shallot, and pepper to the marinade. Toss to combine and let stand in refrigerator for an hour.
- When ready to cook, heat a wok over high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil around the top of the wok, letting it run down the side and into the middle of the wok. Add half of the beef mixture to the wok in a single layer and sear for 3 minutes. Shake and toss the mixture in the wok and cook for another minute or two. The beef should be seared on all sides. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
- Add the rest of olive oil and repeat with the remaining beef mixture.
- When ready to serve, arrange the watercress and cherry tomatoes on a plate and top with the beef mixture and juices.
- For the dipping sauce, stir together salt, pepper, and lime juice.
- Serve the shaking beef with the dipping sauce.