I have been craving some Vietnamese food the past week, but I haven’t had a ton of time to cook lately. And most Vietnamese food takes a long time to cook like pho takes at least 3 hours! So I thought why not some Vietnamese shaking beef or bo luc lac in Vietnamese? I always make some version of this dish for myself when I am out of ideas, or I’m lazy/don’t have time. It is literally that easy to make. All in all, a little over 30 minutes and you got a great meal.
What is Vietnamese Shaking Beef or Bo Luc Lac?
Vietnamese shaking beef (Bo Luc Lac) is marinated beef cubes sautéed in a wok. It’s called “shaking” beef because you shake the wok to get an even sear on the beef. I did not have a wok when I made this, so I did it with just a pan. But the results are DEFINITELY better with a wok because it can reach a higher temperature than a regular pan can which means the meat cooks faster, and you get a better sear on the outside.
This dish is the perfect example of French influence in Vietnam. The French occupied Vietnam for 6 decades starting in the late 1880s, and its influence can still be seen today in modern Vietnam. Beef was considered a luxury food item in Vietnam back in the day because it was so expensive, so it used to be served at only special events. Nowadays, it’s served all over Vietnam and is also popular in the US.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Fish sauce – Adds saltiness and umami flavor to the recipe. My favorite brand of fish sauce to use is Three Crabs, but any brand of fish sauce should work. You can get fish sauce at any major grocery store!
- Oyster sauce – A bit of a strong flavor, but this is used to add more umami flavor to the marinade. Oyster sauce nowadays can be found in major grocery chains as well as Asian markets. If you don’t have oyster sauce, substitute with more soy sauce.
- Light brown sugar – This ingredient adds some sweetness to the marinade. If you want a healthier alternative to brown sugar, substitute with coconut sugar. You can also use dark brown sugar.
- Black soy sauce – Black soy sauce helps give the beef a nice color on the outside. If you can’t find black soy sauce, substitute with regular soy sauce. To make this dish gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Sake (optional) – I added this because I felt inspired watching Queer Eye Japan, but it does add some great flavor to the marinade. Optional though!
- Ribeye steak – Ribeye steak has great a proportion of fat on it which is why I like to use it for this dish. You can use any cut of steak, but I would highly recommend one with some fat on it. The fat adds moisture and flavor to the meat. Some people have used filet mignon to make a really fancy version of this dish. Other options are sirloin and strip steak.
- Rice wine vinegar – This is used for the pickling liquid. You can use any type of white vinegar for pickling. Substitute with distilled white vinegar.
- Red onions – This add some freshness to this savory dish. Use half for the pickled red onions and half to saute with the steak. Substitute with shallots or sweet yellow onions.
- Lettuce – The best lettuce to use is green lettuce. I don’t love iceberg or red lettuce for this dish.
- Tomatoes – Any type of tomatoes should work for this recipe! My favorite type of tomato to use are roma tomatoes.
How to make Vietnamese shaking beef or bo luc lac
I love this dish because it is so easy to make. First you gotta marinate the beef in soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, black pepper and garlic for about 30 minutes. I added a dash of sake just because I wanted to, and it made the beef taste amazing, so I highly recommend it. The sake is optional though.
After marinating for half an hour, cook over high heat in a wok or large pan. This should take 5 minutes max and you’re done! You want an even sear on the outside and a medium rare to medium temperature on the inside. The small size of your beef allows its to cook evenly and quickly. Serve with fresh lettuce, pickled red onions, and tomatoes.
Vietnamese Shaking Beef Video
Why high heat is important to making bo luc lac
It is so important you make this dish with high heat because using low heat will make the beef soggy and tough, and you don’t get a nice sear on the outside.
How do you eat bo luc lac?
This dish is best served with pickled red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce. Definitely feel free to make adjustments but this is how it is traditionally served. The tomatoes and lettuce provide a balance to the hearty beef, and the pickled red onions add a bit of tartness. Use my guide on how to pickle vegetables to help you make your red onions! All together it creates for an amazing combination of flavors. You can substitute white rice with quinoa, brown rice, or bread! I’ve definitely made a sandwich with shaking beef before, and it tastes amazing.
I have to give some extra love to picked red onions. I LOVE pickled red onions. They’re super pretty in pictures and they taste great in almost anything. Also really easy to make – water, sugar, white vinegar, and onions! Store them in a jar, and they can keep for up to a month. Aside from this dish, you can eat them in sandwiches, burgers, with sweet potatoes, or just by itself!
Did you make this Vietnamese Shaking Beef?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
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Traditional Vietnamese Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar see note 1
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce see note 2
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp sake optional
- 2 lb ribeye steak 1 inch cubes, see note 3
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar see note 4
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 red onion thinly sliced, divided, see note 5
- 1 head lettuce
- 2 tomatoes
- Add the garlic, fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, black soy sauce, pepper, and sake into a large bowl. Whisk together until combined. Add the steak to the bowl and coat with the marinade. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Make the pickled red onions. Mix together the water, rice wine vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl. Add half the red onion and set aside.
- Cook the steak after marinating for 30 minutes. First, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. Make sure it coats the entire bottom of the pan. Add in the steak.
- Cook the steak for about 1-3 minutes per side until you get a brown sear on all sides. You are aiming for medium rare to medium. You may cook for more or less time depending on how thick your steak is.
- Remove the steak from the heat. Add the rest of the onion to the pan and saute until soft (2-3 minutes).
- Once the steak is done cooking, serve over a bed of lettuce with pickled red onions and sliced tomatoes.
- Light brown sugar can be substituted with coconut sugar or dark brown sugar.
- Dark soy sauce can be substituted with regular soy sauce. For a gluten free substitute, use tamari.
- Ribeye steak can be substituted with sirloin steak, filet mignon, or strip steak.
- Rice wine vinegar can be substituted with distilled white vinegar.
- Red onion can be substituted with shallots and sweet yellow onion.
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