An: To Eat- Recipes and Stories from a Vietnamese Family Kitchen, written by Helene and Jacqueline An, features a collection of 100 unique recipes with influences from Vietnamese, French, and California cuisine. Those already introduced to Vietnamese ingredients will find familiar flavors presented in a new and exciting way with French Onion Phở with Beef Ravioli, Balsamic Chicken Pot Stickers, Coconut Cake with Strawberry Sauce, Kobe Beef Meatballs on Sugar Cane, Tiato Rolls, and more. Following the review, I will be sharing their recipe for Filet Mignon Shaken Beef.
Disclosure: I received this book from Running Press in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Helene An and Jacqueline An
Helene An was born in Kiến An, Vietnam to an aristocratic family. She fled to Saigon when North Vietnam fell under Communist rule, then to a refugee camp in the Philippines before settling in San Francisco. She is now the matriarch behind the House of An, a collection of 5 restaurants in California that she runs with her five daughters in two locations (San Francisco, Beverly Hills). In 2007, she was inducted into the Smithsonian Institute for her work in promoting Vietnamese cuisine to America. She has also been featured in Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and is regularly chosen by the James Beard Foundation to host events.
Jacqueline An followed in her mother’s footsteps with her passion for food and is now a managing partner for the House of An. She put together this cookbook to have a permanent source of her mother’s life and recipes in a culture where recipes are generally passed orally through the generations. Jacqueline and her mother both now live in Beverly Hills.
An: To Eat
Chapters are divided based on theme: Introduction, Simple Divinity, Indochine Reverie, New Home Comfort, Everyday Gourmet, Bistronomy, Sides, Desserts, Drinks, and Broths, Sauces, Dressings & Special Ingredients.
I especially love the personal notes and stories found throughout the book. The An family begins with an introduction to Vietnamese cuisine and history. They also share their own remarkable family history from being a high-ranking aristocratic family in Vietnam to life during the wars, becoming refugees, relocating in America, and building their restaurant empire.
Basic cooking techniques are explained (cutting, stir-frying, steaming, boiling, simmering, poaching, stewing, and braising) along with preparation of more specific ingredients such as banana leaves (I appreciate the tip to rinse banana leaves under hot water to bring out their bright green color), rice, bean sprouts, rice paper, fresh herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and meats. While no special tools or gadgets are required to complete the recipes in the book, some recommended items such as a wok and rice cooker are covered in detail with information on picking one out, seasoning, use, and cleaning.
The photography is provided by Evan Sung with prop styling by Nidia Cueva. Most of the recipes include a beautifully styled photo of the finished dish. Family photographs accompany many of the stories plus more from the restaurants. Measurements are listed in US Customary. The name of the dish is written in English (though the Vietnamese name is written in the headnotes if applicable). Background information is also given for every recipe with its inspiration, serving ideas, and tips.
Filet Mignon Shaken Beef
Shaken Beef (Shaking Beef, Bò lúc lắc, Thit Bo Luc Lac) is named due to the cooking method used to prepare the meat. The wok is shaken during cooking to sear the beef evenly on all sides and coat in a savory sauce. It is traditional made using lesser cuts of meat like flank steak, but An takes the dish to the next level with the addition of the more tender filet mignon (steak cut from the smaller end of beef tenderloin) to make this Filet Mignon Shaken Beef.
After searing the beef, the cubes are seasoned with garlic and a Red Wine Worcestershire sauce. As a note, the given recipe includes more red wine sauce than is needed for the recipe, so it can be halved if desired. The meat is seared in two batches to prevent overcrowding with 2 tablespoons of the sauce per batch.
I served the beef over a bed of lettuce, but An also recommends roasted potatoes as used at their Crustacean restaurant. Watercress is also a popular option.
Oyster sauce is a dark brown sauce created by cooking oyster extract with salt and sugar. It is common in Southeast Asian cuisines. Check the labels before buying. Lower quality sauces include caramel coloring or other additives. It can be found in markets with Southeast Asian ingredients or some larger grocery stores.
I also made Chicken Phở with Kaffir Lime, Baby Bok Choy in Garlic Sauce, Vietnamese Affogato, and Corn Silk Tea.
I absolutely love Phở, but have only made it at home a handful of times due to the intimidation and long simmering time. Helene regularly has Phở Ga (Chicken Phở) for breakfast and has included a recipe for her Chicken Phở with Kaffir Lime. It actually wasn’t difficult at all, but packed with flavor. Making the chicken broth ahead of time and freezing until needed helps cut back the work on the day of preparation. The addition of kaffir lime leaves add extra fragrance to this comforting dish.
Baby Bok Choy in Garlic Sauce is a quick and simple vegetable side. Halved baby bok choys are blanched, then quickly stir-fried in a seasoned garlic butter sauce. It is a nice accompaniment to many of the dishes in the book and Claire particularly loved this one.
The Vietnamese Affogato was quite the delicious dessert and only has three ingredients. Vanilla ice cream is topped with dark roast Vietnamese coffee and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. It was the perfect combination of creamy ice cream and condensed milk to intense coffee.
The Corn Silk Tea was so interesting to me. Vietnamese cuisine focuses on not wasting any part of the plant or animal. Fresh summer corn on the cob is a favorite for Evan, so it is great to have a way to use up the silks that would normally be discarded. This tea comes together with only 2 ingredients for a refreshing, light summery flavor. It also has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Looking for more Vietnamese recipes?
- Cà Phê Trứng (Vietnamese Egg Coffee)
- Phở Chiên Trứng (Pho Omelet)
- Bún Thịt Nướng (Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles)
An: To Eat is a great book for those looking for Vietnamese flavors with a twist. Many of the dishes are naturally gluten-free and combine meat/lean seafood with fresh vegetables and herbs. While a few of the recipes can be prepared quickly, others are on the more complex side and perfect for impressing guests or weekend cooking. Novice cooks will appreciate the breakdown of techniques. I love that they didn’t skimp on the beverage section with a selection of alcoholic cocktails, coffee, tea, and limeade. An states that “having good drinks is just as important as having good food for your guests.”
There is also a section for special ingredients, broths, sauces, and dressings to help build a strong foundation and add additional flavor. For those interested in entertaining, there is a guide with tips and a beer/wine pairing for the main entrees in the back of the book. Having access to a market specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine will be helpful to locate some of the fresh herbs, spices, and sauces.
Filet Mignon Shaken Beef Recipe
Adapted from An: To Eat
Filet Mignon Shaken Beef
- 2 tablespoons canola oil divided
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce optional
- 1 pound filet mignon cut into 1 inch cubes
Red Wine Sauce:
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup Maggi seasoning sauce
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 6 garlic cloves minced, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 large red onion sliced
- 2 large tomatoes peeled and cut into 6 wedges each, for garnish
- Roasted potatoes or a bed of lettuce for serving
- In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil with the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and oyster sauce (if using). Mix well. Add the steak and toss well to coat. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the red wine sauce:
- In a medium bowl, combine the red wine, Maggi sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Cover the bowl and set aside. Note: As we only use 2 tablespoons for each serving, you can save the extra wine sauce for future meals or increase the amount of meat.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. When the oil is hot (a small piece of garlic dropped in it will sizzle instantly), reduce the heat to medium. Add half of he marinated steak and sear for 3 minutes on one side, then flip and sear for 1 minute on the other side.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the minced garlic and shake the pan for 30 seconds. Then add 2 tablespoons of the red wine sauce and cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan continuously. The meat will be nicely browned and medium rare. Cook longer for more well-done meat. Spoon the steak onto a serving plate.
- Repeat the process with the other half of the steak and the remaining garlic. Note: You don't want to overcrowd the pan, as it is important to keep the wok very hot for tender and flavorful steak.
- Return the pan to medium heat and add the onion. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion is soft and fragrant. Spoon the onion over the meat and serve hot with the tomato wedges.