Recipe: Chef Huong's Dalat Ragu
This recipe is excerpted (with permission) from Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam by Kim Fay
"Because the key to this recipe is fresh vegetables, you can play around with it, substituting different kinds of beans and mushrooms, or perhaps adding white pearl onions, depending on what is in season. The one ingredient that is essential is tomatoes. You must get the freshest, best tomatoes you can find. It is the liquefied tomatoes combined with the fish sauce that creates the buttery flavor of this dish."
Serving: 4 as a main dish.
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 lb. carrots, cubed
1/4 lb. potato, cubed
1/4 lb. taro, cubed
1/4 lb. fresh beans (cranberry, fava/broad, lima/butter)
1/4 lb. fresh straw mushroom (button or crimini can be substituted)
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 lb. fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned and thoroughly seeded, chopped. I blanch the tomatoes for easy peeling. Don't overdo it with the tomatoes or the sauce will be sour.
1 French bay leaf
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. fish sauce
Loaf of crusty French bread for dipping
1. Cut pork into cubes, and marinate with 1 tbsp. fish sauce and pepper for 30 minutes. Do not marinate in the fridge.
2. In a medium frying pan, brown pork in 1 tbsp. oil. Salt to taste.
3. In a separate medium frying pan, sauté shallot in 1 tbsp. oil, and then add garlic.
4. Add tomatoes to shallot/garlic, and sauté on low heat, reducing until it is almost liquid. Reduce thoroughly to remove sourness. There should be no trace of tomato left in the pan.
5. While tomatoes are simmering, remove pork from the pan with a slotted spoon (to keep as much grease in the pan as possible), and put in a bowl.
6. Pan-fry carrots in pork grease for flavor. Remove, and add to pork bowl.
7. Pan-fry potatoes in pork grease for flavor. Remove, and set aside.
8. Pan-fry taro in pork grease for flavor. Remove, and set aside.
9. Pan-fry mushrooms in pork oil with a little salt, for flavor. Remove, and set aside. (As you fry the vegetables, you may need to add a little oil and even a tad of fish sauce. You can also add the juices draining from the pork in the bowl.)
10. While simmering tomatoes and pan-frying vegetables, blanch beans to remove acid from the skin. You should use fresh beans. If using dried beans, let them soak overnight. If you must use canned beans, don't stress over it. This dish will still be terrific.
11. While the last of the veggies are frying, pour tomato liquid in a large soup pot, and add pork, beans, and carrots. Stir in 1 tsp. of fish sauce.
12. Add stock and bay leaf. Cook for 1 hour on low heat, covered, until meat is tender.
13. Add potato and taro, and simmer, covered, for 20 more minutes.
14. Add mushrooms, and simmer, covered, for 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on the taro/potatoes to make sure they don't get too soft.
15. Serve hot with a fresh, crusty French bread.