Thursday's lunch was my first try from another recently purchased cookbook, Charmaine Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook. Completeness is always a dicey thing to claim, but this tome does at least include recipes from many Asian countries. The thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of countries not well covered in my library such as Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, etc. It even has a section on Indian and Pakistani recipes. The Singapore section focuses on Nonya cooking.
My first attempt was "Beef with Sesame Sauce" (Bo Xao Dau Me) from Vietnam. I picked it because the book randomly fell open to it and it looked good and simple. It was a success on both counts. Just stir-fry some garlic and beef in peanut oil, then add the sauce makings (beef broth, water blended with cornstarch, sesame paste and hot bean sauce). Cook through and serve with rice (though noodles would be equally good). Depending on what cut of beef you want to use, you might be advised to marinate first, but I used sirloin and skipped that step.
I was a little worried about the sauce consistency as I cooked the ingredients; the cornstarch, although mixed smoothly with water, started producing lumps as it was added to the broth and pan (incidentally, I used chashu broth rather than regular beef broth). As it cooked and more ingredients were added, the consistency improved, though it never became what I would call smooth. The final result was tender beef in a savory sauce. The fire from the hot bean sauce was present but understated; the same was true of the sesame paste. The whole thing reminded me of other beef dishes such as beef with oyster sauce or soy sauce noodles with beef and greens; they are also beef dishes with an assertive gravy-like sauce, food that runs toward the heavier end of the Asian food spectrum.
This was one of those auspicious-seeming first recipes that seems to get a new cookbook off on the right foot.