How to cook: Stir fried beef and chayote

Inspired by a dish that chef Luke Nguyen cooked in his TV show, this stir fried beef and chayote combo is another example of the yin-yang concept that is found across various Asian cuisines. The ingredients are simple, few and inexpensive, the seasonings are minimal, and yet, the aroma and flavors are so complex, one would think that a dozen herbs and spices went into the preparation.

Speedy cooked this dish for our lunch today. He was a bit worried that it was too salty but I loved the boldness of the fish sauce and the subtle sweetness of the brown sugar, a combination that I will forever associate with Vietnamese cooking.

Undoubtedly, a good fish sauce is essential. Not only does it impart the necessary saltiness, it also conveys a flavor and aroma that are decidedly Asian.

For best results, use a tender cut of beef. Sirloin, top round, bottom round and tenderloin are good choices.

It is also important to cook the chayote just until tender-crisp. I remember reading a blog long ago, I can’t remember anymore which one, but I distinctly recall the blogger scoffing at the term “tender-crisp”, a term often used to describe vegetables in a stir fried dish. Well, cooks who know how to stir fry properly (see stir frying basics) can easily understand what “tender-crisp” means — vegetables that are cooked just until done so that the edges are tender but the center is still firm.

“Tender-crisp” is not so much a classification of a one-dimensional texture but more of a description of the sensation in the mouth as one eats a properly stir fried vegetable — the vegetable feels tender as one begins to bite into it but before the teeth completely cuts through it, one realizes that the tenderness is only partial as the center has retained the crispness of the vegetable in its raw state. Put another way, “tender-crisp” describes distinct layers of textures that are inexorably intertwined. »

Sayote (chayote)

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Light green and pear-shaped with a thick skin and a hard core, chayote, or sayote as it is called in the Philippines, grows on vines. It is known as as vegetable pear or mirliton in some parts of the world. In France, it is known as christophene. … »