A delicious Vietnamese take on braised beef short ribs
One of the questions reporters and restaurant guests like to ask me is whether I ever get bored eating the same delicious food all the time. The best reply I know is one of the most familiar proverbs in the English language: "Variety is the spice of life."
That saying, of course, applies to so many things. Life definitely would be boring if you followed the same routines every day. In restaurants, as in home cooking, it is certainly true. For that reason, my chefs and I always strive to keep things different and fresh on our menus, offering a wide variety of dishes and lots of specials featuring seasonal ingredients, so there's always something new and interesting to try.
We also bear in mind the literal truth of that saying, which becomes clearer if you switch the words around to say, "Spice is the variety of life." If you keep on hand in your kitchen pantry a range of different spices and other seasonings, you can make even your oldest, most familiar, tried-and-true dishes seem new and exciting.
As an example, I'd like to share with you a recipe from John Lechleidner, chef de cuisine at my modern Asian restaurant WP 24 atop the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles: Vietnamese-Style Braised Beef Short Ribs.
Short ribs have become one of the most popular cuts of meat in recent years. They're a tough meat, but full of rich flavor, and if you braise them slowly in well-seasoned liquid, not only does their taste get even richer and more complex but their texture gradually turns almost meltingly tender -- so much so, in fact, that you can even cut the meat with a spoon.
Like many chefs and home cooks, I ordinarily like to braise short ribs in the style of many European or American cooks, using rich stock, red wine or sometimes beer, aromatic vegetables, and herbs to complement their flavor. Sometimes I'll vary things a bit by adding canned tomatoes and Italian seasonings, or maybe a sweet-and-sour German combination of tastes familiar from dishes like sauerbraten, or hints of the sweet and tangy flavors you might find in all-American barbecue.
But when even those kinds of variations begin to seem too familiar, who says you can't take an Asian approach to the same basic recipe? You can find all the special ingredients listed here in the ethnic foods section of a well-stocked supermarket, on a trip to a local Asian market, or through many online sources.
They all add up to a complex combination of flavors with hints of spice, sweetness, pungency, saltiness, and freshly aromatic herbal notes. Anyone who loves Vietnamese or other Asian cuisines will find the recipe irresistibly different and delicious.
VIETNAMESE-STYLE BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS