Vietnamese Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes and Beef


By Freya Bellin

When it comes to potatoes, squash, and root veggies, grating is a wonderful technique: you get all the starchy sweetness of the vegetable, but in a fraction of the time it would take to roast or bake!  In this recipe, the sweet potatoes become tender very quickly in the pan, and make a lovely salad-like bed for the protein of your choice. The little bits that get caramelized and stuck to the bottom of the pan are delicious, like hash browns, so don’t worry if the potatoes are sticking. The lime juice and fish sauce will also help to break that up, plus they add a zingy acidity. Fish sauce is a tricky ingredient if you’re not familiar with it. It’s a bit pungent and often takes center stage among other flavors in a dish. If you’re not sure if you like it, add only a tablespoon or so at a time and see what you think. Or, instead of fish sauce you can use soy sauce, or go even farther afield and use some other seasonings that typically complement sweet potatoes, like paprika or cumin. It will be less Vietnamese, but equally tasty. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes and Beef with Vietnamese Flavors

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Firm vegetables work fine in stir-fries as long as you grate them first. The quick treatment changes the ratio of surface area to interior so that they cook in a flash, which is exactly what you want.

Instead of beef, you can use chicken, tofu, or tempeh here, or even firm white fish. Or leave out the concentrated protein altogether and serve this as an unconventional but delicious Thanksgiving side dish. In any case, serve on top of brown rice or another grain.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

8 ounces beef chuck, flank, or sirloin steak, cut into bite-size pieces

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and grated, about 4 cups

1 cup sliced scallions

1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeño or Thai), seeded and chopped, optional

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt and black pepper

1⁄4 cup nam pla (fish sauce)

Juice of 1 lime

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, basil (preferably Thai), or mint

1. Put a large skillet over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the beef. Stir immediately, then stir every 20 seconds or so until the meat is no longer pink, just a minute or 2. Transfer the beef to a plate.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When it’s hot, add the sweet potatoes, scallions, chiles if you’re using them, and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until the potatoes change color and begin to brown; then stir more frequently until they are tender but not at all mushy, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Return the beef to the pan along with the fish sauce and lime juice. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced slightly and you’ve scraped up all the bits of meat and vegetable. Toss in the herb and serve.



4 thoughts on “Vietnamese Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes and Beef

  1. Actually, I like when the potatoes stick the best! Caramelization baby. I spent half my time at culinary school just aiming for just that! really (no, really, see: "Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood" – ).

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