Caramel is an ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine and it’s often used in savoury dishes like this one. It usually starts out with a palm or coconut sugar which is cooked until it caramelizes, turning a deep brown/amber, a little darker than caramel sauce for topping ice cream, before the other ingredients are added to the pan. The caramel provides the sweet aspect of the dish with fish sauce providing the salty, chilies the spicy, and lime juice or tamarind the sour. This is a super simple use of this magical flavour combination, in a ground beef dish that can easily be served over steamed rice with plenty of fresh herbs, cucumbers and optionally some Vietnamese pickled carrots and/or radish.
20 Minute Vietnamese Caramel Beef
A quick and easy Vietnamese style beef dish with a sweet, spicy, salty and sour caramelized sauce!
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, grated/minced
- 1 tablespoon galangal (or ginger), grated
- 1 bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon basil, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon mint, chopped (optional)
- Melt the sugar into the water in a large pan over medium heat, bring to a boil and let it cook until it turns a nice caramelized brown/amber colour, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add beef and shallot and cook, breaking the beef apart as it cooks, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic, galangal, chili, fish sauce, lime zest and juice, mix and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Mix in the fresh herbs and enjoy!
Option: Use palm sugar, or coconut sugar, or brown sugar, or white sugar.
Option: Ground pork works really well as a substitute for beef.
Option: Use a small onion instead of a shallot.
Option: Instead of the bird’s eye chili, use another chili or 1 tablespoon of chili sauce such as sriracha.
Option: If you want more sauce, add some coconut milk!
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