Be Thui (Vietnamese roast veal–pronounced tui) is a fantastic celebratory dish in Vietnam that is often served at Tet as well as other special celebrations. Unlike western style roast beef which uses different parts of the cow and roasted in an oven, Vietnamese be thui is a whole veal calf roasted over an open flame until the skin blackens (thui) but the meat inside is perfectly pink and tender. Some restaurants in Vietnam specializing in this delicacy may even have the roasting pit in the center of the restaurant.
Compared with beef, veal meat is much more tender and delicate in flavor–and, there’s just something about roasting a whole veal in its own skin and bones that make Vietnamese be thui amazingly delicious. Growing up in Michigan, our family only had be thui several times since as you can imaging, sourcing a whole veal calf was be quite difficult. But during our recent trips to Houston, Texas we discovered a great source for be thui at Tan Binh Be Thui, a family run 4 acre farm raising veal calves for the main purpose of making traditional be thui–that is roasting the entire veal calf.
It’s the best be thui we’ve ever tasted and better than the ones we can get here in California. The veal are free-raised, meaning they are free to roam and eat grass pasture not confined in corn feed lots or injected with hormones. This results in a very characteristic pink color to the meat and of course super taste and delicate texture. All the veal are all between 4-7 months and extremely lean. Husband and wife team of Chien and Barbara Tran are from two generations of ranchers originally from the city of Tan Binh in Vietnam and are proud to say that Tan Binh Be Thui is the only USDA approved be thui facility in the entire US. Here in California, we have no idea where the local market in Little Saigon get it’s be thui or how the calves are raised–we’ve asked but have gotten no clear answers.
While no longer using the traditional roasting pit, Tan Binh Be Thui roasts the entire veal with a torch flame, searing the outside and cooking it perfectly on the inside. The blackened outer layer of skin is then scraped off and then the veal meat is sliced thinly and packaged.
Tan Binh Be Thui currently ships their be thui all over the country wholesale to Asian markets but only recently began online shipments for smaller orders for individual consumers. Boy were we glad about that! For Christmas we ordered close to 30 lbs of be thui as gifts–half of that went to our family in Connecticut. The other half we used ourselves and gave as gifts. At 9.99/lb including free shipping for over 10 lbs it was a bargain for this hard to find delicacy.
Having never ordered meats online, we were curious to see how it would turn out. The package arrived in a neatly packed styrofoam lined box and the frozen be thui was vacuum sealed in individual 1 lbs trays. Everything was still cold and ready to thaw and use. The other 15lb shipment to Connecticut also arrived in perfect condition as well and was promptly devoured by my family.
Okay, so how do you prepare and eat the be thui? Glad you asked–it’s served like a meat salad at room temperature. There are some variations on how it’s prepared. One is with toasted sesame, chopped Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), and pickled onions. The other method is to substitute the sesame for ground roasted rice powder (thinh). Some people even use both. We prefer preparing it with sesame because the fragrance of toasted sesame really enhances the flavor of the veal, while we think the roasted rice powder is a bit too overpowering. Dipping sauces are also varied. We prefer a ginger dipping sauce over fermented soy bean sauce (tuong cu da).
- 1 lb be thui, roasted veal
- 1 bunch of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) coarsely chopped–may include thin stems if desired
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame
- 1 large red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 ts sugar
- 2 ts salt
The be thui will arrive cooked and frozen so thaw in the refrigerator.
- 2 tbs finely minced ginger
- 3 tbs fish sauce
- 4 tbs fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 medium lime)
- 2 tbs sugar
- Thai chili (use according to taste)
If you’re in the Houston area, their product is sold at Tan Binh Market 11360 Bellaire Boulevard Houston, TX 77072 (281) 983-0044