Vietnamese Beef Stew


I know what you’re thinking: “A stew. Really? When it’s so hot and muggy?”

Mama's High Strung- Vietnamese Beef Stew Yes… because this Vietnamese Beef Stew proves that it IS possible for a stew to be light, and, dare I say it, refreshing.

It’s the star anise and cinnamon combination that lifts this stew above the ordinary and gives it a playful summery flavor. Simmering it for hours tenderizes an otherwise tough cut of meat and allows the flavors to deepen and develop.

My inspiration for this stew comes from a similar dish I devoured at James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd’s restaurant, Underbelly, in Houston.

I prepared this recipe on top of the stove in my Pauli Cookware. You can also cook it in a crockpot, so that after being out of the house all day enjoying summer, you’ll have a great dinner waiting for you at home!

Star anise is a key ingredient in this dish… read more about it in my post “What is Star Anise?”
Here’s another delicious dish I think you’ll enjoy… Seafood Cioppino.

Seafood Cioppino


Seafood Cioppino a rich tomato-based stew made with whatever seafood is fresh that day.

Something delicious for this weekend: a rich Seafood Cioppino.

This recipe is Italian Chef Fabio Viviani’s take on cioppino, a tomato based stew made with whatever seafood is fresh that day. I pulled this recipe out of his fabulous new cookbook, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen. He finishes the stew with heavy cream, which beautifully balances the acidity of the tomatoes.

The recipes in his cookbook really work. In Chef’s own words: “My food is not complicated. My food is meant to be made and eaten. I just want to make sure that when you’re done cooking, every person you know will say, ‘That’s a great freaking dish.’”

And, really, isn’t that the exact reaction we all want?

Fabio's Italian Kitchen-Seafood Cioppino

Fabio’s Italian Kitchen Cookbook


Chef Fabio and Me


Extra Helpings: Kosher Salt vs. Table Salt


Blanca asks: What is the difference between regular salt and kosher salt? If I don’t have kosher salt, can I just use regular salt in my recipe?

There’s something so flamboyantly romantic and artistic when a chef reaches into a crock for a pinch of salt and throws it into the food with a flourish (and, no, Mama doesn’t find it the least bit show-offish). It just wouldn’t have the same effect if the chef stood there with a saltshaker… shaking, shaking, shaking… would it?

Anyhow, that’s kosher salt the chef is using… not table salt.

Chefs love kosher salt because the large grains make it easy to season with and because it dissolves slowly in cooking. It’s also chemical free, so it tastes better.

Unlike kosher salt, anti-caking chemicals are added to table salt to help it flow freely out of the saltshaker. Iodine is also in there, and has been since 1924, when the government asked the Morton Salt Co. to add it to its product. (People weren’t getting enough iodine in their diets, so the government stepped i… hard to imagine that happening today without an uproar, huh?).

Table salt also weighs more than kosher salt, so that’s another reason why you can’t substitute it equally.

So to answer your question, there is a difference: texture, taste and weight.

Oh, one other thing… and as long as no organic ingredient is introduced into it, salt, kosher or table, keeps forever. For more info about different kinds of salt, click here.


I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: