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Dishin’ on the Dish: shaking beef at Sochi Saigonese Kitchen

The beef tenderloin is cut into 2-inch cubes and sits in a marinade that includes oyster sauce and pepper for at least three hours. When the steak is ready, it’s fried on high heat.

What’s cookin’ in and around Chicago? Here’s a closer look at one of the area’s delicious dishes you don’t want to miss.

When Chinh Pham and Son Do moved to Chicago a few years ago, the Vietnamese couple were disappointed they couldn’t find a restaurant that they felt was a proper representation of their country’s culture.

So, Pham and Do decided to bring the flavors of their hometown of Ho Chi Minh City to Chicago, opening Sochi Saigonese Kitchen in Lake View earlier this year. The menu features traditional Vietnamese food, with some elevated takes on classic dishes.

Shaking Beef is served at Sochi Saigonese Kitchen.
Shaking Beef is served at Sochi Saigonese Kitchen.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The wife-and-husband duo, who met while studying business in college, don’t have conventional culinary backgrounds. But they’re self-proclaimed foodies and spent years traveling the world to try new cuisines. Pham said she learned how to cook from her mother.

Every day for their first five years in the U.S., Pham and Do made meals at home they hoped to one day put on the menu at their dream restaurant.

When Sochi Saigonese Kitchen started to become a reality, the couple knew there was one dish in particular that they had to include: Shaking beef. It’s a traditional dish from their hometown, which is still known as Saigon by locals, Pham said. It was a childhood favorite for both of them.

Growing up poor, Pham and Do said shaking beef was the type of meal they had when their families had money to splurge on a meal.

“That is the dish that we all want to have because it’s so good, but it’s expensive,” Pham said and Do agreed. “So that’s why we have a very good memory about it,” she added.

Pham said they tried to stay true to the traditional dish. The beef tenderloin is cut into 2-inch cubes and sits in a marinade that includes oyster sauce and pepper for at least three hours. When the steak is ready, it’s fried on high heat.

Chinh Pham (left) and Son Do (right) are the co-owners of Sochi Saigonese Kitchen.
Chinh Pham (left) and Son Do (right) are the co-owners of Sochi Saigonese Kitchen.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“The concept of that dish is try to keep the original beef flavor,” she said. “But at the same time, you want to enhance it a little bit, make it more tasty by like using the flame to burn the outside of the meat.”

Meanwhile, the rendered bone marrow is mixed with roasted garlic and thyme. That goes into the fried rice, which is also mixed with ketchup, Do said.

The dish is “very simple,” Pham said, but it makes for a flavorful meal. “The main thing is when you eat it together with a little bit of the fried garlic and then the rice itself with the seasoning of the ketchup and the beef, it’s a very good combination,” she added.

Sochi Saigonese Kitchen, 1358 W. Belmont Ave. The shaking beef costs $32. https://www.sochikitchen.com

Got a favorite dish from a Chicago-area restaurant? Let us know via email at: dishinonthedish@suntimes.com.