In its earliest form, beef pares was just boiled beef and rice, with complimentary broth on the side. The plain boiled beef cutlets, regular meat or offal, arranged on a mound of rice, magically came alive when generously garnished with fried garlic, fried shallots and finely sliced shallots.
If I have to make a guess, I’d say that the origin of pares comes from an attempt to make cheaper cuts of beef saleable to diners looking for an inexpensive meal.
Years and years later, as beef pares became more popular and pares houses competed to come up with versions that captured the market better, the beef topping turned into a sweet-salty stew and, in most cases, the complimentary beef broth disappeared.
Cook the beef / make the broth
- Rinse the beef and wipe dry with a kitchen towel.
- Heat a thick-bottomed pan and coat the the bottom with a tablespoon of cooking oil.
- Brown the beef on all sides.
- Pour in eight cups of water.
- Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns, ginger, bay leaves and two tablespoons fish sauce.
- Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for about two hours or until the beef easily separates from the bones.
- Scoop out the beef and set aside.
- Strain the broth.
- Reserve two cups of broth, pour the remaining broth into a clean pan and set over low heat. Taste and add more fish sauce, if needed. Keep the broth hot.
Make the sweet-salty sauce
- Pour the reserved broth into a pan.
- Add the soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and star anise.
- Add the beef to the sauce and simmer, turning the beef over occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
- Mix the starch with two tablespoons of water and a teaspoon of soy sauce.
- Pour the starch solution into the pan with the beef, and stir until thickened and no longer cloudy.
- Taste the sauce and add more soy sauce, sugar or both, depending on what your taste buds dictate.
Assemble your beef pares
- Ladle cooked rice on plates or shallow bowls.
- Arrange pieces of beef on top of the rice.
- Drizzle sauce over the beef.
- Garnish with fried garlic, fried shallots, scallions and cilantro.
- Serve your beef pares with hot broth on the side.