Chef Shawn Pham’s Heavenly Beef

Don't toss those cilantro roots! Grind them down into a bright, herbaceous marinade instead with this recipe for Heavenly Beef from chef Shawn Pham of Simbal.

These days there’s plenty of talk about working the whole animal — snout to tail — onto the menu. But what about the whole plant? For this week’s Market Report, we take a trip to the Hollywood Farmers Market to talk with chef Shawn Pham about cooking with cilantro roots at Simbal in Little Tokyo. Pham sources his cilantro from farmer Kong Thao because his stalks come with roots attached.

Rather than discarding the roots, Pham grinds his down with garlic, salt and white peppercorns in a stone mortar, using a pestle to break up the tough root fibers. The resulting cilantro root paste has an aromatic, herbaceous quality that balances the other pungent ingredients in his Heavenly Beef marinade. Traditionally, this Thai dish calls for “[leaving] it on the roof of your house for two days after you marinate it” to intensify the funk, though you won’t see Pham’s fermenting on the roof of Simbal.

Instead, he suggests flash-frying the meat in a small amount of dry-aged, rendered beef fat for an extra layer of umami-rich flavors. That works for us. Try his recipe for Simbal’s Heavenly Beef below.

Pestle & Mortar by Steven Lilley
Stone mortar and pestle. (Photo by Steven Lilley)

Heavenly Beef photo (top) by Camellia Tse/KCRW.