It was winter one day, spring the next, and summer on the third. I'm not complaining.
This salad is summery, without a doubt and the epitome of Southeast Asian food in that it hits all of the taste elements: hot, sour, salty and sweet. You might take one look at the list of ingredients and quickly move on but I urge you not to. There may be many products you don't have on hand but there are also easy, familiar pantry staples that are fine stand-ins.
I love this salad for dinner or as part of a casual party. Don't eat beef? Make it with chicken. You'll have a little extra dressing leftover, maybe even enough for another round of salad. It also makes for a great marinade for chicken.
I was reading another blog recently and the author declared something along the lines of "I will never ask you to chiffonade!" Really? Why not? It's SO not a big deal and something you could teach a monkey to do. You also preserve so much of the oils in the leaves (basil, mint) when you cut them into thin ribbons rather than doing some hatchet job on your cutting board and leaving all the flavor behind. Here is the breakdown:
Take your leaves and stack them (probably 10 is a good maximum number)
Roll them into something that looks like a fat cigarette. I know you can figure this out.
Cut them into thin ribbons with a sharp knife. Done.
And while I am taking it back to basics a bit, I think it's a good time to go over cooking vegetables. If you are going to boil veggies, there are three things that you MUST do if you want to get the most out of your expensive food:
1. Really salt your water. Like to the point where it actually tastes like seawater.
2. Cook them ONLY until they are still firm to the bite. This will leave you room to prepare them ahead of time and re-heat (and season them) later without overcooking.
3. "Shock" them in a bowl of ice water. This step stops the cooking process and brings out the most color. Drain them after they have cooled completely and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use.
I served this salad with some sticky rice but it's great on its own.
thai beef salad
for the marinade:
1/3 c soy
3 T fish sauce (or more soy)
2 T sugar
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass, touch outer leaves removes and thinly sliced
1 bird chili (or a jalapeño, or crush red pepper)
zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 lbs rib eye steaks
for the salad:
about 6 cups of mixed spring greens
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into crescents
1 big beefsteak tomato, quartered
10 mint leaves, chiffonade
cooked green beans (use Chinese long beans if you can find them for extra crunch; I used haricot vert, the smaller French-style beans)
1/2 c cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 c dry roasted lightly salted peanuts, roughly chopped
for the dressing:
1/2 c neutral oil
2 T coconut vinegar (or cider or just use more lime juice)
juice of 1 lime
1 T jaggery or brown sugar
1 T tamarind paste (or more lime juice)
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bird chilies, stemmed and seeded
1 T fish sauce (or soy)
1 T toasted sesame oil (optional)
In a dish large enough to hold the steaks, combine all of the marinade ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Before you slice the lemongrass, give the stalk a few whacks on your counter to get the oils flowing.
Marinate the steaks for at least an hour, turning them once half-way through.
Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a blender and whiz together. You can make this up to a week in advance.
Grill the beef to medium rare and let rest while you make the salad.
Dress the salad, lay the sliced beef over the top and pour on some of the juices from the cutting board. Top with the peanuts and serve.