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April 1, 2011

Beef Salad... Thai or Vietnamese?

I am not a master of South-East Asian foods, and not sure if the following recipe is Thai or Vietnamese style... probably closer to Vietnamese. I just love the combination of fish sauce, mint, honey, lemongrass, cilantro, ginger, and garlic. The salad can be served at room temperature with rice noodle.

A Beef Salad
from somewhere in South-East Asia

(Yield: 4 servings / Cooking time: 45 minutes)

+ 1 pound flank steak (or skirt steak)
+ arugula (or watercrest)
+ cherry tomatoes, halved
+ 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
+ cilantro leaves (as much as you want)
+ (optional) dried rice noodle (for 4 servings)

Salad Dressing
+ 1.5 Tbsp fish sauce
+ 1/2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
+ 4 Tbsp lime juice & 1 Tbsp lime zest (from 2-3 limes)
+ 1 Tbsp honey
+ 1 stick of lemon grass (1.5 Tbsp chopped lemon grass)
+ 1/2 cup mint, chopped
+ 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
+ 1/4 tsp garlic, minced


1. First, Prepare all the ingredients for salad and dressing.

- Arugula: Wash well and drain the excess water.
- Cherry tomato: Half each tomato.
- Red onion: slice as thin as possible. It will be easier if you use a mandoline.
- Limes: wash well and make 1 Tbsp of zest and 4 Tbsp of lime juice.

- Mint: Wash well and pick only the green leaves (try not to use bruised black ones), and chop finely.
- Lemon grass: Peel off tough woody outer leaves. Wash well and use only the soft inside. Chop finely.
- Garlic and ginger: Mince finely or grate with a grater.
- Cilantro: Wash well and pick the green leaves.

2.In a small bowl, add fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, and honey. Mix the prepared lime zest, mint, lemon grass, garlic and ginger, and stir well. Set aside until use.

3. If your steak has sinew, please remove them.

4. Heat a heavy bottom pan over high heat. When the pan is heated, drizzle vegetable oil and lay the steaks carefully into the skillet to avoid splatters. Sear the steak on each side for about 4-5 minutes to cook it to medium or medium-rare (internal temperature = 130-140°F). The steak should be nicely browned outside and still juicy and pink inside.

5. Take the steak out and rest* in a wired rack for about 15 min.

*Resting means putting your cooked meat at warm area for a while right after you cook, to distribute the juice in the meat evenly and relax the tightened meat muscle during cooking.

6. Slice the beef thinly against the grain, and mix the beef with the dressing from #2.

7. Toss the beef with thinly sliced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes, arugula (or watercrest) and topped with cilantro leaves. You can serve the beef salad over rice noodle (rice noodle is optional).

How to cook dried rice noodle:
If you cook dried rice noodle in a way you would cook regular wheat noodle in a boiling water, the rice noodle becomes very mush. The reason is rice noodle doesn't have much of gluten which gives structure to the noodle --- rice is gluten-free. To cook dried rice noodle, first boil a pot of water and when the water starts boiling, turn off the heat and deep the dried noodle in hot water. Cover the pot with a lid and leave it around 5-10 min (depends on the thickness of the rice noodle). When the noodle is soften enough, take it out and rinse with cold running water.



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