I will never forget my first Thai meal. Actually, I take that back; the details are a little fuzzy and I can’t remember what I ate or where it was. I just remember how it changed my life. The food was so fresh and exciting…so different. After that night, I was on a mission to learn how to make this amazing cuisine. It was back in the early 80′s and there were very few Thai restaurants, so I had to either do lots of driving or learn to make it at home. There were very few cookbooks around and no Internet, making it even more challenging. I just did what I had to do; I sought out Thai people and befriended them…I ate out a lot…I even took a trip to Thailand. After many years of trial and error I am happy to say with the upmost confidence that I got this one. Of all my favorite Thai dishes I have to say that my favorite is beef salad. Like everything under the sun there are numerous variations. One of my favorites is called “Nuer Nam Tok” or “Waterfall Beef”. The name comes from the sound grilling meat make as the juices and fat drip on to the coals during the grilling process. One of the things that separate this salad from other beef salads is the roasted rice powder (Khao Koor) that is sprinkled on top giving it a unique flavor and texture. Uncooked rice is roasted until it is brown, then it is pulverized to form a grainy powder. I have made this salad using many different cuts of meat including top sirloin, filet, flank, and tri tip. The important thing is that it should be a little on the lean side, tender, and grilled RARE. It will require tasting and adjusting as you go in order to get the right balance of heat, salt, and sour. เพลิดเพลิน (enjoy)
Thai Beef Salad
- 2 lb. beef (filet, top sirloin, tri-tip, or flank)
- 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 4 cups lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
- 2-3 medium tomatoes cut into large chunks
- 2-3 small cucumbers, sliced (pickling or Persian variety)
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
- 3-4 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro, torn
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 3-4 tablespoons rice powder (Khao Koor)
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup white jasmine rice, uncooked (for rice powder)
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Start out preparing the rice powder (Khao Koor). Take about a half cup of uncooked white rice and brown it in a pan on the top of the stove stirring constantly to achieve a uniform golden brown. Remove from heat and let it cool. Pour into a blender and pulverize it. It should be like grains of sand. Put it in an airtight container. You will not be using it all; there will be some left over that will make it easier to whip this dish up again next time.
Prepare the dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients and set it aside.
To begin preparing the salad, line a serving dish with some chopped lettuce. Next arrange the tomatoes and cucumbers on top of the lettuce. You can use any fresh vegetables that you like, but I usually stick with tomatoes and cucumbers. I don’t like this salad cold, so I prepare the dressing and vegetable plate and leave it out (keep it covered).
A few hours before grilling, generously pepper the steak on both sides with fresh ground black pepper, place in a non-reactive dish and add 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce. If it is going to be a while before you cook it keep it in the refrigerator: take it out before grilling so that it can come to room temperature. Grill the beef on the BBQ until it is rare to medium rare. DO NOT OVERCOOK! You can also sear it on a grill pan if a BBQ isn’t available; it just won’t have as much flavor. Place the cooked beef on a board and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing into 1/4 inch slices that are about 2 inches long. Put the sliced beef in a bowl and add the red onion, green onions, cilantro, mint and red pepper flakes. Don’t overdo the red pepper. You can always add more later on or omit it altogether if you don’t like it hot. Next add the dressing and toss. The final step before plating it to add the rice powder. The rice will eventually soak up the dressing and lose some of its crunch, so add it just before plating and serving. Taste and adjust the seasoning…you may add more rice powder or red chili flakes as needed. You can also add more lime juice or fish sauce if it isn’t salty or sour enough. When you are pleased with the results, place the meat over the lettuce and you are ready to serve.