This is a summer dish in Thailand which is often served as an appetizer. It is incredibly flavorful, bursting with umami notes using a zesty dressing. It is becoming more popular in other countries as well and just about every Thai restaurant will have this on their menu. It is meant to be shared so I will be making a recipe for 4 people here.
The primary ingredient of this salad is of course, beef. For those that think a salad must only be vegetarian in nature I assure you this is an authentic Thai dish and is considered a salad in its country of origin.
The first step is to marinate the beef in a mixture of light soy sauce and black pepper. Only 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce is needed and maybe 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper for 2 lbs of meat. Let the meat sit for 1 hour in the marinade, covered and refrigerated.
You will want to peel the cucumber, seed and then dice it. Chop the tomato into chunks too. Chop the shallots well but don’t mince them. And wash the cilantro and pull the leaves off. We want about a cup of packed leaves which we will coarsely chop. Cut 3 scallions into 1″ pieces.
Squeeze the juice from 2 whole limes into a cup and add a round teaspoon of sugar. To that add a teaspoon of minced lemon grass and 1/3 cup of fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of thin (Thai) soy sauce. This will be our dressing.
Mix the dessing well to dissolve the sugar. Our next step will be to grill the meat.
This is a matter of personal taste but I like to cook the meat for this medium-medium rare. You can cook yours to your own prepared doneness. Most Thai restaurants will cook the meat well by law which is a shame.
I like to get a good sear on the outside of the steaks. Here I have used skirt steaks though many sites will recommend flat iron steaks. I like skirt steaks for their tenderness.
You will want to rest the meat for a good 10 minutes before you cut it. Cover the meat with foil while it rests.
After the meat has rested for a full 10 minutes you can slice it. I like to make pieces no bigger than about 2″ long and about 1/3″ wide. There will be lots of juice from the meat after it is grilled and cut. Do NOT waste this! Put that into the bowl as well.
Put the meat in a mixing bowl and add the other ingredients except for the spring greens.
I add the shallots first, then the scallions, cilantro, cucumber and tomatoes.
After the tomatoes and cucumber, mix the dressing well and drizzle it over the mixture. Mix well using tongs or your hands. I like to add a teaspoon of pepper flakes at this time and mix that in too but it is up to you. To serve, use a large serving dish and make a bed out of the spring greens and ladle the Beef Salad over the greens.
That fantastic dressing ensures that diners won’t just eat the meat and skip over the greens. They will want every savory drop of that dressing with whatever it touches. This is one of my favorite dishes and the dressing does not taste like fish despite having fish sauce as a main ingredient. Just a deep umami goodness.
Thai Beef Salad (serves 3-4 as a main course or 6-8 as an appetizer)
- 2 lbs skirt or flat iron steak.
- 2-3 cups spring greens, washed.
- 2-3 large shallots chopped well
- 1 cup cilantro leaves washed and coarsely chopped
- 1-2 tomatoes diced (depending on size)
- 3 scallions cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced.
- juice from 2 whole limes
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 5 tablespoons thin soy sauce divided (Thai soy sauce).
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes or 1-2 minced fresh Thai chili peppers (optional)
- 1 tsp minced lemon grass stalk or paste (available from some grocers in a tube)
- 1 round tsp white sugar
- Marinate 2 lbs steaks for 1 hour covered in the refrigerator in a mixture of 3 tablespoons thin soy sauce and 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper.
- Grill steaks to desired doneness (medium rare or medium-medium rare works best).
- Mix lime juice, fish sauce, lemon grass, 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce and sugar in a cup until sugar is dissolved.
- Cut vegetables as needed.
- After meat is cooked, allow steaks to rest for 10 minutes covered.
- Slice meat into bite sized strips and add to a mixing bowl along with all the meat juice that is produced.
- Add remaining vegetables to the mixing bowl (except for spring greens).
- Drizzle the lime and fish sauce dressing into the mixing bowl and mix well by hand or with salad tongs.
- Add red pepper flakes or minced Thai chilis if desired.
- Cover a large serving plate with the spring greens and spoon the beef salad mixture over the top.