I’m content with salad as a meal provided that it delivers in the flavor department. This salad is sure to please your inner omnivore. Just enough meat to satisfy your carnivorous side, yet with a good assortment of vegetables (lettuce, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, shallot) and herbs (Thai basil and mint) to please the herbivore.
For this dish, I used a flat iron cut of beef (from Rineer Family Farm, PA). If you’re not familiar with the flat iron cut, it comes from the shoulder of the cow. It’s well-marbled, which means more intramuscular fat, which translates into more flavor (fat = flavor). It’s very tender (the second most tender cut after the tenderloin). If you can’t find flat iron, you could use ribeye, hanger, flank, or skirt. The dressing for this salad is a combination of lime juice, fish sauce, a pinch of sugar, and chiles — salty and sour with a bit of heat.
And, as with any good salad, you need some crunch. In this case, the crunch comes from toasted and ground rice. It adds a nutty, toasty element to the salad. You simply dry-roast the rice (preferably a Thai sticky glutinous rice) in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until nice and brown and toasty, about 10 to 15 minute. Then you grind the rice to a powder using either a mortar and pestle or, for an easier approach, a spice grinder. You can prepare the rice powder in advance and store it in an airtight container in your pantry. You can also find toasted rice powder at most Asian markets (aka khao khua), though it’s a snap to make it yourself.
With minimal chopping and slicing, this delicious salad comes together within minutes. Grab a pair of chopsticks and dig in.
To make the toasted rice…a mortar and pestle is traditional (and looks good for photo purposes), but a spice grinder will do the job in mere seconds (my preferred method). You’re looking for the consistency of a stone-ground flour.
Dinner is served. Perhaps I’ll get the rice cooker out and serve the salad with a side of rice.
Thai Beef Salad with Toasted Rice
8 ounces flat-iron steak (~3/4-inch thick)
sea salt and freshly ground
1 tablespoon of oil
1 head of green or red leaf lettuce, torn into pieces
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
handful of [Thai] basil and mint, chopped
dressing (recipe to follow)
1 tablespoon toasted ground rice (recipe to follow)
Let the steak come up to room temperature. Pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet. When smoking hot, add the steak to the pan. Cook 2 minutes, flip and cook another 2 minutes for medium-rare (cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your cut). Remove from the pan and let rest 10 minutes. Slice into thin strips.
Mix the lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, shallot, and herbs. Toss with some of the dressing. Place on a large serving plate. Top with the seared meat. Drizzle a little more dressing over the meat. Sprinkle with the toasted rice and a few more herbs on top.
3 tablespoons *fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
pinch of sugar
1 to 2 Thai bird’s eye chiles, thinly sliced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
*I keep a jar of fish sauce with chopped Thai (bird’s eye) chiles in the fridge. It’s got some heat. I used this spicy fish sauce in the dressing.
Toasted Rice Powder
Dry roast a couple tablespoons of rice (preferably a Thai sticky glutinous rice) in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until nice and brown and toasty, about 10 to 15 minute. Grind to a powder with a mortar or pestle (or, for an easier approach, a spice grinder works very well).
You can prepare the rice powder in advance and store it in an airtight container in the pantry.