February is here and I’m already googling “When is daylight savings time?” February means we’re just that much closer to spring, and sunshine, and warmer weather – opening up all the windows, letting the fresh breeze in and sipping rosé on the patio. OK – We’re admittedly a ways off from that. But, how about we liven up these remaining rainy days of winter with a bright and beautiful salad?
This Thai Beef Salad is loaded with intense, tangy flavors – Citrus, lemongrass, mint and cilantro dance around with a bit of lime juice, spicy jalapenos, and a pinch of brown sugar to lend some sweetness and balance it all out.
There’s a couple ingredients in this Thai Beef Salad that you may not be too familiar with. The first is fish sauce – As I warned you before, don’t be scared of the fish sauce – It can smell quite pungent out of the bottle, but once it gets mixed with the other ingredients you won’t even know it’s there. It just gives a nutty, salty, umami characteristic to the dish. That hint of something extra that just takes this salad over the top. Fish sauce has definitely gained popularity over the past decade, I think as more and more people are exploring with cooking asian dishes at home. Because of that, you should be able to find it easily in the international foods aisle of your supermarket.
The second somewhat obscure ingredient is the toasted rice powder. I like to think of this rice powder as my Thai alternative to croutons. It gives an amazing crunch to the Thai Beef Salad and has a nutty, almost creamy flavor to it. To make it, just toast some white rice grains in a small sauté pan and then grind them up using a mortar and pestle, until the’re about the size of breadcrumbs. You can also use a coffee grinder to get that breadcrumb like texture – Honestly, that’s what I do most often. Just be sure to run a batch of rice through there first, before you grind up the rice that you’re actually going to eat – That way you can wipe it clean and be sure that no coffee grounds remain. Tip: This is also a great way to clean your coffee grinder. Regardless of how you prepare it, don’t skip the rice powder, I guarantee it’s worth the extra little bit of effort, and just adds that perfect finishing touch.
This salad is one that I find myself constantly ordering when out to eat at Thai restaurants and I’ve heard it called so many different things:
- Crying Tiger Beef Salad
- Nam Tok
- Waterfall Beef Salad
I’ve also found that the heat level can vary so much from restaurant to restaurant. I like my food spicy, but at some Thai restaurants, medium is like burn-your-face-off hot. Others, you can barely notice the heat. That’s one benefit to making this Thai Beef Salad at home. Taste the dressing as you go and add more or less jalapeno or red pepper flakes to suit your taste. Keep in mind that jalapenos themselves can vary so much in heat depending on factors like the season or their size. And, while you’re tasting for heat, it’s also a great time to add more or lime juice, sugar, or fish sauce. Give it a taste and adjust – you’re looking for the perfect balance of spicy, salty, sweet. Trust me, when you hit that sweet spot, you’ll know!
Toss all your ingredients together and top it all off with a steak that’s been cooked perfectly to medium-rare and prepare to dig in…
Have you ever ordered this Thai Beef Salad in a restaurant? What was it called? Crying Tiger? Waterfall? Beef Salad? Tell me in the comments below!
30-Minute Thai Beef Salad
30-Minute Thai Beef Salad is tangy, spicy, amazingly delicious yet deceptively easy to make. Topped with toasted rice powder for a bit of crunch. It's a healthy salad that tastes so decadent!
- 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1-inch thick New York strip steak 9 to 10 oz.
- 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves loosely packed, roughly chopped
- 3 Tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
- 2 Tablespoons uncooked rice
- Lettuce of your choosing
- Cherry tomatoes halved
Mince the garlic and one of the chile halves and place in a small bowl. Slice the remaining chile half into thin rings and add it to the bowl, along with the lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, brown sugar, and red chile flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, if needed. Stir well and set aside.
Put rice in a small frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are toasted and golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and then grind into a coarse powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sear the steak until it is well browned on one side, 5 to 6 min. Flip and cook until the second side is dark brown and the meat is medium rare, another 5 to 6 min. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 min. Slice the steak thinly and then cut into bite-size pieces.
In a medium bowl, combine the beef (and any accumulated juices), shallots, mint, and cilantro. Stir the dressing and pour it on top. Toss gently. Add the ground toasted rice, and toss.
If you loved this recipe I would appreciate it so much if you would give it a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish are share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings.
Wine Pairings for Thai Beef Salad:
- Rieslings pair great with spicy dishes. Mouthwatering acidity, intense fruit, and a hint of sweetness compliment this salad amazingly well.
- A Viogner or dry Rosé would also be great with this dish.
Note: This post was originally published in May 2015. It was updated in January 2017 to revise the pictures. The delicious recipe, however, remains the same.
Looking for more Thai food recipes? Be sure to try these too:
- Larb Gai Thai Lettuce Wraps
- Easy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
- Lemongrass Thai Chicken Salad
- 30 Minute Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil
- Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)