Foodie Friday: Thai-Inspired Beef Salad

Stay cool this summer with a Thai-inspired salad.

Thai- inspired Beef Salad:

3 lbs chuck steak

1 cup fresh mint leaves

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

1 cup fresh basil (wash all the fresh herbs and dry thoroughly; pluck leaves and tender stems to use in the salad)

a few fresh red chili peppers

*1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)

*1/2 cup soy sauce

*1/2 cup sesame seed oil

*1 small packet star anise seed (optional)

1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

4-6 plump green limes

1 tablespoon sugar

1 packet arugula (rocket) leaves

1 punnet of red cherry tomatoes

2 cucumbers

1 clove of garlic

2 red bell peppers

2 tablespoons uncooked ground and roasted rice (optional)

*The larger supermarkets stock these ingredients in their international section. These are also found at any local Asian grocer.  

Salad dressing:

In a clean bowl mix together:

1/2 cup sesame oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 minced clove of garlic

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Store in a cool place until ready to use

How to put your salad together:

The day before your dinner take care of the following: Place the piece of beef in a heavy pot that has a well-fitting lid. The pot should accommodate the meat snugly. Pour 1 cup of cold water into the pot. Add a 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook over a very small flame in the lidded pot for 2 to 3 hours or until very tender. Check once or twice in the course of the cooking time to ensure the liquid does not run dry. Turn the piece of meat over once. When very tender, turn the heat off and leave to cool in any remaining liquid. Refrigerate overnight. Do not attempt to shred the meat while still warm — it will dry the meat out.

Slice the two red bell peppers into thin strips and store in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate. Slice off the ends of the 2 cucumbers. Peel, discard the centers and slice into thin ribbons. Store this in a bag too, and refrigerate. Thinly slice 1 to 2 red chili peppers, depending on your heat resistance. Discard most of the seeds.

An hour before your guests arrive, take all your salad ingredients out of the refrigerator.

In your favorite large salad bowl: Remove the piece of meat from its liquid , and shred roughly by hand. Use a thick shred, which retains the flavor of the dressing. Discard any fatty bits and gristle. Add the strips of red bell pepper, cucumber ribbons and sliced chili pepper. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes, and add to the bowl. Cover and set aside in a cool place.

Meanwhile cook some jasmine rice as you would normally (about three measured cups rice for six people). When the rice is cooked, turn your attention back to the salad for the final touches. Mix the salad dressing well until all the ingredients are combined, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and pour a little at a time over the salad. Be sure to pour enough dressing to coat the salad with a luxurious gloss, but not enough to make it soggy, and the leaves to wilt immediately. Toss in the fresh herbs— basil, cilantro, mint— with torn arugula leaves. Lastly, sprinkle in the ground rice and peanuts. Viola! It is ready for the table. Serve with a small mound of steamed rice on the side. Press a star anise seed on the top of the rice mound for a pretty effect. If available, arrange slices of star fruit along the edge of the plate.

Tasty Extras

In Thailand, this salad is taken to another level of sublime with the addition of fruits such as pomelo or green mango. You can sometimes find pomelo at large, well-stocked supermarkets in the summer. They are much like an oversized grapefruit and have a thick, spongy, pale yellow skin when ripe. Add pieces as you would orange segments, minus the white pith. For a mango variation, choose a fruit that is firm and more green than yellow. Peel and cut into very thin slivers to add to your salad. This salad can also be substituted with pork or, for a really quick weeknight meal, shred a store-bought roasted chicken.

Decorate your dinner plate with slices of star fruit or pretty chili flowers. Here’s how to make the flowers: Using a very sharp paring knife, slit the chili from tip to almost the base. Make about four slits. Drop the chilies into icy cold water where they will curl out after a few hours chilling and look like exotic red blooms.

The ground rice ingredient in the salad offers the finest of crunch — typically Thai. Dry roast two tablespoons of uncooked rice until the grains change from translucent to opaque. Remove immediately from the saucepan (or it will continue to cook). Pulverize in a coffee grinder.

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