Truth be told, I didn't expect to find a spot on version of a Thai Beef Salad in Patricia Wells's Salad as a Meal. There were plenty of beautifully composed salads with a French lean, but authentic flavors of southeast Asia? Definitely not what I was expecting.
I've got to hand it to Wells—her Thai Beef Salad beats the pants off of any Thai takeout version I've encountered. With a base of juicy rare roast beef slices marinated in a lime-fish sauce dressing, the salad is composed of thinly sliced cucumbers and red onion, chiles, and sweet cherry tomatoes tossed in that same fantastic dressing. On top of the veggies go a shower of bright herbs—cilantro, mint, basil, and kaffir lime leaves if you can find them—as well as a handful of salty roasted peanuts. Crunchy, salty, sour, sweet, spicy, and remarkably fresh, this salad can be made with chicken, shrimp, or even thinly sliced tofu.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Salad as a Meal to give away this week.
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Phu Quoc brand
- 1 tablespoon best quality sesame oil (such as Leblanc)
- 2 teaspoons tamari or other Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 plump, moist garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed, and minced
- 1 pound rare roast beef, cut across the grain into paper-thin slices, then into thin strips
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 large cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on the diagonal (do not peel)
- 1 red onion, peeled, halved crosswise, and cut into thin rings
- 2 fresh red bird’s-eye chiles, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 cup fresh mint, leaves only, large leaves torn
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
- 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only, large leaves torn
- 1/3 cup toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, center veins removed, cut into julienne
In the small jar, whisk together the citrus juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, tamari, ginger, and garlic. Cover and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning.
Layer the beef in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour half the dressing over the beef. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, turning the meat from time to time, to infuse the meat with the dressing.
At serving time, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and chiles in a large, shallow bowl. Toss with the remaining dressing. Add the beef and toss to coat. Serve, garnished with the herbs, peanuts, and kaffir lime leaves.