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Around the world in 5 days with amazing summer salads….Day 1 Thailand (Yum Nua)

by Michael McDevit
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“When it comes to beef salad, there is no other way but spicy,” says chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon of Kalaya restaurant in Philadelphia. Bursting with sliced aromatics like chiles, garlic, and lemongrass, it’s as spicy as it is bright, with handfuls of herbs and plenty of lime juice. The salad’s adaptability has made it a mainstay in her life, as well as on the menu at Kalaya. In this version, she swaps the Thai eggplant she uses in the restaurant for tomatoes. But, she advises, “You can throw in any vegetable you have, as long as you have the main ingredients: the beef and all the herbs.” The toasted rice powder is key for adding texture and a hint of smokiness. Toasting your own (preferably using sweet rice, but any white rice will work) is the way to go.


Dressing and rice powder

Thai Beef Salad (gluten free + dairy free) - Baked Ambrosia
  • ½ cup sweet white rice or regular short-grain or other white rice
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Place rice in a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, tossing often, until golden brown and deeply nutty–smelling, 12–15 minutes. Let cool, then finely grind in a spice mill or mortar and pestle; set aside.
  • Meanwhile, stir lime juice, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Do ahead: You can toast and grind the rice a few days in advance (as Suntaranon does). If the smokiness and aroma have faded at all, just toss it in briefly hot skillet to refresh.

Beef and assembly

  • 1 lb. top sirloin steak, New York strip steak, or other nicely marbled cut of beef, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for grate or skillet
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb. small and medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tops trimmed, tough outer layers removed, very thinly sliced
  • 2 long hot chiles, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 2 cups mint leaves
  • 1 lb. cucumbers, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • Lime wedges (for serving)


Beef and salad

  • Place beef in a large bowl and add fish sauce, sugar, and 2 Tbsp. oil. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour, or cover and chill up to 1 day ahead.
  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat or heat a large skillet over medium-high. Oil grate or lightly coat skillet with oil. Season beef with salt and black pepper and grill until browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Turn over and grill on other side just until lightly browned (meat should still be slightly pink in the center), about 45 seconds.
  • Toss tomatoes, shallot, scallions, lemongrass, chiles, garlic, cilantro, mint, 1 lb. cucumbers, and 1 tsp. rice powder in a medium bowl to combine. Drizzle half of dressing over and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
  • Add beef to salad. Drizzle with more dressing as desired and top with more cucumber slices and 1 tsp. rice powder (save remaining rice powder in an airtight container at room temperature for another use). Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Recipe by Nok Suntaranon, Kalaya, Philadelphia

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