Thai-Style Beef Salad

With Coriander, Mint, Lime and Peanuts

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

Appears in

Salads

Salads

By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

  • About

I first ate a salad much like this in Melbourne in 1982, at a Thai restaurant on Brunswick Street, and I was blown away by the freshness of it all. The heat of the chilli was tempered by palm sugar and highlighted by the mint and coriander. It just reeked of ‘fresh’... if there’s such a thing. Travelling through Thailand 4 years later, I encountered a few different versions, but all with the same basic philosophy of heat, sweet and herbs. I’ve made this many times over the years and at The Sugar Club restaurant, where I was head chef for many years, I put it on the menu made with kangaroo fillet – it became an instant hit with the customers and remained on even after I left. I’ve made it using salmon and tuna, and rare-cooked duck as well. It’s also excellent as a starter salad (it will serve 6–8 people) or use it as part of an Asian-inspired buffet. You can make it from beef fillet, sirloin or rump steak; it will be as tender as the cut of meat you choose. For this recipe, I have used fillet.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (groundnut oil works well here)
  • 600 g beef fillet, trimmed of all sinew and fat
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons white rice
  • 3 banana shallots, thinly sliced (or use 4–6 regular round shallots)
  • 2 handfuls of roasted, skinless peanuts, roughly chopped (or use the caramelized peanuts)
  • handful of mint leaves, stems removed and large leaves torn in half
  • 3 baby Gem lettuces or 1 large Cos or romaine lettuce

For the Coriander and Lime Dressing

  • bunch of coriander, ideally with the roots on
  • 1–2 hot red chillies, roughly chopped (more or less to taste, but you do want some fire in this dish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • finely grated zest of 2 limes and 150 ml lime juice (6–8 limes)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons grated palm sugar (or use demerara or brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Method

Rub the oil all over the beef and lightly season it. Leave to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature on a plate, covered with cling film.

Heat a heavy skillet or grill pan (or even the barbecue). Cook the beef over a quite fierce heat to colour a dark brown on all sides, obviously without burning, then remove from the pan and leave to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, which will help stop it bleeding when you slice it.

While it’s cooking and resting, you can make the dressing with a pestle and mortar or in a small food processor (although the former works better with smaller quantities). If you have the roots of the coriander, then cut them off, discard half and wash the remainder thoroughly (dirt has a way of sticking to them). Roughly chop enough of them to give you a teaspoonful and place in the mortar with the chillies, garlic and salt, and pound to a paste. Finely grate the zest off 2 of the limes, and juice them all, then add the zest to the mortar with the palm sugar and pound again. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and soy sauce, and mix thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Taste and see if it needs any further sweetness or saltiness, then adjust if necessary by adding either extra palm sugar or fish sauce. Remove the leaves from the coriander stems and cut the stems into 1 cm long pieces, then put the leaves and stems in a bowl.

Place the rice in a small pan and cook over moderate heat to colour it pale gold, shaking it often. Once cooked, take it off the heat and allow it to cool, then grind it fairly fine (but not to a powder) in a spice grinder or the mortar.

Once the beef has rested, slice it thinly against the grain and place the slices in a bowl with the shallots, half the peanuts and most of the mint and coriander leaves. Pour on all of the dressing and gently toss together.

To Serve

Divide the salad leaves among 4 plates and then place the beef salad on top of that. Scatter the remaining peanuts, rice and herbs over as you serve it.