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.
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
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.
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.
© 2005 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.