Spicy Thai Beef Salad
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Whoever said that Salads are dull and boring has clearly never eaten this dish. There is perhaps no better example to show naysayers of Salads being ‘boring’ than a Spicy Thai Beef Salad. The immense flavor that a well-made Thai Beef Salad produces will rival any dish in the world, and not just salads! The bold flavor profiles of sweet, salty, sour that exist in perfect harmony in this dish is a true culinary marvel. Combine those flavors with a beautifully cooked piece of Beef sliced on top and you’ve got a brilliant dish to enjoy!

A Sweet, Spicy, and Salty dressing brings an insane amount of flavor to this Spicy Thai Beef Salad dish

The dressing for a classic Thai Beef Salad packs so much punch. Every flavor profile in the dressing hits extreme limits, which is exactly what is called for with this dish. You want those beautifully contrasting flavors of spice, acid, and sweet to be bold and pronounced on the palate. The immense flavors are what makes a great Spicy Thai Beef Salad so memorable and delicious

Spicy dressing for Salad
The Sweet, Spicy, and Salty dressing is what makes this Salad so unique and flavorful

Acid

The acid component of the Salad comes from a combination of Limes and Fish Sauce. The Liquid in the dressing is purely acid from these two ingredients: the pure acidic flavor of the limes and a acidic, salty, funkiness from the Fish Sauce. Don’t be shy about either ingredient, as we need a generous amount of liquid to coat the Salad. This dish is for two people, so double the quantities if cooking for 4 people

Spice

Of course, this dish is packed full of spice! It’s called a Spicy Thai Beef Salad after all, so the inclusion of some fiery Chili’s is a mandatory. For the dressing we use 1 Red Chili, which has been finely diced. Try to cut it as finely as you can, it will help spice the entire dressing and make for a nicer overall presentation

The type of Chili you use will significantly scale up or down the heat accordingly. If you’re going for a truly Authentic Spicy Thai Beef Salad then we’d recommend using Thai Red Chilis. These things are insanely hot however, so proceed with caution, or use lesser spicy Chilis. You don’t need to include the seeds unless you want to. The Seeds are where all the heat lines in a Chili

Sweet

In my humble opinion, the key ingredient to a Thai Beef Salad is the Palm Sugar. The sweetness it brings is what makes this dish unique, and it is a defining characteristic of a good Thai Beef Salad. The sweetness is a critical component in the dressing as it helps to balance out the sharpness of the acid and spice

Palm Sugar is the preferred sugar to use and is what is traditionally used in cooking all across South-east Asia. It typically comes in a disc shape, which will need to be grated down to incorporate it into the dressing. We recommend using a grater or micro plane when grating the Palm Sugar for the best consistency. Be generous with the Palm Sugar, and taste as you go to ensure you’re happy with the result before dressing the Salad

Salad Ingredients for Beef Salad
Keep the Salad Ingredients simple, we used Tomato, Cucumber, Red Onion, Mint, and Cilantro and it turned out amazing

You can be creative with your Salad ingredients, but here are some of the more traditional ingredients

For our Spicy Thai Beef Salad, we’ve used Romaine Lettuce, Truss Tomatoes, Mint, Cilantro, Red Onion, and Cucumber as the Salad Ingredients. Feel free to get creative with what salad ingredients you use. The only ‘rule’ is that the mandatory ingredients in the Salad are Mint and Cilantro. These herbs are the cornerstone flavors of the dish. It simply wouldn’t be a Thai Beef Salad without them

It’s not in season at the time we made this dish, however another very popular ingredient is Green Papaya. Grate the Green Papaya into long, thin strands and mix them into the salad for a wonderful fresh flavor

It’s just not a dish from Thailand unless you’re using Cilantro in it. The dish has Cilantro in two component, the dressing and the Salad. For the dressing you want to use the Cilantro Stems, and save the leaves for the Salad

Chop up the stems into super-fine pieces. We recommend cutting them to the same shape and size as the Chilis for the best texture and presentation. The Cilantro stems are packed full of flavor, and add that wonderful freshness to the dressing which will help balance out the other intense ingredients in the dish

Spicy Thai Beef Salad cuts of Steak
The best cuts of Steak to use for this Spicy Thai Beef Salad are Flat Iron or NY Strip Steaks

What cut of Steak works best in a Spicy Thai Beef Salad dish?

You’re looking for a couple of key qualities in Steak for a great Thai Beef Salad. The first is tenderness. The steak itself needs to be a cut that is easy to cut and breaks away while being chewed. Understandably, the quality of the Steak will come down to the protein you’re buying and the quality of the sourcing

The Steak must be tender when bitten into

The reason you want a super tender cut of meat is because the Beef in a Thai Beef Salad is traditionally cut into long, thin slices. The slices should be easy enough to bite into and break away as you eat it. Therefore, having a tender cut of meat will make a huge difference to the eating experience

Low Fat cuts of Steak are best

The second quality you’re looking for is a lean cut of meat. This is not a dish that revels in high fat content steaks. No, quite the opposite in fact. This is a healthy, lean dish, so the cut of Steak will need to reflect this as well. Fatty Steaks will also yield a strange texture in this dish, given the Beef is served cold. We recommend trimming as much fat from the Steak you are using before cooking for the best result

Naturally, flavor is important!

The final criteria is taste which is, of course, a key criteria for any dish you’re cooking! However, the challenge with finding a cut of meat with the best flavor can be difficult when marrying its qualities with the first two criteria for our Thai Beef Salad of being a lean and tender cut of beef

Flat Iron Steak or NY Strip is the best choice of Beef

Therefore, our recommendation for the best cut of meat for a Spicy Thai Beef Salad is either NY Strip Steak or Flat Iron Steak. Both cuts tick the box for all three criteria of flavor, tenderness, and leanness

For the photos in this recipe, we used Flat Iron Steak, and it would be the cut we’d recommend. Primarily because it’s more affordable than NY Strip and is slightly more tender overall. Regardless, both cuts will serve you well in producing an amazing Spicy Thai Beef Salad dish!

Rare Steak on Spicy Thai Beef Salad
Cooking the Steak Rare will yield the optimal result for your Spicy Thai Beef Salad

We recommend cooking the Steak rare

For the best result, flavor and overall visual impact of the dish, we recommend cooking the Steak Rare. As we’re using a tender cut of meat, it will benefit from being cooked rare, as there is less fat to render out of the Beef. Remember, this is a dish that is served cold, including the Steak. Once a Steak cools, it ultimately becomes a little easiest to eat when cooked rare

We recommend taking the Steak of the heat once the internal temperature hits around 100 – 105F. Steaks will continue to cook once resting, and we’ll be resting these steaks for at least 30 minutes before serving, as it needs to cool. That internal temperature will increase to around the 110 – 115F mark, which is perfect for a Rare steak

A Thai Beef Salad has so many amazing textures to it, particularly in the toppings

One of the major qualities of a good quality Thai Beef Salad are the amazing textures when biting into it. From the juiciness of the Steak and crunch of those fresh vegetables, there’s so much going on with every mouthful in not just flavor, but taste

We’re huge fans of adding toppings to our dishes right before service, particularly Salads. Toppings are an opportunity to give a final touch of flavor, texture, and visual appeal before the dish gets placed in front of your hungry diners. For our Spicy Thai Beef Salad, we’re adding no less than 3 separate toppings to the dish, and once you taste it you’ll understand that each are critical to the success of the dish

Red Chilis

The first two are relatively straight forward, and toppings that you would typically expect from a spicy salad inspired by cuisine from Southeast Asia. Slice up some Red Chilis’ into thin pieces and sprinkle them over the top of the plated Salad. Yes, there is already heat in the salad dressing, but this is a Spicy Thai Beef Salad we’re making – so you want to bring the heat! Chili seeds are optional, so if you’re keen to live on the dangerous side then why not sprinkle a few over the salad

Peanuts

The second traditional topping is Peanuts. We like to lightly chop them, so you’ve got different shapes and sizes. This just brings unique textures to every bite of the dish. Peanuts are a great addition to Salads because of the great texture and flavor they bring. Peanuts are no stranger to South-east Asian cuisine, so will look and taste naturally at home on this Salad

Toasted Rice

The final topping is a little bit more unique, but very traditional to a Spicy Thai Beef Salad. That is Toasted and crushed Rice. To make this topping, add about ½ cup of Rice to a hot pan and toast for about 5 minutes until the rice is starting to turn golden-brown. Take it off the heat, then place in a mortar and pestle and grind it to a rough powder

The Powder is then sprinkled over the top of the dish and adds a wonderful, grainy-like texture which is so unique to this dish. The toasted flavor of the Toasted Rice is immense, almost adding a popcorn like flavor and smell to the dish. It’s truly unique, and delicious!

We used Sushi Rice for this dish, but any rice will work fine. A popular rice in the region is Jasmine rice, so it will make sense to use Jasmine Rice if you have some available

Recipe Details

Servings
Prep time

14 minutes

Cooking time

6 minutes

Total time

20 minutes

Spicy Thai Beef Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. Steak (NY Strip or Flat Iron Steak)
  • ½ cup Rice (Jasmine or Sushi Rice)
  • 2 cups Romaine Lettuce, roughly chopped
  • ½ Cucumber, finely sliced
  • ½ Red Onion, finely sliced
  • ½ cup of Fresh Mint, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup of Fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 Red Chili, deseeded and finely sliced
  • ½ cup Peanuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp. Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Dressing

  • 1 Red Chili, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. Cilantro Stems, finely diced
  • Juice of 3 Limes
  • 2 tsp. Fish Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Palm Sugar, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. Salt

Instructions

  1. Make the dressing by combining 1 Red Chili, Cilantro Stems, Juice of 3 Limes, 2 tsp. Fish Sauce, 1 tbsp. Palm Sugar, and ¼ tsp. of Salt into a small bowl. Mix well to combine and then set aside
  2. Season the Steak generously with Salt and Pepper on all sides and then place in a smoking hot pan with a little bit of Vegetable Oil. Sear for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes until the internal temperature of the steak is 100 – 105F. Remove from heat and allow to rest until cool (about 30 minutes)
  3. Add the rice to a frying pan over medium heat and toast for 5 minutes until browned. Remove from heat and place Rice in a Mortar and Pestle. Grind into a powder and then set aside until serving
  4. Combine Romaine Lettuce, Cucumber, Red Onion, Mint and Cilantro into a Salad Bowl. Mix well to combine then drizzle over the Dressing. Retain about ¼ of the dressing to pour over the dish for plating
  5. Once cooled, carefully slice the Beef on a 45-degree angle against the grain into long strips

Plating the Spicy Thai Beef Salad

  1. Place a generous amount of the Salad mixture on a serving plate. Lay some Beef Slices on top, then drizzle with a little bit more of the Salad dressing
  2. Finish the plate with ½ tsp. of the Toasted Rice, some chopped Red Chili and Peanuts. Serve immediately

Recipe Notes

  • Cooking the Steak when cold, not at room temperature will produce a great crust without overcooking the inside
  • Taste the dressing before adding it to the Salad. Adjust flavors if necessary to suit your flavor profile. You still want the dressing to be slightly acidic in flavor, not too sweet

That’s our recipe for the famous Spicy Thai Beef Salad, a truly remarkable Salad that packs the flavor! It is the perfect Salad to enjoy as a light dinner, especially in warmer months. It will work exceptionally well as a hearty lunch too, so why not make double the quantity and save some for the next day

Head over to our Salads page for more delicious Salad dishes such as this one. Here’s a few of our favorite Salads we’d recommend you try:

Happy Cooking!

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