My favorite warm-weather meal is the Thai salad Nuea Nam Tok, or “Waterfall Beef.” It’s named for the drops of juice that form on the top surface of the steak as you grill it, the sign that it’s ready to flip, or if already flipped, then it’s time to serve. It’s finally warm enough in Chicago to run the grill regularly, open the back door and get some fresh air in the house, but this dish is even better on a hot summer day: no fat other than what’s in the steak, fresh vegetables, and a bright, herby dressing.
This is a low-carb, full flavor dish great for a quick weeknight meal, as it doesn’t need even a marinade step. My favorite steak to use is Skirt, but the original recipe uses round. Just about any thin, quick-cooking steak would work, just remember to slice thinly across the grain. The recipe also calls for lemon, not lime, but lime is all I had, so I added a pinch of sugar.
Recipe: Nuea Nam Tok – Thai Grilled Beef Salad
Serves two eating lightly, or one hungry person.
1/2 pound (225gm) skirt steak
salt and pepper, a little oil
juice of two limes (about two ounces, 60ml)
pinch of powdered sugar (optional)
2 tbs (30ml) fish sauce
3 tbs (45ml) finely chopped cilantro stems (and roots if you can find them)
3 tbs (45ml) finely chopped scallions
1/4-1/2 tsp (about 2 ml) red pepper flakes
1 tsp toasted rice powder (see note)
8 leaves romaine lettuce
1 small cucumber, sliced thinly
grape or cherry tomatoes, or sliced tomato if you can get truly ripe ones
- Preheat gas or prepare charcoal grill. You want a hot fire to sear the steak, so don’t be gentle with the heat.
- Sprinkle steak on both sides with salt and pepper, rub a little oil on one side to prevent sticking
- Grill steak for about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare.
- Mix lime or lemon juice, fish sauce, optional sugar, cilantro, scallions and red pepper flakes in a bowl that can hold all the steak
- Remove steak from grill, let rest a few minutes, then slice thinly across the grain (in the direction of the length of the skirt steak — cut it into chunks first, then slice), and place in the dressing as you slice
- Arrange the lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes on the plates
- Scatter the steak slices atop the lettuce, pouring additional dressing over the plates
- Sprinkle the servings with the rice powder and serve
Note: Toast a tablespoon or so of rice in a pan until light brown, then grind in a coffee or spice grinder. This will keep sealed indefinitely, so prepare extra for the next time you want this salad.