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A Bit Thai’d Up


It’s freezing outside and as usual the whole country seems to be grinding to a halt. And even though it’s knee deep in snow outside the kitchen window I’m not in the mood to eat anything that is going to send me into a post dinner stupor. I’ve got things to do and people to see so being curled up in front of Cash In The Attic with the dog is not going to be helpful. More often than not I use the cold weather as an excuse to indulge my love of stews, casseroles and cockle warming curries but today I want something that will give me the energy to get my act together and brave the elements. A Thai salad is the perfect solution.

A salad may not be the first thing you think of to satisfy your hunger in a cold snap but then Thai cooking can always be relied upon to wake up the senses whatever the weather. Like all Thai dishes a good salad depends on the perfect balance of hot, salty, sour and sweet and when applied to a dish of rare grilled beef and crunchy vegetables you have a dish that is both satisfying and invigorating in equal measure. In Thailand, the definition of the word salad is stretched to it’s limits by dishes sometimes involving nothing more than grilled fish, seafood or meat tossed with a generous quantity of coriander, mint and basil leaves and a punchy dressing. Ah, yes the dressing – thats where the real magic happens. No oily or creamy dressings could ever give your taste buds the wake up call that a shot of lime juice and fish sauce can.

There is one ingredient in the recipe below that is often omited by many Westernized versions of this classic and that’s the toasted ground rice. It may seem strange but it really is a delicious addition adding both a toasty flavour and added crunch. The other thing to remember with all Thai salads including the one below is that they need to be made and eaten straight away. Leave them to stand for too long and the lime juice in the dressing will turn the whole thing into a disgusting mess. And yes, I learned that the hard way.


Thai Beef Salad – Serves 4 as a side dish or light starter

  • 2 tablespoons Thai jasmine rice
  • 2 x 250 gram sirloin steaks
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 75m kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • 4 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 medium cucumber peeled, de-seeded, halved lengthways and sliced diagonally
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 handful fresh corriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves leaves, ripped
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced

First of all mix the kekap manis and sesame oil together and pour into a non metalic shallow tray. Grill the steaks on a ridged grill pan until medium rare. Whilst still hot from the pan place the steaks into the tray and marinate for a couple of hours or until completely cooled. Heat a dry frying pan and add the rice. Stir constantly being careful not to burn. When the rice is golden brown add to a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder although a few small pieces are fine.

Mix the fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.

Just before you are ready to serve slice the steak thinly and toss with half the ground rice, the dressing and all other ingredients. Pile onto a serving dish and sprinkle over the remaining ground rice.

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