Friday, December 6, 2013

Yum, yum, yum!

Probably NOT the right name to call this. And I really didn't know what to call this being that I am not Thai. But this dish is inspired by the Thai beef salad, except that mine has the added shrimp which makes this surf and turf. I liked it to pieces and I like to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge, but NO more than overnight, the salad gets too watery otherwise. But, I'd wager that this is due to the fact that I am lazy to keep the components in separate pieces. 

As far as history goes... I don't grow up with this dish. Thai food was unknown to me until I was about 12-year-old. Thailand was one of the first countries I visited (the other being Singapore). And quite frankly, when I went there I didn't try this dish (nor was I interested in the food, actually). My first visit to Thailand was plagued by grilled cuttlefish (street food) and roti banana (roti gluay - banana pancake), to this day. Although, nowadays I am curious for more things.

Thai cooking is divine (actually, any cooking is divine). I think of Thai cooking as a trip to a refreshing field in the morning still blanketed by the morning dew. Unlike Japanese cooking that's marked by its simplicity and cleanliness and somewhat "muted" flavors, Thai cooking is simplicity intertwined with robust flavor and complexity of the flavor profile. It's like listening to a symphony where one's taken through alternating dynamics: crescendo, decrescendo, and back...

Anyways, I hope you enjoy this approximation as much as I do!

Thai Style Surf and Turf Salad:


6-7 celery stalks, sliced across 1/8 inch thick
2 roma tomatoes, quartered and then sliced 1/8 inch thick
2-3 romaine hearts, sliced
4 oz. lean beef strip steak 
1/2 cup cooked salad shrimp (about 6 oz.)

For the dressing:
1/4-1/3 cup fish oil (or to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbs sugar
1/4 cup water (or to taste)
Salt to taste
1/4 Bunch of cilantro
(Optional) 8 birds eye chili pepper

1. Grill beef steak medium rare to medium (about 3-4 minutes per side), boil/thaw the shrimp (if frozen)
2. Pound (with mortar and pestle) cilantro and birds eye chili peppers, set aside about a quarter or so of the bunch of cilantro and chop them.
3. Mix together lime juice, fish oil, water, sugar and salt.
4. Add the pounded ingredients onto the wet ingredient mixture.
5. Mix beef, shrimp and vegetable, drizzle the dressing.
6. Garnish with chopped cilantro

1. There is no ironclad rules as to how this is supposed to taste. I like it slightly sour with a moderately strong fish sauce smell and very, VERY spicy. If you like it sour, add more lime juice, if you want more fish sauce flavor, omit water. You get the idea...
2. You can use food processor to ground cilantro and the chili pepper, but I like doing it with mortar and pestle because it keeps that "rustic" quality.
3. Omit the chili pepper altogether if you don't like spicy. You can even do away with sugar. Sugar just tempers the otherwise overwhelming saltiness of the fish sauce. You can even omit the salt and just go by fish sauce. This all depends on how pungent your fish sauce is.
4. I have never used chicken for this or any other meat. I've always used either beef or shrimp.
5. I also have never used any vegetable combination than what I mentioned above. But I think any mild tasting leafy vegetable could be used.
6. The original salad calls for raw onion (at least the ones I tried at Thai restaurants), but to me this is a bit too strong, so I omitted the onion on this recipe.
7. I like the mixture of chopped cilantro because then I can still taste the cilantro. When pounded, they get overcome easily by fish sauce and chili pepper. Why not just chop them all? Because I like that green confetti in my salad dressing. That's all. Plus, it does release the juice of cilantro.
8. You can always make the dressing ahead of time and just chop/grill/thaw the salad ingredients when you need to. I like to let the salad marinate a bit especially because the beef is never marinated with anything prior to grilling.

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