There is no contest - this is my favorite salad in the world. Light and refreshing, but firey hot and packed full of flavor, this Thai Beef Salad ( or Yum Nua as my local Thai place calls it ) has been on my "must master at home" list for a LONG time.
I'd imagine it's one of those things that every place makes juuuuuust a little bit differently.
But when I set out to recreate this Thai salad at home, I tried to make it the closest approximation I could get to the average of the different variations I've had in restaurants in Atlanta, Charleston, DC, and New York City.
I also tried to keep the ingredients as simple and easy to find as possible.
Case in point: it is almost impossible to find lemongrass locally, and I'm not a fan of the dried stuff. So I don't use it in this salad.
But you totally could thrown in a stalk with the dressing if you can find it!
Ingredients for Thai Beef Salad
The recipe breaks the ingredients out into how much you'll need for each part ( marinade, dressing, salad, etc ), but here's your overall shopping list:
- Cooking oil of your choice
- Fresh Cilantro
- Serrano Pepper or Thai Red Pepper
- Fish Sauce
- Fresh Limes ( for Lime Juice )
- Brown Sugar
- Red Onion
- Green Onion
- Fresh Mint
Alright - so if you've gathered everything from the list above, you should be all set! The hardest thing to find is likely the fish sauce, but even my local not-exciting-at-all grocery story sells it now, so hopefully you'll have the same experience.
A note: using fresh ingredients is CRUCIAL for this recipe. The tartness of fresh lime, the spice of fresh peppers, crunch of the cucumbers, freshness of the mint leaves -- it all comes together to make this salad a star.
Have you ever had a Thai beef salad? Or maybe you've had this salad by a different name, like Yum Nuea or Yum Nua? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below the recipe.
Other Recipes you Might Like:
- ¼ Cup Cilantro Leaves and Stems loosely packed
- 6 Garlic Cloves Peeled
- ½ Serrano Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
- ½ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 LB Steak Top Sirloin Filet
- ¼ cup Fish Sauce
- ¼ cup Lime Juice
- 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar or Palm Sugar
- ½ Serrano Chili
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 Tablespoon oil grape seed, olive, or other mild oil
- 1 head romaine
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- ½ medium Red Onion sliced as thinly as possible ( shaved )
- 4 Green Onions white/light green parts thinly sliced, dark green parts into ½" pieces
- 2 Tablespoons fresh mint leaves thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the marinade. Pulse until everything is combined - 3 or 4 times. Place the steak into a medium container and pour the marinade on top, tossing the steak to make sure it is entirely coated. Let sit for an hour.
- While the steak is marinating, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a food processor. Pulse until everything is combined an the sugar has dissolved- 7 or 8 times, then place the dressing in the fridge to cool down while you prepare everything else ( optional, but I like a nice chilled dressing with this salad. )
- Set a skillet over medium high heat to warm up. Once the skillet has heated up, remove the steak from the marinade and place in the hot pan. Cook the steak for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for 5 more minutes for medium rare. Remove the steak from the pan and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
- While the steak is resting, prepare the salad. Tear up the head of the romaine over a large serving platter, and set the halved cherry tomatoes on top of the romaine. Add the red onion shavings, green onion slices, and mint to the platter, then drizzle the dressing on top of all of it. Toss lightly to coat.
- Slice the steak against the grain into ¼" thin slices, and place them on top of the salad. Top with the cilantro and serve!
I always use leftover London broil, cooked medium rare. If I don't have any hot peppers I just add some pepper flakes and a small amount of jarred Olek sambal. I skip the sugar (cutting carbs) and love the tangy flavor of the lime cut by Olive oil. The fish sauce adds that rich Umami flavor and I don't miss the lemongrass.
I just made a similar salad last night but had to make some modifications because of accessibility and sharing with someone who cannot eat cilantro. The whole thing formulated in my head, as I saw petit sirloin and romaine hearts on sale. I took two thickest sirloins, about 1 lb each, but only used one in the salad (the other went into a steak and potato pizza). Nothing was measured but it came together.
Lemon grass would be good in marinade but isn't necessary. My "marinade" consisted of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. It was about a 1-in steak, cooked on a tabletop grill (George Foreman type). No fuss.
Didn't use lime or sugar or peppers. Simplified it by mixing bottled ponzu with mirin and a bit of sambal. But fish sauce is a must. For oil, used grapeseed with a dash of Kadoya sesame oil. And some ginger juice.
Salad ingredients mostly the same minus red onions and cilantro. So, romain hearts, drained/seeded tomato, sliced cucumber. Also, julienned roasted red peppers, matchstick carrots and sliced/chopped asian pear (another supermarket inspiration, as the new crop just came in). I also added gochugaru on my portion, as I kept the level of sambal down for sharing. If you want to go authentic, skip the serrano peppers and go for bird/Thai chilis. Fine chiffonade of Thai basil also helps instead of mint. There's no wrong ingredient list if you know what you want out of this salad.
We ended up with three portions instead of two but gobbled up all the meat, so I added some prosciutto and provolone instead, and mixed tomato water, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic with olive oil for dressing. Only steak and Asian pear were missing from last night. The salad was incredible even in its new incarnation.