Start to finish: 40 minutes Servings: 4
Thai beef salad, or yam neua, is a tangle of thinly sliced grilled steak, tossed with a hot, sour, salty and slightly sweet dressing, shallots and a heap of cilantro and fresh mint—and possibly some sliced cucumbers and chopped tomatoes. “Yam” refers to a style of salads that are spicy and slightly sour thanks to the classic Thai combination of fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and chilies.
For our version of yam neua (pronounced yum n-UH), we started by choosing the right steak—skirt. The thin, well-marbled cut has big beefy flavor that can stand up to the salad’s robust dressing. To season the meat, we used white pepper instead of black for its complexity.
A couple teaspoons of brown sugar, balanced with salt, approximated the faint maple flavor of palm sugar. Rubbing the steak with sugar first increased the char.
Don’t ignore the steak’s grain. Cutting with the grain results in tough slices. Cutting against the grain shortens the muscle fibers, producing tender, juicy meat.
1 large shallot, sliced into very thin rings
3 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar, divided
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon ground white pepper
1½ pounds skirt steak, trimmed and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Neutral oil (if using a skillet)
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1½ cups (about 7 ounces) red or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus cilantro sprigs to garnish (optional)
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1. In a large bowl, combine the shallot and lime juice and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the sugar, the salt and white pepper. Pat the steak dry with paper towels,then rub all over with the sugar-salt mixture. If using a cast-iron or carbon-steel skillet, cut the steak into 4 to 6 pieces if needed to fit into the pan.
2. Prepare a grill or skillet for very high heat. For a charcoal grill, spread a full chimney of hot coals evenly over half of the grill bed. For a gas grill, set all burners to a high, even flame. Heat the grill for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. For a cast-iron or carbon-steel pan, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium-high until smoking, about 5 minutes.
3. If using a grill, grill the steak (directly over the coals, if using a charcoal grill) until charred all over, 2 to 4 minutes per side. If using a skillet, sear the steak in 2 batches until charred, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, the pepper flakes and the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar to the shallot–lime juice mixture and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Taste, then add additional fish sauce, if desired. Thinly slice the steak against the grain, then transfer to the bowl along with any accumulated juices. Add the tomatoes, cilantro and mint and stir. Transfer to a platter and garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.