I’m a little obsessed with spicy food, and by spicy I mean the hurts-so-good stuff that actually makes you sweat. Jarred jalapenos, fresh chilies and Tabasco sauce are all staples in my kitchen, and when I’m ordering at an Indian or Chinese restaurant I usually ask for “extra spicy.” Sometimes I regret it but as they say, no pain, no gain.
Back when I lived in Los Angeles the Vietnamese Steak Salad was my favorite go-to spicy dish and no one did it better than Daisy Mint, a cute little Viet café in my ‘hood of Pasadena, California. I spent weeks trying to recreate the dressing, which is the perfect combination of tangy and spicy and freshness. After a few kitchen disasters and more than my fair share of disappointment I think I finally nailed it!
You can find ingredients like fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and Asian chili sauce at most oriental markets (like Asia Market in Dublin). If you’re not a hot head like me, you can use less chili to suit your taste. And it should be noted that you can cook your steak to your preference as well; I prefer mine on the rare side of medium-rare – as you can tell from the photos – which I think works great for this salad. I have to agree with Elephant Castle’s chef Jack Duffy: Irish beef is so high-quality, I’d happily eat it blue!
Spicy Vietnamese Steak Salad
Serves 3-4, depending on hunger level!
1 lb flank steak (or skirt steak – ask your butcher)
80 ml of low-sodium soy sauce
63 ml of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot (not sweet!) Asian chili sauce
1 large head of crisp lettuce (like iceberg or romaine), torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 spring onions or ½ red onion, sliced thinly
Small handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
Big handful fresh coriander, chopped
80 ml fresh lime juice
Small handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce, low sodium
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp Asian fish sauce, bottled
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili pepper, seeded and minced (you can leave seeds for more spice)
Preheat grill or broiler.
Prepare marinade by mixing together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili sauce. Place in a plastic container with the flank steak and let marinate for at least one hour.
Dressing: Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar or bowl; mix well. Set aside. Place steak on a grill rack or broiler pan coated with vegetable oil spray. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side for medium rare or longer until desired degree of doneness. Cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Cut each slice into 2-inch pieces.
Prepare salad mixture (lettuce, tomatoes green onion, coriander and mint leaves). Combine salad mixture, steak and dressing in a large bowl, tossing to coat.
Clare Kleinedler is a freelance journalist and writes about her transition from LA to Ireland in her blog, An American in Ireland.