Before I left Chicago, I put together one last quick meal in the tiny kitchen. It was a bittersweet endevour to say the least, but the outcome couldn't have been better. Between the going away dinners and packing up the kitchen (I have wayyyyyy too many white dishes), we were eating out nearly every night. We need some lighter, fresh fare to balance.
Thai Steak Salad is one of my favorite options for when you're craving bright crunch, but need some substance to fill you. I never once saw this on a menu during my time in Thailand, so I can't claim that the execution is authentic, but fish sauce and loads of fresh herbs really do harken back to the incredible cuisine found there. And especially as we head into the heat of summer, this is a great recipe to have up your sleeve(less?).
Green stuff is really at the heart of this dish's flavor and your fingers will smell delicious after prepping it all. There are certainly circumstances in which dried herbs are a find substitute for fresh, but this simply isn't one of them. The herbs will not only provide flavor, but will be part of the leafy greens of the salad. Green onions, lime and cucumbers join the green party like it's St. Patty's (with less morning drunkenness, of course).
Thai basil, mint and cilantro are at the center of attention at this salad party. Each bringing a different flavor note, to build bright complexity. Traditional fresh basil would work just fine here, I just happened to stumble upon Thai basil at the store this week. This variation has slightly more licorice flavor and a sharper pointed leaf. But again, regular ole' fresh basil would be just as good.
A word on chopping herbs... they can be sensitive little bitches. Yes, I just called herbs bitches. They deserve it for so easily bruising. The easiest technique I've found is to stack them up and roll them into an "herb cigarette" and slice. Some of you may be more experienced than others with this rolling technique. I always have to laugh when I see Martha Stewart-types doing this on TV. I'm also very mature.
I had my butcher fillet the hangar steaks so that they were nice and thin. Skirt steak would work here too, but I think hangars have a lovely tenderness. Just be sure it's something cut thin, so that you can easily eat in a salad.
This is where you're all about to get uncomfortable... there is fish sauce in this recipe. You know how Thai food and other Asian takeout never tastes the same at home? It's because we're all terrified of the easy-to-find, yet unfamiliar Asian condiments used to create the flavorful sauces. Do you want to put fish sauce on your cereal? Probably not, but this is the stuff that gives the dressing its authentic flavor. Trust me. Fear not condiments.
Once grilled-off, thinly slice your steaks and top with the goodie herbs, veggies and dressings. See that fish sauce wasn't so bad, right? Or are you still distracted by my joint joke earlier?
Thai Steak Salad
1 1/2 lb hangar steak, filleted and at room temperature
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped Thai basil
1/2 cup chopped mint
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
4-5 green onions, chopped
3 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha
Preheat grill over high heat. Brush vegetable oil on steaks and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-high and grill steaks over direct heat for 3-5 minutes per side until medium-rare (times may vary depending on the thickness of your steaks).
While the steaks rest, combine basil, mint, cilantro, onions, lettuce and cucumber in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and sriracha for dressing.
Thinly slice your steaks against the grain and arrange atop lettuce mixture. Lightly dress salad and enjoy.