Since the heinous turn of weather in Melbourne this week (seriously guy, get your sh*t together), I’ve been dreaming of the tropical fruits and asian desserts I used to have as a kid on humid holidays in South East Asia – coconut juice from the husk, freshly squeezed sugar cane with kalamansi lime in a plastic bag, ice kachang, cendol, and of course, iced lychee.
This got me
thinking dreaming about lychees and all of the delicious things I could make with them. Though I really do love eating them fresh or straight from an ice cold tin, I’m more of a savoury than a sweet person, and I just wanted to put them in a refreshing salad with some meaty goodness. And rice. Always rice.
Dinner and dessert in one bowl? Come at me.
I love that Asian food is all about texture, and this dish certainly has it all – the silky noodles, the juicy lychees, the crisp salad, and the crunch from the nuts and sesame – not to mention the flavour party that’s a-happenin’ in your mouth from the mix of fresh herbs, sweet lychees, salty dressing, and the sour limes.
The noodles soak up a lot of the dressing, so you almost have to over-season the dressing before adding it to the salad. I used the lychee juice to replace the usual palm sugar in the dressing, though if you’re using fresh lychees, make sure you remember to add it back!
I only used half of a 400g tin of lychees in syrup for this recipe – use the flesh in the salad, but reserve some of the liquid for use in the dressing. I haven’t included measurements for the syrup in the dressing as the sweetness differs between brands, so use it to taste. You can freeze the leftover lychees with their syrup in ice cube trays for a delicious addition to iced teas (or cocktails).
I used a thick cut porterhouse steak (~500g) from my local butcher to serve 4. It is necessary to use the best quality and freshest meat you can find as it is only being seared. Remember that the lime juice in the dressing does help cook the meat through even more, so be careful not to overcook it when searing. You can obviously also cook the meat further to your liking, but trust me, it is delicious like this.
You can make the dressing a day (or a few hours) ahead and store it in the refrigerator – the chillies and lime become even more potent over time – however, I would advise not to keep the dressing any longer than a day. The noodles are also extra delicious by themselves when soaked overnight in the dressing.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, replace the beef with some sliced pan-seared firm tofu. For a gluten free option, substitute the soy sauce and the fish sauce for wheat-free tamari.
Thai Beef Salad with Lychee, Rice Vermicelli, and Mint
Serves 4 (or 2 fatties – Thai-beef-salad-for-four-for-two, anyone?)
For the salad:
500g porterhouse steak (or firm tofu)
250-300g rice vermicelli, rehydrated in warm water and drained
200g arugula and/or baby spinach
3/4 cup Vietnamese mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup coriander, torn
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, torn
1/2 red capsicum, finely julienned
1 cup bean shoots
1 cup enoki mushrooms, torn
1 red shallot, finely sliced
3 radishes, finel sliced
1 lebanese cucumber, finely sliced
1/2 400g tin lychees (reserve liquid for dressing)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
handful of crushed toasted peanuts
For the dressing:
Reserved lychee syrup, to taste
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 birdseye chillies, finely sliced (remove seeds for less heat if you need)
juice of 2 limes
For the dressing, mix all ingredients and season to taste. Let the chillies macerate in the dressing while you prepare the other ingredients.
Season the steak before searing on all sides in a hot grill pan or on a barbeque. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak. Let it rest before slicing thinly.
Mix all of the salad ingredients together before adding the thinly sliced beef. Dress well, ensuring that the meat is well coated and the acid in the dressing cooks the beef further. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, and a wedge of lime.