Beef salad with ginger and rice noodles
After eating our way through Vietnam, it became clear that contrast was one of the defining characteristics of the cuisine. Soft and crunchy. Spicy and fresh. Hot and cool. Several times all in the same dish.
The rice noodle bowls were a perfect example; elastic noodles are topped with a combination of flavorful grilled meat and fresh raw ingredients. For our take on our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights”, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we liked the rich, meaty flavor of the sirloin tips.
After pounding the meat half an inch thick to speed up cooking, we soaked the beef in a ginger marinade with fish sauce and a little brown sugar, which helps brown the meat. A garnish of mint, cilantro and peanuts provided a crisp, fresh contrast.
Note that sirloin tips are sometimes sold as flap meat or false hangers. It is good if the tips are in two or three pieces, as the meat will be sliced for serving. If you can’t find sirloin tips, flank steak is a good substitute; if the sidewall is a uniform ½ inch thick, it does not need to be pounded.
For noodles, check package directions for soaking times, as they may vary. If the noodles are in very long strands, cut them several times with scissors after draining them to make them easier to eat. If the taste of fish sauce is too strong in the dressing, dilute it with a few teaspoons of water.
Ginger Beef and Noodle Salad
Start to finish: 40 minutes
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce, divided
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, divided
3 tbsp plus 2 tsp packed light brown sugar, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound sirloin tips, patted dry
12 ounces of thin rice noodles
¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon of peanut oil
1 cup torn fresh mint leaves
1 cup of fresh coriander sprigs
½ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Put aside. Place the sirloin tips between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and, using a meat mallet, gently mash them to a uniform thickness of ½ inch. Add the beef to the fish sauce mixture and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and immediately remove the pot from the heat. Let noodles stand, stirring 2 or 3 times, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of the fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon of ginger, the remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, lime juice, water and chili-garlic sauce until the sugar dissolves. Put aside.
In a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until smoking. Add the beef and cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, to the noodles, add ½ cup of the mixture of fish sauce and lime juice, mint, cilantro and peanuts; mix to combine. Transfer to a serving platter or individual bowls.
Cut each piece of meat in thirds across the grain, then slice as thinly as possible against the grain. Place the slices on the noodles and baste with the accumulated juices. Serve with the rest of the fish sauce and lime juice mixture on the side.