This is one of my favourite Thai salads. It has so many different levels of flavour and texture – tender grilled meat, large handfuls of fragrant mixed herbs, crunchy shallots and cucumbers all topped with a spicy dressing that’s sour, sweet, tangy and really delicious. If you use lean steaks it’s virtually fat free so if you’re after a healthy, no guilt, flavour packed meal then this is just the ticket. Getting the balance of flavours in the dressing right is crucial and makes the difference between an okay Yam Neua and a great one, so be vigilant about tasting it and adjusting with more lime juice, fish sauce or palm sugar to make it just right and by that I mean it should be quite acidic and sour. It’s very traditional to top the salad with ground roasted rice. I unfortunately didn’t have any glutinous rice at home but it’s an extra step well worth taking and adds another level of texture. Just dry fry a handful of glutinous rice until golden brown then grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder and sprinkle over the salad just before serving. Yam Neau can be served as part of a shared meal, alongside a curry and perhaps a stir fry or on it’s own with some steamed jasmine rice.
Ingredients – Serves 4
2 good size sirloin steaks
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 Lebanese cucumbers, cut into slices on an angle
2-3 shallots, finely sliced
1 lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed then very finely sliced
8 fresh kaffir limes leaves, put on top of one another, rolled into a tight cigar and then very finely shredded
3 coriander roots, washed well and finely sliced
2 cups of mixed herbs consisting of mint leaves, coriander leaves and Thai basil
1 red chilli, finely sliced on an angle – deseeded if you don’t want it too hot
1⁄3 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1½ tablespoons palm sugar
1 large clove of garlic, grated
½ teaspoon ground chilli powder
Season the steaks well with salt and pepper, pour the sweet soy over them and rub into both sides of the steak. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes or longer. Whilst the steaks are marinading prepare the dressing by mixing the lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic and chilli powder in a small bowl. Stir well to combine, making sure the palm sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust to achieve a good balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Place the cucumbers, herbs, shallots, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander roots and red chilli on a large platter. Pour a little of the dressing over and gently mix with your hands.
Heat a ridged griddle pan (or barbecue) over high heat. Add the steaks and cook for a couple of minutes on each side for medium rare – or longer if you prefer your meat well done. Leave to rest for at least five minutes then thinly slice against the grain. Add the meat to the remaining dressing and then arrange the slices over the salad. Drizzle over the remaining dressing and once again, using your hands, mix lightly to combine everything. Serve while still warm.