Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lemongrass Beef Noodle Salad

Savoured for it's fresh, fragrant and subtly citrus flavour, lemongrass is a penetrating - yet non-overpowering - component of many South East Asian dishes. If you enjoy Vietnamese or Thai food, you'll recognise the flavour straight away.

This noodle salad is loosely inspired by one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes: bun bo xao - stir-fried lemongrass beef served over room-temperature vermicelli rice noodles. Slices of steak beef (e.g. sirloin, skirt, scotch) are normally used, however I had some leftover beef mince in the fridge so adapted the idea to suit.

The salad aspect is also flexible - slices of cucumber, bean sprouts, shredded crispy lettuce, peanuts, crispy fried shallots, and fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, mint, small perilla (shiso) leaves are typical; but I used what I had, including thin slices of green pepper and mixed seeds, providing alternative elements of freshness and texture.

What is mandatory, however, are the cooled rice noodles, the Vietnamese dipping sauce/salad dressing, and the lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce beef marinade. 

Lemongrass Beef Noodle Salad

Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass Beef Noodle Salad serves 2

Marinate around 175g beef (mince or thin slices of sirloin/skirt/scotch fillet) in 1 chopped lemongrass stem (white part only) or 1 generous Tbsp preserved sliced lemongrass (from a jar, including some of the preserving liquid), 1 chopped garlic clove, 2 tsp fish sauce and freshly ground black pepper. Combine and set aside, ideally for around 20 minutes to allow flavours to develop.

Prepare 200g rice vermicelli according to packet instructions, or simply soak in freshly-boiled water until tender. Drain.

In a small bowl, create the 'dressing': combine 4 Tbsp each of lime juice and sugar, 3 Tbsp of fish sauce, 1 tsp of rice vinegar, with 1 red chilli and 1 garlic clove, both finely chopped. Mix thoroughly until sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust if necessary. Set aside.

Prepare salad ingredients, mixing and matching any of the following: sliced cucumber, fresh bean sprouts, thinly shredded iceberg lettuce, julienned carrots and/or daikon, sliced green onions, sliced green pepper, roasted unsalted peanuts or seeds (e.g. sesame), crispy fried shallots, and fresh soft green herbs (cilantro and mint is minimum, while basil and perilla would be a bonus).

If using beef mince: create small flat meatballs, around an inch-and-a-half across and no more than a half-inch thick, using up all the mince. Heat large non-stick pan on high heat with grapeseed oil (or other frying oil). When oil is hot, add meatballs and cook with lid on for 1-2 minutes on either side. (If using beef slices, stir-fry for 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and rest while assembling noodles and salad ingredients.

Add beef, with cooking juices, and serve by adding salad 'dressing' and scattering fresh scallions and/or fried shallots with chopped peanuts or seeds over. For extra heat, a splash of Sriracha (or any Asian-style vinegar-based chilli sauce) is more than welcome. Combine and enjoy. 

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