A simple recipe for Thai beef salad made with fresh summer vegetables, herbs, lime juice, and fish sauce. Once you gather all your ingredients for this Thai beef salad recipe, you’ll be eating a tasty meal in less than 30 minutes (minus the marinating part)!
This easy Thai beef salad recipe is cooked over the stovetop rather than grilled. You can always grill the meat, but this recipe is the easy version that you can put together quickly on a weeknight!
What makes this cold beef salad iconic within the Thai food repertoire is the freshness of the vegetables that are lightly muddled in a large bowl with zesty fresh lime juice and an umami fish sauce that leaves you wanting more and more. It’s basically eating summer in a bowl with every bite of this deliciousness.
What unique ingredients will you be using for this Thai salad recipe?
You can find almost all of the ingredients used for this recipe at most American grocery stores. The only thing I foresee as a hard to find ingredient is the fish sauce. But most groceries now carry some brand of fish sauce on their shelf in the Asian/International section.
What is fish sauce?
Fish sauce is extracted brown liquid made from fermented anchovy fish, tiny prawns or krill. It is used as a salty seasoning flavor but as mentioned, in a liquid form. Fish sauce is a pantry essential in all of Thai cuisine.
The taste of fish sauce is more mild than salt, offering a well-rounded flavor that helps balance sweet and sour dishes that Thai food is known for. Not all fish sauces are created equal. I have a few brands that are my go-to brands and I tend to stay pretty loyal to those brands because I know I will get the same result each time I use it for cooking. Don’t be turned off by the name or smell of it. It’s pungent, I know, but Thai food will not be the same without it, so don’t try to get by without using some. If you ever had Thai food before, you most likely have had fish sauce already.
My favorite brands of fish sauces are:
For this recipe, I used 3 crab brand fish sauce just because it’s a much lighter and a tad bit sweeter fish sauce than all the other brands I like.
What type of beef should I use for this Thai salad recipe?
While testing this recipe for you, I used 3 different types of beef for the salad: top round roast, round steak, and flank. My favorite is the top round roast because it holds the most flavors and is the most tender after cooking. A perfect fit for tossing in a bowl of chopped up vegetables and blended well in this Thai beef salad! I cut the top round roast rather thick and long, around 2-2.3 inches thick and 4-5 inches long. I marinated it for a few hours and then pan-fried it for a few minutes to cook the meat. You can try using any type of grilling beef for this recipe, but I find that the cut with just a tiny amount of fat on the meat really adds extra flavor to the salad.
Marinating the meat for the Thai beef salad.
Marinating the meat ahead of time will ensure that you’ll get the best tasting beef. I recommend marinating it for at least 3 hours but if you are running short on time, 30 minutes is the minimum time for marinating. Here’s a little tip if you only have 30 minutes, massage the meat for a few minutes. What do I mean by this? Here’s what you do: mix the two sauces for marinating in a bowl, place the large chunk of meat in a gallon size ziplock bag, pour the sauce over the meat in the bag, seal it tight with minimal air in the bag and use your hands to massage the sauce into the meat for 4-5 minutes. You can also use a meat tenderizer for this method but be careful to not tear the plastic bag. Placing a light cloth over the bag of meat can help to not rip the bag while tenderizing. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
Let’s get started on making this easy beef salad recipe!
- Marinate the meat with fish sauce and lime juice for a few hours. See the above section on marinating if you are short on time.
- Chop up the vegetables and herbs as instructed and put in a large bowl
- Do your best to chop the vegetables into very thin small and long pieces for this salad, like the above picture.
- Mix the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar together in a bowl and wait until the meat is ready before adding to the entire mixture at the end.
- On a medium or high heat stovetop, add oil until warm then add the beef to the cast iron or sautéing pan. See notes for preventing hot oil splashing.
- Do not throw away the extra marinating sauce, add the sauce to the pan and let the meat cook 6-10 minutes or until the meat is cooked to your preference. Rare, medium-rare, medium, etc. You want to err on the rare side so the meat is tender when added to the salad.
- When the meat is ready, remove from the pan to a cutting board and let it rest. See notes below for resting the meat.
- Add the salad sauce/dressing to the vegetable bowl, mix well, and get ready to cut the meat.
- Slice the meat thin and long, save all the juices coming from the cutting of the meat. Add the chili flakes, mix gently but well and let it chill for a couple of minutes while you set the table.
- Add the sliced meat, including the juice of the meat, into the salad bowl.
- Add chili flakes and stir gently together until well mixed and put on a serving platter and ENJOY! See notes on how to authentically eat this tasty Thai beef salad.