Nam Tok Thai grilled beef waterfall salad is a popular dish in Northeast Thailand using marinated grilled steak. The beef is typically cooked rare than sliced to place over an herb-filled salad and always topped off with dry toasted ground rice powder. It's perfect for a light and tasty meal!
What is Nam Tok beef salad?
Nam Tok Nua, or waterfall beef, is a very popular Thai beef steak salad with a bold and delicious flavors in Thailand. The steak is marinated with delicious flavors and grilled to perfection on high heat. The salad is full of fresh herbs, seasoned with tasty sauce, and top off with toasted glutinous rice powder for extra crunch. It is one of the tastiest Thai salads!
Why this recipe works
- This warm beef salad is so easy to put together. You’ll have your healthy and extremely tasty salad on the table in less than 30 minutes. Minus the marinating time, of course.
- The salad can also be made on the stovetop, not just for the grill. Cooking via the skillet is a fast and easy option that helps you enjoy Nam Tok all year round.
- Nam Tok is great as an appetizer for your guests at dinner parties before serving the main course. It is light but so very tasty.
- The beef salad is a healthy and tasty option to add to your list of healthy Thai dishes to make if you are looking for more healthy recipes.
- The recipe is easily adaptable to be a more mild dish. Add fewer chili flakes!
Ingredients for making Neu Nam Tok
Steak. The cut of meat used for this Nam Tok recipe matters very much. It's the main ingredient, so choose a cut that does well with marinating and grilling. Meat with a bit of fat is highly recommended for the extra juiciness and flavors. I tested my recipe with top sirloin, rib eye, and flank steak. My favorites are the sirloin and the rib eye cut.
Ground white pepper. This has a very distinctive flavor that adds an earthly and peppery zing to the warm salad. Ground black pepper is fine as a substitute.
Sugar. You can use brown, white, or palm sugar.
Fish sauce. Fish sauce is also an important ingredient in this recipe. However, not all fish sauces are created equal, I tried 3 different brands, and each yielded a different result. I recommend starting with 1 Tablespoon, using what you have at home, and slowly adding more for the marinating sauce. Adjust as needed.
Thai thin soy sauce. This is a type of soy sauce typically used in Thai cooking. You can substitute with regular soy sauce if you cannot find Thai thin soy sauce.
Oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is key in marinating the beef. It has an umami flavor that helps add a rich flavor to the meat. I typically use a Thai brand for all my sauces. You should be able to easily find oyster sauce at most Western grocery stores in the international section.
Fish sauce. Light on the fish sauce, as some brands can be saltier than others. Add more at the end if need to.
Lime juice. Rice vinegar or lemon juice can work. Use 1 tablespoon extra if using lemon juice.
Garlic. Minced small for use to marinate
Oil. Use lightly to help keep the steak from getting too dry.
Lemongrass. Lemongrass can be difficult to find outside of Asian markets. I suggest a fun trip to your local Asian market for most of these unique ingredients. If you haven’t been, I promise it’s worth the adventure.
Shallot. Red onions will work as a substitute.
Green onions. Chop into small pieces.
Cilantro. It adds a refreshing taste. Use the stems too.
Fresh mint leaves. Mint is crucial in adding freshness to the Nam Tok recipe. It is easy to find in most mainstream grocery stores. Don’t skip it!
Fresh Thai chilis. Red pepper flakes or Thai chili powder can be used.
Toasted rice powder. Also called sticky rice powder. This is a very important ingredient that helps bring the salad together. The roasted rice's extra earthy crispy texture adds authenticity to Nam Tok dishes.
Below are the specific brands of sauces and ground white pepper I used for the authentic Thai waterfall beef salad. These are all found in the Asian markets near me. Feel free to take the photo with you to show the workers at the Asian markets for help finding these brands.
How to Make Nam Tok Salad
Step 1. Dry roast the rice in a hot pan over medium heat. (No oil used.) Once golden brown and fragrant, remove from the pan into a plate and let cool.
Step 2. Use a spice grinder and grind the rice until almost powder, leaving a few pieces in larger chunks for the extra crunch. Set aside for the salad. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for future use. Check out my detailed recipe on how to make toasted rice powder here.
Step 3. Make the marinating sauce. Mix all the marinating ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. (Oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, white pepper, minced garlic, and oil.)
Step 4. Rinse the meat, pat dry with a paper towel, then dip the meat in the marinating sauce in the bowl until all sides are covered well.
Step 5. Marinate the meat. Place the meat in a zip-lock bag. Pour the remaining sauce from the bowl into the bag and shake the bag lightly to blend in the meat pieces. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag tight. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 1-5 hours. If you are short on time, check out the expert tips on marinating. Let the meat sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before grilling.
Step 6. Turn the gas grill to medium-high heat and grill the meat for 5-8 minutes on each side or until the meat is at a desired rare or medium-rare temperature. Remove from the grill and let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes on a cutting board before slicing.
Step 7. Prepare the salad. Add the rest of the salad ingredients except the toasted rice and chili flakes in a medium-sized bowl. Mix and let the salad sit for 5 minutes while you prepare to slice the meat.
Step 8. Slice the steak against the grain into 1-2 inches long, and save all the juices for adding to the salad. Very yummy!
Step 9. Place the sliced beef over the salad, including the steak juices, mix lightly and sprinkle on toasted rice powder, and mix well.
Step 10. Add the chili pepper, more lime juice, or fish sauce to your liking. That’s it! Serve with Thai sticky rice and jasmine rice, or eat it as a hearty and delicious salad! Add some raw vegetables like sliced cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers, and use them like wraps for extra nutrients.
Helpful Kitchen Notes & Tips
- How to cook the steak. It’s important to note that you want to cook the beef on the rare or medium-rare side for this recipe. The lime juice used in the salad dressing will continue to cook the meat even further after the grilling.
- Marinating. If you are short on time, marinate the meat for 30 minutes at room temperature. To help speed up the marinating process, massage the meat in a sealed zip lock bag where the meat is mixed in with the marinating sauce for 1-2 minutes on each side every 10 minutes. This technique will help speed up the marinating process by letting the sauce seep into the meat more quickly.
- For the best result, I recommend marinating the meat before heading to work in the morning or, if working from home, marinating it around lunchtime for at least 3-4 hours ahead of time.
- Nam Tok on a stovetop skillet. Nam Tok Neua can also be cooked in a stovetop skillet if grilling is not an option. The skillet is my go-to cooking method for this recipe during winter or when I’m short on time. If the meat dries in the skillet before it is cooked, you can add oil or water to the skillet to help keep the meat from sticking to the pan. Cook the meat until it’s rare to medium-rare on the skillet, just as you would on the grill.
- Kao Khua or Toasted Rice Powder. Adding the toasted rice is the final step to making Nam Tok. It's an essential ingredient that makes the dish authentic and a step I wouldn’t recommend skipping for this recipe. The extra crunchy texture also helps bind all the ingredients together in the finished dish. It’s super quick and easy to make, so don’t skip out on this part! You may use either sticky or jasmine rice.
- Store the leftover toasted rice powder in an airtight container for up to 2 months and 4 months in the freezer.
Why is it called waterfall beef salad?
The name waterfall refers to the sizzling sound of the juices dripping or falling into the fire while grilling over high heat. Also, the waterfall is often believed to be the dripping of blood of the grilled meat as it’s being sliced for the salad. The rendered blood is from the meat being grilled at rare temperatures and looks like water descending into a stream like a waterfall. The Thai language is quite poetic. (:
How to Eat Nam Tok Beef Waterfall Salad?
This salad is typically served with sticky rice and fresh vegetables like lettuce, sliced cabbage, and peeled cucumbers to help cool off the spicy heat from the ground dry chili flakes. The salad is also best eaten fresh in one meal. It doesn’t do well as leftovers as the toasted rice gets soggy and absorbs all the flavors from the meat and the salad. Enjoy!
More Thai Recipes You'll love
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- Toasted Rice Powder, Khao Khua
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- Thai beef salad, an authentic Thai beef salad recipe
- Nam Jim Jeow recipe without sugar, a perfect dipping sauce that embodies all the Thai flavors!
- Larb Gai, Thai chicken salad using ground meat
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