Sweet Spicy Thai Beef Salad

There are probably as many iterations of this Thai beef salad (also known as Yum Nua) as there are families in Thailand. The beef is usually seasoned with anything from simply pepper to a paste of garlic and fresh chili with ginger or lemongrass stalk.

This recipe is a great way to use leftover grilled beef. The dish is about the balance between salty, sweet, spicy, and beefy (umami).  I have seen this dish presented as a composed salad with the vegetables and meat tossed in dressing and arranged on lettuces surrounded with tomato wedges, and I have had it where it was just beef, onions, cucumber, chilis, and cilantro and mint tossed together and served with sticky rice. Since this dish is about using leftovers, check and see what you have.



12-16 oz. leftover grilled beef, such as tri-tip, or top sirloin, sliced very thinly
1 English or Japanese cucumber
1 small red onion (or 4-6 medium shallots)
3-4 serrano chilis or 2 jalapenos (depending on how hot you like it)
½ bunch of mint, stemmed (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
¼ cup cilantro leaves, stemmed (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon nam pla (also known as “nuoc mam” in Vietnamese, or “fish sauce” in English)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon Thai chili powder – optional
1 inch if fresh lemongrass stem, minced – optional
½ clove of garlic, pulverized – optional
4 cups of lettuce – use either a crisp variety such as romaine, or a soft type like butter leaf


Make sure the beef is sliced quite thinly.

Slice the cucumber down the length, then slice thinly into half-moons.

Slice the top and root off the onion. Peel. Quarter through the root and slice paper thin into quarter rings. (If using shallots slice off the ends, peel, and slice into thin rings.)

If using serranos I assume you like it hot. Slice very thinly into rings or on the diagonal. If you want it milder, cut the jalapenos lengthwise in quarters and seed them. Slice thinly.

Make the dressing:
Place the lime juice, sugar, and nam pla into a jar or bowl and mix vigorously until the sugar dissolves. If you like, add the lemongrass and garlic.

Toss the meat, cucumbers, onions or shallots, in the dressing. Add the mint and cilantro, and chilis to taste, and lightly toss.

Place lettuce on bottom of the serving dish and arrange the dressed beef/vegetables over the lettuce. Garnish with the sprigs of herbs and serve. Pass extra chilis, chili powder, and lime wedges for personal tastes.  

YIELD: Serves 4

SOURCE: Chef Andrew E Cohen

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