Olympic Food Challenge – Vietnam – Vietnamese Beef Salad

When I received my list of Olympic countries from Ewan I was disappointed that Italy, Japan, India, Spain and Thailand weren’t in there. However I was pretty pleased to get Vietnam as the food isn’t too far away from Thai and I’ve enjoyed the food at both the Vietnamese Noodle Bar (now dead) and new restaurant  Little Hanoi.

Vietnam has been in the Olympics on and off since 1952 and this year they’ve sent 18 athletes to compete in 11 different sports.

Of course the most obvious choice for this challenge would have been a traditional pho, but I’ve never even eaten this soup before so unlikely to want to try cooking it quite yet. So I set about researching recipes and I soon stumbled on the Ravenous Couple’s Vietnamese food blog and this recipe for caramelised braised pork and eggs which looks and sounds amazing, but I’m not sure where I would have got juice from young coconuts from (and no I wasn’t going to risk my fingers/hands/knife in attacking a coconut myself). I also considered doing fish porridge but given the mini heatwave we’re experiencing at the moment, and taking inspiration from the Little Hanoi menu I decided on a salad, a rare beef salad at that.
Google led me to this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi of all people. The list of ingredients is pretty long, and Yotam himself remarks on the ingredient list, but it was full of things that I have in the cupboards anyway as I love this style of cooking. I followed the recipe quite closely except for the whole piling things up on a platter malarkey. Oh and I cooked the steak whole, then sliced, in order to get it rare.
So all the veg, noodles and half the peanuts went into a big bowl and the dressing was poured over just before serving. To serve I spooned the salad onto the plate, topped with some of the sliced beef and then scattered over the rest of the peanuts, chilli and shallot mix (and no I didn’t buy shop prepared shallots as Yotam suggests, I fried some of myself).

Oh my! It was good, like really good! The beef was cooked beautifully and although the rub had been blitzed in the mini blender rather than in the grinder and so was quite thick with strips of lemongrass, it was absolutely fine. The salad was fresh and tasty, packed with the flavours of the fish sauce, chilli, herbs and lime. The chilli heat was there, to the point that my lips were tingling a little, but the heat built up slowly so it was a pleasure to eat. Better still this recipe makes a lot, a hell of a lot, so I have plenty for lunches for the next couple of days.

One I’ll be doing again, for sure.
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