On a recent rainy Saturday, we decided to order in Thai food from a local restaurant rather than go out. I ordered a Thai beef salad off the menu hoping it would be similar to Nuer Nam Toc, a wonderful spicy sour creation that I had enjoyed at other restaurants. Sadly, when the food arrived it was quite different and my hopes were dashed. “No problem,” I decided. “I’ll just see if I can find a recipe and make it myself tomorrow.”
A website called Caroline Cooks provided a recipe that served as a departure point. She also provided an explanation for the name “Waterfall Beef.” It seems that the sizzle of the beef juices falling on the hot coals of the grill sounds somewhat like the sound of a waterfall. Well, what can I say? Use your imagination!
This wonderful dish is easy and incredibly delicious. Chopped shallots and scallions bring a welcome sharpness, lime juice contributes a bright sour flavor and the fish sauce and beef are pure umami. It’s a great combination of flavors that is truly unique. I just can’t think of anything that tastes like it.
So, let’s get started. I don’t want you to have to wait a second longer. Here is a list of what you will need:
1 pound sirloin steak
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro (unless you are one of those folks who are genetically programmed to think cilantro tastes like soap. In that case, leave it out)
1/2 cup of chopped mint
2 tablespoons fish sauce
The juice of 1 1/2 or 2 limes
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (or one seeded and finely chopped fresh chili) Additional dried chili flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons raw rice
One small cabbage
Marinate the steak in low sodium soy sauce and sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper. Marinate for about thirty minutes.
Cut a small cabbage into quarters and rinse it. Separate the leaves as you rinse. Leave the cabbage in a colander to dry.
Chop the shallots and scallions and set aside in a large bowl. Chop the mint and cilantro and add it to the shallots and scallions.
Grill the steak over hot coals until medium rare. Okay, use your gas grill if you must. Remove the steak from the grill and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Slice it into very thin pieces. Save the meat juices.
Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, sambal oelek, and meat juices. Since limes can vary so much in juiciness, you should taste the sauce to make sure it’s well balanced. Try to find limes that are slightly soft. They tend to yield more juice. If the taste is too sharp, adjust by adding a little more fish sauce. The sugar is added to mellow the dressing a little, not to make it sweet. If you want more heat, add extra sambal oelek or a 1/2 teaspoon of dried chili flakes. Once you have the sauce to your liking, pour it over the rest of the ingredients and toss thoroughly.
Take 2 tablespoons of uncooked rice and toast it in a small pan over heat until the rice is light brown. Once cooled, crush it with a mortar and pestle. The crushed rice should be sprinkled over the Nuer Nam Toc to give it a subtle crunch. I will confess I was not very successful in grinding up the toasted rice. I don’t have a mortar and pestle, so I put it int a zip-lock bag and pounded it with a kitchen mallet. I couldn’t get the rice bits fine enough. Next time, I think I’ll leave it off. Sue me.
Serve the Nuer Nam Toc on a plate with cabbage leaves. Use the leaves to wrap the beef mixture “taco style”. The flavor of the cabbage compliments the beef and provides a very satisfying crunch. Nuer Nom Toc is often served as an appetizer. This recipe makes four appetizer portions. I promise you will wow the guests at your next small dinner party. If you are having it as your main course (and why not!), it serves two.
Your taste buds will be doing the happy dance when the crazy and wonderful mix of flavors washes over them. Best of all, it’s a guilt free treat, low in calories and carbs.
I think you will find that Waterfall Beef becomes a new favorite.