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Episode 302: Planet Steak

Cambodian Steak with Salads and Condiments

Serves: 4

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Cambodian Steak with Salads and Condiments

Recipe Notes

  • Method: Direct grilling

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds teres major (also called bistro steaks or petite tenderloin)

For the marinade:

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • The white part of 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 hot chile (such as a red Thai or bird chile), seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated, or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted peanuts

For the salad platter:

  • 1 head Boston or butter lettuce, broken into whole leaves, washed, and spun dry
  • 1 bunch watercress, torn into sprigs
  • 2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • 1 cup Thai basil or regular basil leaves
  • 1/2 pound long beans or green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 carrots, preferably rainbow, peeled and cut sharply on the diagonal into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small tomato, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice, plus 4 lime halves for squeezing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, pale parts sliced paper-thin crosswise
  • 3 small hot red chiles, such as Thai chiles, thinly sliced crosswise, in a shallow bowl with a spoon
  • 3 scallions, green part only (reserved from the marinade), thinly sliced on the diagonal, in a shallow bowl
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped (do so in a food processor, running the machine in short bursts), in a shallow bowl with a small spoon

Recipe Steps

1: Place the steak in a large, nonreactive mixing bowl. Add the ingredients for the marinade—the garlic, ginger, scallion white, chili, turmeric, fish sauce or soy sauce, lemon juice, and peanuts—and stir to coat the beef well. Marinate the steak, covered, in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

2: Shortly before serving, arrange the ingredients for the salad platter—the lettuce, watercress, napa, basil, beans, carrots, cucumber, tomato, and scallion greens—by kind and in an attractive pattern.

3: Shortly before serving, prepare the dipping sauce: Place the sugar and warm water in a mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the fish sauce (or pra hok), lime juice, garlic, lemongrass, chiles, and scallions. Ladle the sauce into 4 small bowls for dipping. Have the ground peanuts in a bowl on the side.

4: Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to high (450 degrees). Brush and oil the grill grate.

5: Grill the steaks until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium. (In general, Cambodians like their steaks medium to medium-well.) Transfer to a cutting board. Let rest for 2 minutes, then thinly slice crosswise with a chef’s knife or a cleaver. Transfer the beef to a platter.

6: So here’s how you eat Cambodian steak: Stir the ground peanuts into your dipping sauce. Using your chopsticks, dip a couple slices of steak in the sauce, swirling it to coat well, then place it on a lettuce leaf. Finally, place some watercress, napa, basil, beans, carrots, cucumber, scallions, chiles, and tomato on top of the meat. Add a squirt of lime juice if you’d like. Roll the whole shebang up, dip again if you like, and eat it like a taco. This may be about the most complex set of steak flavors you ever put in your mouth.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2021 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein

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