One of the many wonderful dishes that Jazz Singsanong and her brother Suthiporn Sungkamee, known as Tui, have on the menu at Jitlada Thai Restaurant in Hollywood is this Thai beef salad. It's easy to make, and relies upon two bowlsful of sauces and herbs--one for the marinade and one for the dressing--which give the dish the layers of flavor that power it. Singsanong says that you can make the salad with duck (or chicken or tofu) instead of beef, and adjust the amount of chile that you put into the recipe to your taste, a little if you're a lightweight, a great deal if you prefer smoke coming out your ears during lunch.
Of course if you're that kind of a hedonist (or masochist, whatever), you might try ordering the Dynamite salad the next time you're at the restaurant. It might look similar to the Thai beef salad, but don't be fooled; it's on an entirely different plane. The salad, a paean to Thai chiles, has only been on the menu for about a month, and Singsanong says that so far only two people have been able to consume the entire plate. Food blogger Jo Stougaard of MyLastBite, and another customer, also named Joe, both of whose names Singsanong plans to put on a plaque on the wall somewhere in the neighborhood of Matt Groening's Jitlada cartoon.
"The other customers have to wrap and take it home. So much chile! I never finish it," said Singsanong the other day over lunch. The last time she tried it, she says, "I have my ambulance scream."
Jitlada's Thai beef salad
From: Jitlada Thai Restaurant.
Note: Palm sugar is available in Asian and Hispanic markets. Shrimp paste and oyster sauce are available in Asian markets and most grocery stores.
Serves: 2-4, family style
1 pound of beef, tri-tip or rib-eye, at room temperature
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons palm sugar, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove of fresh garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspooon shrimp paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 fresh Thai chile (can use jalapeño chile), or to taste
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 scallion, cut on the bias into 1 1/2-inch long pieces
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 medium ripe tomato, sliced
3-4 stems of fresh cilantro
Iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
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1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and black pepper. Place the beef in a large ovenproof skillet and rub the beef with the mixture. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.
2. Add the butter to the pan and place the pan over high heat. Cook the meat until the surface begins to caramelize, turning it over so that it sears on both sides. Put the pan in the oven and continue cooking until the meat reaches the desired doneness, about 15 minutes for medium-rare. Let the meat rest on a cutting board or other surface until it reaches room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, crush the garlic and the chile in a mortar and pestle. In a large bowl combine the crushed garlic and chiles, lemon juice, shrimp paste, sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce and mix until well combined. Thinly slice the cooled beef and toss with the dressing. Add the onions, scallions, and cucumbers and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes last, tossing carefully.
4. Arrange the salad on a large plate, top with the cilantro and serve with the lettuce on the side.