I love fresh salads with lots of veggies, and sliced steak on top puts this salad firmly in main-dish territory. This salad turned out to be tasty, but also way too spicy! Next time I'd use a smaller amount of chile to calm down the spiciness. That said, other than the over-the-top spiciness, the dish was really delicious. For the leftovers, I strained the chiles out of the leftover dressing before tossing it with the veggies, and the spice level was perfect for me.
If you can find them, the minced lime leaves really make this taste authentic and add a fantastic aroma. I loved the mixture of watercress and herbs, and their delicate leaves combined perfectly with crunchy cucumbers and carrots. The steak was also really delicious - super moist and flavorful. Flat iron steak is one of my absolute favorite cuts of beef because it's tender but also inexpensive - just ask your butcher to trim out the tendon before wrapping it up for you. This dish is a real winner with just the small tweak of less chile (or use the full amount if you love hot food!).
Vietnamese Steak Salad (adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, via Serious Eats)
3 T freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
4 T fish sauce
1 T chile garlic paste
2 tsp sugar
1 fresh red Thai chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 pound flat iron steak, tendon removed (ask the butcher to do this for you)
Salt and pepper
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
1 bunch cilantro, tough stems removed
1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked off stems
6 kaffir lime leaves, center stem removed, minced (optional)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded, and cut into matchsticks
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
2 small avocados, diced
1. Place the lime juice, fish sauce, chile garlic paste, sugar, and chile in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Screw on the lid, and shake to combine.
2. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the steak and cook to your desired level of doneness. Let rest a few minutes, and then thinly slice the steak against the grain.
3. While the steak is cooking, toss together the watercress, cilantro, mint, kaffir lime leaves, cucumber, and carrots.
4. Toss the vegetables with some of the dressing - just enough to lightly coat. Divide among four bowls. Top with diced avocado, and then sliced steak. Serve with the remaining dressing to drizzle over the salads.