FOOD: Vietnamese beef and lemongrass noodle salad

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I’m not sure about you, but in the depths of winter I sometimes crave a light, tasty salad as an alternative to some of the heavier, hearty winter meals we often cook. The recipe below uses a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce as the dressing, and the resulting flavours are clean, bright and restorative. There are quite a few ingredients, but the preparation’s simple, and it’s a fantastic way to introduce family or friends to Vietnamese flavours. When you’re preparing the lemongrass, ensure you peel off at least one or two of the outer layers, which tend to be a little chewy, and slice off the end core (about 3mm from the end). Enjoy this sneaky reminder spring is on its way!

PREP TIME:  15 MINS / COOK TIME:  25 MINS

SERVES:  5 PEOPLE

INGREDIENTS
Salad
600g sirloin steak
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar
300g rice vermicelli noodles
1 cucumber, seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 carrot, grated (or julienned)
1 good handful mint leaves
1 cup Thai basil (or Vietnamese mint)
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 good handfuls of bean sprouts

Dressing
1 chilli, finely diced
1/4 cup of lime juice (use lemon if you can’t get lime)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons fresh coriander

METHOD
1.  Pre-heat oven to 200degC.

2.  In a pestle and mortar, grind the peppercorns, lemongrass and garlic into a paste. Tip into a bowl with the fish sauce and sugar and combine. Rub this all over the sirloin, the meat and fat side. Pop it onto a plate and let it marinate while you prepare the rest of the
salad.

3.  Next, make the dressing. Pound the chilli and garlic into a paste, then combine with all the other ingredients in a bowl. Set aside till ready to use.

4.  Prepare the noodles according to the instructions on the pack — they vary according to which brand you use. I often cut the noodles once cooked or soaked to make for easier eating. On a serving platter, combine the shredded lettuce, cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts, all the herbs and noodles and gently toss.

5.  To cook the beef, take a large pan and heat to a medium-high heat. Place the beef,
fat-side down, and cook for 2-3 mins to release some of the fat and turn it a golden
brown. Ensure you don’t burn it.

6.  Turn the beef over and seal the meat side, again for 2-3 mins. Place onto a roasting
dish and put into the oven.

7.  As a general rule, allow about 12 mins per 450g for medium-rare, which is the best
way to serve this salad. I cooked mine for about 18 mins, but I prefer mine quite rare.
Turn the meat half-way through for a more even cook.

8.  Once cooked, remove from oven and rest for about 10 mins, covered in loose foil.

9.  Thinly slice the beef and place over the salad. Pour over the dressing then sprinkle the
peanuts over. Save a little dressing for people to add more if they choose. Serve
immediately.