Published July 1, 2005.
This dish offers an exotic change of pace from Chinese stir-fries. But who has shrimp paste, tamarind pulp, galangal, and palm sugar, plus three hours to make dinner?
We found a recipe for ultimate Thai chile beef in one of our favorite cookbooks, but it required exotic ingredients and three hours of preparation—definitely not a recipe suitable for making midweek supper in an average American home kitchen. (Note: we subsequently also tackled the same dish with shrimp, solving the same problems).
We wanted to create a sophisticated Thai chile beef recipe built around the traditional Thai flavors--spicy, sweet, sour, and salty--using readily available ingredients and requiring minimal cooking time.
A cheap and readily available cut—blade steak—won our taste test for its tenderness and very beefy flavor. We added the beef to our transformed stir-fry marinade—made with fish sauce for its briny flavor, white pepper for its spicy and almost gamy flavor, citrusy coriander, and a little light brown sugar for both sweetness and help in developing caramelization. With these complex elements, the beef needed to marinate for only 15 minutes to develop full flavor. We also wanted some heat but found it difficult to achieve just the right amount as fresh jalapeños have wildly unpredictable heat levels. To solve the problem, we introduced a second, easily controlled heat source—Asian chili-garlic paste—that added toasty garlicky flavors along with heat. More fish sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, fresh mint and cilantro, a few crunchy chopped peanuts, and a bright squirt of lime juice finished the dish.list of recipes