Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grilled Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad (Page 165)


  • Date: Monday, January 5, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I picked this recipe because I made one of its components, the Toasted Rice Powder, more than two months ago, and I figured it was about time I used it. I started by making a marinade for the beef. I ground lemongrass stalks and garlic in the food processor then added fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vegetable oil, and sesame oil and blended. I marinated the steak in that mixture for 4 hours. As the name of the recipe suggests, the steak was meant to be grilled. We don't have a grill though, so we used the alternate option which The Book provided, which was broiling the steak. The Book said to broil the steak for 3 to 5 minutes, although for the piece of flank steak that I had, that wasn't nearly enough time. I probably ended up broiling it about 8-10 minutes total, and resorted to butterflying it so that it didn't end up raw in the middle. Meanwhile, I soaked rice noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then I drained them and cooked them briefly in boiling water, then drained them again. Here I was meant to run the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking. More on that in a second. I tossed the noodles with mint and cilantro (and basil -- except not really -- more on that in a second too) and some of the nuoc cham (see post below). Then I put some seedless cucumber slices in the bottom of each of our bowls, topped them with the noodles, then some of the toasted rice powder, then some sliced beef, then some thinly sliced serrano chiles. I served it with the remaining nuoc cham on the side.

By the time I finished cooking this dish I was totally disheartened. I sometimes make mistakes in the kitchen, but usually they aren't of the variety: Teena can't read. But the day I made this, I was apparently just totally illiterate. I could blame it on the fact that I was coming down with pneumonia at the time, but really I doubt that had anything to do with it. I just didn't read carefully. First off, I forgot to buy one of the ingredients. I am very, very careful when I make my very long grocery list each week. This is, in fact, the first time I have ever accidentally left an ingredient off the list. The forgotten ingredient: basil. So I sent my special gentleman out to the neighborhood grocery store while I was cooking, but they didn't have any basil. So the dish went without. Then, while I was cooking, I prepared my noodles and tossed them with the herbs (cilantro and mint) and the nuoc cham, like I read that I was supposed to. When I looked at it I thought, "Man, that's odd to toss herbs in hot noodles like that. All the herbs have wilted." So I referenced The Book again, and indeed I had totally missed the part where it said, "...rinse [noodles] under cold water to stop the cooking." Ah, the noodles should have been cold when I tossed them. These were both relatively minor mistakes, yes, but they affected the outcome of the dish, and that frustrated me.

So by the time I took my first bite, I was already a little pissed off. Luckily, this dish was excellent and it turned my mood right around! The beef was tremendously flavorful from the marinade, and the noodles were delicious tossed with the nuoc cham. The chiles gave the dish a bit of heat and crunch, and the toasted rice powder provided wonderful textural contrast. It was a very solid dish. It tasted fresh, and flavorful, and healthy even. My special gentleman just kept saying, "Wow this is amazing. I love this dinner. This is amazing." This was his favorite meal that we have had in quite some time, which is saying a lot, as we have had some pretty good food lately. Even with my slip-ups this recipe was awesome, so I can only imagine how good it would have been had I prepared it correctly!

Here is the recipe.

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