I have a growing collection of international food staples bought online. It started with spices and teas, then expanded to various grains and flours, and then bloomed with an assortment of oils and pastes. My husband barely raises an eyebrow now when he lugs home a 3-lb. jar of coconut oil or a pallet of rice flour and I gleefully add them to my stash. I’ll say, Just wait til you see what I make with this!
This bowl of noodles started with a little jar of tamarind paste that I ordered online. I had just read The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, Christina Arokiasamy‘s tantalizing account (and recipes) of growing up working in her family’s spice stall and kitchen in Malaysia. Her recipes are rich with exotic and aromatic spices and ingredients, including some unfamiliar ones to me, such as tamarind. Then Bon Appétit featured this mouth-watering spicy tamarind skirt steak, and Steve at Oui, Chef followed suit with this deliciousness; I knew I had to give tamarind a try.Tart and tangy, tamarind paste is a wonderful and easy way to add intense flavor to a marinade and tenderize the meat at the same time. I followed the basic outline of the Bon Appétit marinade but added citrusy lemongrass and zingy ginger and some garlic for even more kick. Some brown sugar gives it a sweet dimension, and Thai chilis add some heat. I tell you, this is packed full of flavor and enticing scents! I added the tender & aromatic beef to chilled rice noodles with sliced cucumbers, mint, cilantro, lime juice, scallions, and more Thai chilis for a refreshing contrast of flavors and texture. My taste-buds did happy dances from sweet to sour to hot to cool.
This is a perfect chilled noodle bowl for a warm or hot day, and you can adjust the spiciness or sweetness to your liking. I will certainly be making this again and again — that is, as soon as I replenish my tamarind and noodle stash 🙂
Happy Friday, everyone! Please join us at Fiesta Friday for an array of tantalizing treats. You can’t miss Angie’s fantastic Forager’s Fritters!
Aromatic Beef Noodles with Cucumber & Mint
- 1.5 lbs. skirt steak or flank steak, cut into thin strips across the grain (best if the butcher does it, or you can find ready-sliced fajita steak)
- 1/4 cup tamarind paste
- 2 Tbs. canola oil, divided
- 1 and 1/2 Tbs. finely chopped lemongrass (1 stalk)
- 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
- 3 Tbs. light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus ground white or black pepper to taste
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 small Thai chili, split open & seeds removed, then chopped fine [Note: The Bon Appétit recipe calls for 3 Thai chilis with seeds – I was a bit skittish and tried just one here without seeds. I found them so mild & pleasant that I added two more later on with the rice noodles. If you are spice-averse or unsure, I recommend this way.]
- 8 oz. (227 g.) dried rice noodles (pad thai thickness)
- one lime, cut into wedges
- 1 bunch mint, torn
- 1 bunch cilantro, torn
- 1 scallion, chopped fine, white parts separate to add to pan; green & light green set aside for garnish
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved & sliced
- 2 additional Thai chilis (optional)
- cold water & ice
- Combine tamarind paste, 1 Tbs. oil, lemongrass, ginger, sugar, salt & pepper, garlic & chili; mix well and add to sealable plastic bag with the strips of beef. Close the bag, massage well with your hands, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Prepare the rice noodles according to package directions (I boiled mine for 3 minutes, then rinsed with cold water). Set aside in a large bowl with a little ice-cold water (about 3/4 cup) and a couple ice cubes.
- When ready to cook the marinated steak, heat a pan on high and add 2 tsp. of oil. When very hot, add the beef in one layer, spread out, and cook quickly – just 1 to 2 mins. per side, or until cooked through and caramelized on the edges. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan; adding more oil if necessary between batches. With the last batch, add the scallions along with the beef. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Assemble each bowl with some chilled noodles and a few spoonfuls of water and a spritz of lime juice, then add the mint & cilantro, the green scallions, cucumber, and additional chopped chilis. Add the beef with any accumulated sauce and cooked scallions to the sides of the bowl. Garnish with extra lime wedges, herbs & chilis if desired.
Note: This is best eaten immediately. It doesn’t store well, at least as a chilled noodle bowl. If you have leftover rice noodles & beef, I recommend refrigerating them (separate from cucumbers and fresh herbs & garnishes) then re-heating in the microwave and enjoying as a warm beef noodle bowl (no cucumbers or mint). If you’d like, you can garnish this with fresh cilantro and chilis.