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.
April 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm
This looks delicious.
April 25, 2014 at 2:23 pm
Yum! 🙂 This looks healthy and delicious!
April 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm
The only thing my (excessive) stash is missing is the lemongrass. Looks like a quick trip to the store, and I’ll be on my way to a delicious dish! The blend of ingredients sounds absolutely perfect!
April 29, 2014 at 11:29 am
Thank you, Nancy, and I’m glad I’m not the only one with excessive stashing tendencies!
April 29, 2014 at 1:34 pm
Lol. 🙂 Culinary stashers unite!
April 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm
Happy dance indeed, this sounds packed with flavour, and it’s so colourful! I really like the plate you have served the noodles on, such intricate patterns! 😀
April 29, 2014 at 11:28 am
Thanks, it’s a platter I got in Bosnia 🙂
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April 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm
Laura, this is a perfectly seasoned dish. I love all the spices, herbs and thai chili’s. I’m bookmarking for sure. My list of things to make is growing longer every time I visit your blog! 🙂
April 29, 2014 at 11:30 am
Thanks, I feel the same visiting yours!
April 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm
What a lovely recipe! I love anything with rice noodles in it, and this bowl looks so fragrant and tasty, reminds me of the Vietnamese rice noodle bowls I like to eat at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. I must give this a try sometimes – love the recipe and the beautiful, colorful photos too! hugs
April 29, 2014 at 11:36 am
Thanks, Sylvia, I too love rice noodles – thus the ginormous pallet of them I’ve stocked up on, to hubby’s chagrin 🙂 I’d love to have a real Vietnamese rice noodle bowl right now – there are so few good Asian options here in Berlin! Please enjoy one for me. Hugs to you too.
April 25, 2014 at 4:40 pm
Looks wonderful, what a lovely bowl! Must try.
April 29, 2014 at 11:40 am
Thanks, Suzanne. It’s something so different from my usual repertoire and was a surprisingly yummy mix of new flavors!
April 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm
Wow, Laura! I can smell the fragrant aroma of the beef from here. This is one of my favorite ways of eating, pairing delicious, well spiced meats with noodles and fresh veggies. Pinning for a summer meal!
April 29, 2014 at 11:39 am
It would be refreshing on a hot summer day! The rice noodles and crisp cucumber & herbs did balance that spicy/sour/sweet beef. Thanks, Ngan 🙂
April 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm
This looks so delicious, Laura! I could imagine the smell – hhhhmmm, I could eat some right now! Thank you for bringing it to the Fiesta! Have a wonderful weekend! :
April 29, 2014 at 11:38 am
Thanks, Jhuls, hope you had a great weekend too! The aroma of this was super intoxicating!
April 25, 2014 at 5:47 pm
Gorgeous pictures, sounds so good!
April 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm
ha ha I do the same with spices! When we moved I had 3 large boxes with just spices, and no one was out of date! 🙂 Your beef noodles looks amazing and I love the spices!
April 29, 2014 at 11:41 am
Thanks, Petra, and I’m with you – it’s always good to have a good stash of spices 🙂
April 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm
I love the flavors here. You have a well-seasoned and adventurous palate! 🙂 Beautiful shots of the beef noodles, as well.
April 29, 2014 at 11:42 am
Thanks, Shanna! It was truly flavorful, and I’m glad you like the shots – I’m working on that!
April 25, 2014 at 8:02 pm
Oh, I am doing a happy dance just reading this! Imagine what I will be doing when I am eating this! I am printing this recipe for sure and I cannot wait to cook it!! 😀
April 29, 2014 at 11:43 am
That means a lot – thanks! Let me know how it goes, and happy cooking.
April 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm
This looks so refreshing. Except we would replace the beef with chicken 🙂
April 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm
Hi Laura! I enjoyed your post and the recipe looks fantastic! I don’t eat beef but I love the sound of the flavour combinations. Tamarind paste is on my list of to-try ingredients. I do order food online too – I thought I was the only one! 🙂 I usually stick to Tahini because I don’t seem to find that anywhere. Also, the Spice Merchant’s Daughter sounds intriguing, I love food memoirs and this sounds right up my alley! Maybe I will collect all of these recipes and use up my big jar of tamarind paste at once!
April 29, 2014 at 11:45 am
Sounds good – I think you could use seafood or chicken as a substitute. Thanks so much for your comments. Glad to know there are other food stashers 🙂
April 25, 2014 at 11:11 pm
delicious recipe! thank you for having shared with us in the fiesta friday! greetings from Italy
April 29, 2014 at 11:46 am
April 26, 2014 at 12:01 am
I have never used tamarind paste before and I too get so many ingredients online when I cannot find them locally. It is never impossible to make any recipe and I always like to research an ingredient, then of course I usually order it. Within the past year I first tried rice noodles and I like them a lot – your recipe sounds great 🙂
April 29, 2014 at 11:48 am
Thanks, and I agree that these days there’s always a way to get most ingredients or at least a close substitute.
April 26, 2014 at 12:01 am
Looks really tasty! very refreshing!
April 26, 2014 at 5:36 pm
That noodle bowl really inviting Laura & I love tamarind. It is a common ingredient in many coastal dishes and street food in India, so it is something I have grown up with and always have raw tamarind in my pantry (needs to be soaked in warm water and then pureed before use)
April 29, 2014 at 11:50 am
I’m happy to hear from someone so familiar with tamarind – it’s such a unique flavor! When I first opened the jar of this paste, it struck as similar to prunes (!) but that tangy, intense flavor is so special. I will certainly be experimenting more with it and would love to learn more authentic Indian or other Asian uses. Thanks!
April 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm
I would sooo love to have a bowl of that. I can feel my tastebuds already dancing from sweet to sour to hot to cool just by looking at them. 🙂
April 29, 2014 at 11:50 am
Thanks, Sadia 🙂
April 27, 2014 at 7:35 pm
This looks so good! i’m like you. I’m always hauling in new ingredients and my husband is about to say something until i say “just you wait.” Thanks for the great links in this post. I’m going to follow your journey here and order some tamarind. I love the mint touch here too.
April 29, 2014 at 11:52 am
Yes, the mint and cucumbers bring freshness, along with the rice noodles – I was thinking this would make a good lunch for a girls’ spa day 🙂 My husband feels your husband’s pain! Thanks, it’s always good to hear from you, Amanda!
April 28, 2014 at 6:36 am
Ooh, I love this, Laura. Very reminiscent of a Vietnamese noodle dish I enjoy. 🙂
April 29, 2014 at 11:54 am
Glad to hear I’m not too far from something authentic – I was sort of creating as I went and didn’t envision a noodle bowl until it all came together 🙂 Thanks, Patty!
April 29, 2014 at 4:58 am
Love this dish! The mint and cucumber combination sounds refreshing. Beautiful presentation too 🙂
April 29, 2014 at 11:55 am
Thank you! This was refreshing, and a different mix of flavors than I’ve cooked with before! Glad you like it and thanks for visiting.
May 1, 2014 at 4:37 am
Haven’t cooked with tamarind in ages. Must buy a block the next time I’m near the International store. Your recipe sounds delicious. And I must check your links for the others.