Here is another Classic Cambodian dish that is popular among Cambodian household. Marinated beef is tossed with fresh herbs and different vegetables. Chopped peanuts provide that extra nutty crunchy taste. My addition of jalapeños added a nice kick to every bite. It does look a bit similar to the Thai Style Larb with Beef. The addition of Pahok juice makes this distinctively Cambodian, but it’s optional.
What prompted me to make this dish was the beautiful bright red radishes that were on sale this week at the market. I’ve never worked with these beautiful things before but I bought it anyways because it was only .50 cent per bunch. Then I remembered that my Mother had use it in several of her salad recipes. I went to my cookbook collection and settled with The Elephant Walk Cookbook.
As I flipped through The Elephant Walk Cookbook I came across the recipe for Lime-Marinated Beef with Bean Sprouts and Mint. Author Longteine De Monteiro & Katherine Neustadt stated in the book “I fear that this recipe has been lost to the younger generation, and I would like to help restore it.” Her message did get across to me. My recipe is adapt loosely from this cookbook. I added a few additional ingredients, tweaked the measurements to fit my taste and also adjust my method of cooking the raw beef.
To be honest this was my very first time making it on my own plus eating this classic dish even though my Mother made had made it several times when I grew up. Mostly for my Father and his friends when they come over to practice traditional music for Cambodian weddings. This was way back in the late 80s. Now the gathering are smaller and less often. Perhaps it’s because the thought of eating raw beef doesn’t sound appealing to us kids even when we were told that it is technically cooked once it’s been cut into paper thin slice and marinated in lime juice. Still, we shook our heads and turned away. Instead we made fried eggs and poured soy seasoning sauce on top to go with our hot steamy rice. Which is what I did (again) as a back-up plan when I made this.
I was hesitant to taste my salad at first even when I used a different cooking method. But after a bite with my eyes tightly close, man oh man, it was G-O-O-D. Now I wish I had done it a long time. This dish is fairly easy to make and most of the cooking time goes to prepping. IMO, the meat can be prepared in many ways. You can grill it before making the salad or pan fry it after marinating. It’s is totally up to you. That is one of the perks of cooking your own dish.
Cambodian Lime-Marinated Beef Salad (makes 2-3 servings)
(Plear Sachko) ភ្លាសាច់គោ
adapt from The Elephant Walk Cookbook
½ cup lime juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon small stalk lemongrass, very thinly sliced
½ tablespoon finely chopped garlic
½ lb boneless top round, sliced as thinly as possible against the grain
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Pahok juice (optional)
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
3 radishes, skin slightly peeled and thinly sliced
1 jalapeños, thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons peanuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
Partly freeze the beef to make it a bit firm. This will enable easy handling and ease of thinly slicing the beef.
Combine half of the lime juice with 1 tablespoons of sugar, the lemongrass and half of the garlic in a medium bowl. Mix well, then add the beef, tossing to coat evenly, and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the fish sauce, water, Pahok juice (if using) and the remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix until the sugar dissolves completely, then add the remaining lime juice, shallots, and the remaining garlic. Set aside.
Drain the beef, pressing gently with your hands to remove as much liquid as possible. At this point, you can either proceed with the next step, or like me, take it another step forward by bringing about 4 cups of water to a rolling boil and then add the beef to cook for just one minute. Remove and strain. Allow it to cool to the touch and press it gently to remove excess liquid.
Return the beef to the mixing bowl and add sliced radish, jalapenos, bean sprouts, mint, basil and half the chopped peanuts. Toss well. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish the salad with sprinkles of peanut and serve.