Anyone wondering where the beef was in the Ranger’s hitting squad during the 2010 world series need look no further–we’ve got a recipe for you to chew on straight from Texas.
When I was travelling to Austin in 2009, I would contemplate where I could dine next to pass my culinary time. A Friend of mine and local Austin REALTOR , Jeff Niemeyer recommended I try Houston’s near the arboretum; trying to stick to lighter fare when on the road, I’d often eat salads for lunch and or dinner and so when I arrived and found a Thai Beef Salad on the menu I was set.
Once I tried the Thai Beef Salad at Houston’s in Austin I never ventured any further down their menu. It was absolutely one of the best salads I have enjoyed. People who know me well know I enjoy the challenge of deconstructing something I have tasted while dining out to detect what ingredients were employed. Often times it’s fairly easy as some flavors overpower the dish and are easily identified. But every so often a chef develops a recipe that is so complex, so well balanced that it titillates the taste buds with a mosaic of contrasting flavors where one could spend days attempting to deconstruct the recipes–or as in my case, eating the salad many times and taking copious notes.
First and foremost the salad plays with all the senses of taste–bitter, sweet, sour, salt and introduces spice with perfectly contrasting flavors of just enough heat and spice followed by refreshingly chilled mango. It further satisfies your sense of umami with refreshing rice noodles and perfectly grilled beef filet.
The salad starts with a bed of rice noodles which have been cooked, fried lightly, and briught to room temperature, then ever so lightly tossed with sesame oil. A medley of julienne red bell peppers, carrots, tomato wedges, shredded cabbage and cubes of mango add complimenting textures, and wonderfully wild flavor combinations which serve to further enhance the colorful presentation and add more depth with each irresistable bite.
The dressing offers the spice and bitter with the introduction of fresh lime, orange juice and fish sauce while Srircacha adds a kick and is well paired with shiso to create depth to the dressing. Finally, the scallions and crunchy dry roasted peanuts offer a nice contrasting crunch at the end.
While each ingredient has been carefully chosen to perform its respective roll of adding texture, color and smacking all the senses of tastes, the warm cubes of medium rare beef filet lightly marinated in the dressing, then charcoal grilled, adds the ultimate umami to finish the dish.
When I returned home with my notes in tow, I checked on the internet to find out if Houston’s posts the recipe–no luck. But I did find an interestingly close approximation written by Kayla Williams (with my notes added in pen as to what I felt brought it closer to the recipe I had in Austin). For example, the shiso, which is most often associated sitting alongside your plate of sushi as the Japanese equivalent of parsley, is introduced in the salad as a complex version of what might be confused as mint and cilantro combination, and in fact if you can’t find shiso that’s a relatively logical substitution.
So without further ado here’s my collaborated best approximation of one the best salads I’ve had: