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Deep-Fried Salted Beef with Chile/Tamarind Sauce

Thai Street Food, David Thompson / December 2010

For 3 to 4 servings (requires advance preparation)

Chile/tamarind sauce
• 6 dried long red chiles, trimmed, cut lengthwise, and seeds removed
• 2 to 3 dried bird's eye chiles
• 4 red shallots, unpeeled
• 3 lg. cloves garlic, unpeeled
• 1 fresh long red chile
• 3 Tbsps. tamarind pulp
• 2 to 3 Tbsps. maengdtaa fish sauce
• 2 cilantro roots, cleaned and chopped
• 1/8 tsp. salt
• 1/8 tsp. granulated sugar
• 1/8 tsp. roasted chile powder

  1. Heat grill to high.

  2. Place 5 bamboo skewers in baking pan; cover with water; let stand 30 minutes; reserve.

  3. Place dried chiles in small bowl; cover with water; let stand 15 minutes; remove from water; squeeze out as much water as possible; remove skewers from water; thread chiles, shallots, garlic, and fresh chile onto skewers; grill until chiles are slightly charred and shallots and garlic are softened (shallots and garlic will cook longer than chiles); remove from heat; place on serving platter; cool; peel shallots and garlic; remove seeds from fresh chile; reserve.

  4. Place tamarind and fish sauce in a bowl; squeeze with your hands to work flesh away from seeds and fiber; strain through fine chinois into clean bowl; reserve. 5. Place cilantro roots and salt in large mortar; grind into a paste with a pestle; add chiles; grind well; add shallots and garlic; grind into fine paste; stir in reserved tamarind mixture; add sugar and chile powder (sauce should taste equally sour, hot, and salty); mix well; place in airtight container; reserve in refrigerator.

• 2 Tbsps. fish sauce or light soy sauce
• 1/8 tsp. salt
• 1/8 tsp. white pepper, freshly ground
• 1/8 tsp. granulated sugar
• 9 oz. beef rump or sirloin, cut into 2" by 1" by 1/4" thick pieces
• 1 tsp. coriander seeds, coarsely chopped
• canola oil (for frying)
• jasmine or sticky rice (for serving)
• cilantro sprigs (for serving)

  1. Mix fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in nonreactive baking dish; add meat; coat meat well with marinade; cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes; remove from refrigerator; add coriander seeds; place in oven with pilot light on; let dry overnight.

  2. Fill large wok 2/3 full with oil; set over medium heat until oil reaches 350°F; add beef in batches; cook 4 minutes, turning with tongs to ensure even cooking; remove with spider; place on paper towels to drain; cool slightly; cut into thin slices; reserve (keep warm).

  3. To serve, divide meat among serving plates; place a mound of rice next to each; top meat with chile/tamarind sauce; garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Chef's Note: I prefer maengdtaa fish sauce, made from a rich roach-like water beetle, for its haunting aroma, but any good-quality fish sauce will work.