(Goi Xoai Voi Bo)
SERVES 2 – 4
A key ingredient in this salad is Asian basil, also known as Thai basil. It has small, pointed leaves and a delicate licorice flavor. This recipe is an adaptation of one we found in Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (HarperCollins, 2001).
FOR THE DRESSING:
1–2 bird's-eye chiles, stemmed and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
4 1⁄2 tsp. sugar
4 1⁄2 tsp. Vietnamese fish sauce
Juice and some pulp from 1/2 lime
FOR THE SALAD:
3 small shallots, peeled
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, tender inner parts only,
2 tsp. Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1⁄2 lb. beef top loin steak, sliced against the grain into
1 green (unripe) mango, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
6–8 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1⁄4 cup Asian basil leaves, torn into thirds
2 tbsp. unsalted roasted peanuts
1. For the dressing: Crush chiles, garlic, and sugar together with a mortar and pestle to a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in fish sauce, lime juice and pulp, and 1 1/2 tbsp. water, and set dressing aside.
2. For the salad: Cut 1 of the shallots in half crosswise. Finely chop 1 of the halves, transfer to a shallow medium dish, and set aside. Thinly slice remaining shallots crosswise, spread them out on paper towels, and let air-dry for 30 minutes. Combine sliced shallots and oil in a small heavy skillet and bring oil to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook shallots, stirring occasionally with a slotted metal spoon, until light golden brown, 15–20 minutes (shallots will continue to darken when removed from the oil). Transfer shallots with slotted spoon to paper towels to let drain and cool. Save cooking oil for another use, if you like, or discard.
3. Add lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar to dish with chopped shallots and stir until sugar dissolves. Add beef, mix until well coated, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill. Grill beef over medium-hot heat, turning once, until just cooked through, about 1 minute per side. Transfer grilled meat to a large bowl. Add mangoes and dressing, and toss gently. Add cilantro, basil, peanuts, and fried shallots, and toss gently again. Adjust seasonings and serve.