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Tiger's tears

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July 16, 2008

Serves 6

This refreshing beef and herb salad has a vibrant dressing with enough chilies to make your mouth tingle. Tone down the heat, if you like. You'll have plenty of roasted rice powder remaining, which chef Alison Hearn says is great in coatings or toppings for fish, chicken, or vegetables.

DRESSING (NUOC CHAM)

1/4 cup lime juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce (sold as Vietnamese nuoc mam or Thai nam pla)
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1 Thai bird (or serrano) chili, or more to taste, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1. In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chili, and garlic.

2. Taste the dressing for seasoning and if it's too tart, add more sugar, if too pungent, add lime juice, if not hot enough, another chili pepper.

RICE POWDER

1/2 stalk lemongrass
1/2 cup uncooked Thai glutinous (sticky) rice or jasmine rice
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees.

2. Remove the tough outer layer of the lemongrass. Finely chop the stalk. You need 1 tablespoon. (Use any remaining lemongrass in a stir-fry.)

3. Spread the rice on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes or just until the rice starts to turn golden. Stir in the lemongrass and cook 5 minutes more.

4. Transfer the rice to another baking sheet and leave to cool to room temperature. Working in batches, use a coffee grinder or blender to grind the rice coarsely. (Don't grind it to a powder; keep it granular.)

SALAD

1 pound skirt steak
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 each small red, green, and yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and very thinly sliced
1 bunch each fresh mint, Thai basil, and cilantro, stems discarded, leaves rinsed and dried
1 Thai bird (or serrano) chili, or more to taste, thinly sliced (optional)
1. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat.

2. In a large shallow bowl, combine the steak and soy sauce. Turn it a few times and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

3. Remove the meat from the marinade. Sprinkle the steak with pepper. Grill, turning once, for 6 to 10 minutes or until it is medium-rare. Set the steak on a cutting board and cool to room temperature.

4. Cut the steak into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

5. In a large bowl, combine the bell peppers, mint, Thai basil, cilantro, chili (if using), and about 1 tablespoon of the roasted rice powder. Toss with the dressing. Add the sliced steak and toss again. Divide among 6 plates. Garnish with more roasted rice. Adapted from Myers + Chang

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