Nam Tok : Thai Meat Salad
Recently, it was my daughter’s birthday and my husband ordered a fantastic cut of beef from the Scottish butchers ‘Macdonald & son’ from Dundee. Our 7kg sirloin on the bone steak travelled quickly from Scotland to South East England and was grilling on the BBQ the next day! As you can imagine, we had some leftover meat from lunch which made it perfect to use for a quick and easy Thai meat salad… Nam Tok!
This is an incredibly delicious Thai salad, the more common salads you may know might be Som Tam and Larb, but Nam Tok takes centre stage for me! Nam Tok means ‘waterfall’ in Thai and the name came from the action of the juice/blood dripping from the beef while it’s grilling. So this meat salad has a wetter sauce compared to its sister salad, Larb.
What Beef should I use for Nam Tok?
Traditionally, Nam Tok is made with beef (Neua), so in Thai, it is called ‘Nam Tok Neua’. Ribeye steak is the best cut to cook for this dish because it is the juiciest and most marbled steak. It is a forgiving steak to cook because it has a lot of intramuscular fat; if overcooked, it will still taste juicy and delicious. When the fat is rendered off, the juice left in the pan is used to make the salad dressing.
Sirloin steak is a great cut to cook, and their reasonable price makes sirloin an affordable choice for weeknight dinners. Sirloin doesn’t have as much intramuscular marbling or fat, so you will need to take care not to overcook this one! Rump steak is another good option, it is an inexpensive alternative to ribeye steak and it tastes amazing when it is cooked to a medium temperature (in general).
For Nam Tok Neua, you can get away with slightly uncooking the steak than your usual desired temperature. I would recommend cooking the steak rare to medium-rare because the curing properties of the fresh lime juice, sugar and fish sauce will continue to cook the pieces of beef whilst you are preparing and eating the dish.
Of course, you can find these cuts of beef across all supermarkets but when purchasing meat directly from butchers, you will be buying the highest quality produce. Many butchers have great websites and national next day delivery, which means you can taste the differences in flavour from the cows grazing in the fields up and down the country. The steak we bought from Macdonald’s & Son, the Aberdeen Angus were grass-fed in the fields by the coastline of Aberdeenshire, where the sea salt entered their diet naturally. Here is a link to their website, it’s worth taking a look!
How is Nam Tok Neua made?
This dish is prepared by adding thinly sliced shallots, lime juice, fresh mint leaves, coriander leaves, roasted chilli powder and roasted ground sticky rice (Khao Khua) to grilled meat which is sliced into bite-sized pieces. The result is a juicy salad with spice and tanginess which is quite the hit in our household! You can find out the recipe here!
Nam Tok is served with a bowl of sticky rice and a plate of fresh herbs and vegetables to be eaten between bites. Generally, a small ball of sticky rice is rolled in your hands and you pinch some nam tok with the sticky rice ball and eat together. Also with the sticky rice ball, you can soak up all the juices from the plate, the sauce is too good to leave!
Another way of eating nam tok is in lettuce cups. Wash the lettuce under cold water and pick apart each lettuce cup, scoop up some nam tok and place inside the cup and eat, you can also include rice in the cup too. I wouldn’t say there is a right way to eat this dish, everyone in my family has their own individual way for eating nam tok! In between bites, grab fresh herbs or vegetables to eat such as cucumber, Thai eggplant or spring onions. Jump to our recipe to see the full list of ingredients and cooking method here!
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