Raw curled water spinach stems perfectly complement warm steak in a light fermented tofu dressing. Think of it as a steak salad version of Rau Muong/Ong Choy Xao Chao (Vietnamese/Chinese Water Spinach with Fermented Tofu). I used red fermented bean curd, which gave the dressing a nice pop of color. Tossed some pickled onions on top.
I first encountered another version of this salad, with lightly stir-fried water spinach at Xanh Bistro - Fountain Valley several years ago. When I tried recreating it at home, just sauteed water spinach didn't seem special enough for me. I then tried lightly sauteing the curled water spinach stems, but they rapidly wilted.
The lovely part about curled water spinach stems, and really why they're popular as a garnish in soups, is because they stay crisp when warm ingredients are added. So for a summer salad, even as leftovers, the water spinach stems stay nice and crunchy.
Xa Lach Thit Bo Rau Muong (Vietnamese Steak and Water Spinach Salad)
For 2 servings as a meal and 4 servings as a side, you'll need:
1 bunch water spinach, stems & a few young leaves
1/2 lb beef steak of your choice
1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or 1/2 tsp steak seasoning of your choice
1/4 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 tsp soy sauce
1 cube Chao/Doufu Ru (Vietnamese/Chinese Fermented Bean Curd)
Hanh Dam (Vietnamese Vinegared Onions)
Marinate your steak with either 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper or 1/2 tsp steak seasoning of your choice. Pour 1/4 tsp fish sauce and 1 tsp soy sauce. Set aside to marinate.
Make the Hanh Dam (Vietnamese Vinegared Onions) and set aside so they can soften.
Use a Dao Che Rau Muong (Vietnamese Water Spinach Splitter) to curl the water spinach stems, adding a few young leaves if you wish. Add 1/4 tsp salt to the water and set aside so the stems can curl. Save the leaves and remaining stems to make Rau Muong/Ong Choy Xao Chao (Vietnamese/Chinese Water Spinach with Fermented Tofu).
Ready to cook the steak?
On medium-high heat, in a black steel or cast iron or other heavy pan, add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the steak, sans liquid marinade.
Depending on the thickness of the steak, this will take anywhere from two minutes to 10, flip the steak when you see the meat cooked about halfway.
Flip and cook the other side. This literally took me two minutes each side, but then my steak was rather small.
Leave the steak to rest at room temperature.
Turn the heat down to medium and add any leftover marinade and 1/4 cup water to the pan. Add one cube of fermented bean curd.
Mush the bean curd and mix it into the liquid. Taste and adjust if necessary. Once the dressing has slightly thickened to your liking, turn off the heat and let it rest in the pan.
Drain the water spinach stems.
Now, you can finally slice the steak into thin strips.
Plate the water spinach stems, tearing apart any long curls so they'll be easier to eat.
Add the steak and vinegared onions. Pour the warm dressing over everything.
Eat as a meal, or as a side salad. It also keeps well in the fridge if like cold steak salad as leftovers. The stems will retain their crunch. I actually like the salad even better as leftovers because it's had more time to absorb the marinade.
Other Vietnamese salads you might like:
Goi Buoi Tom (Vietnamese Pomelo Salad with Shrimp)
Goi Cu Sen Non Tom Thit (Vietnamese Young Lotus Root Salad with Shrimp and Pork)
Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad/Spring/Summer Rolls)
Goi Du Du Kho Bo (Vietnamese Papaya Salad with Beef Jerky)
Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)
Goi Ga Bap Cai (Vietnamese Chicken Cabbage Salad)
Goi Mit Non Tom Thit Heo (Vietnamese Green Jackfruit Salad with Pork and Shrimp)
Goi Xoai Xanh (Vietnamese Green Mango Salad)
Xa Lach Thit Bo (Vietnamese Steak Salad)
1 year ago today, Butterfly Restaurant (Pier 33) - San Francisco (Embarcadero).
2 years ago today, a guide to the coconut products I keep in my kitchen -- coconut milk, coconut powder, and Coco Rico.
3 years ago today, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant - Pasadena (Foothill Blvd.).