Nam Tok Neua is our favourite quick & easy cold Thai Beef Salad to enjoy at lunch or dinner.
Nam Tok, also known as Thai Steak Salad or Waterfall Beef, is a traditional Thai dish featuring sliced beef, shallots, scallions, mint, cilantro, red chilies, fish sauce, lime juice and toasted rice.
We’ve traveled extensively through Thailand and eaten at all of the best Thai restaurants in Toronto. We’ve taken Thai cooking classes in Chang Mai and learned expert cooking techniques courtesy of the executive chef at JW Marriott Phuket Resort.
Cooking Thai food at home is quick and easy. Our flavourful Nam Tok recipe takes under 30 minutes to prepare and keeps in the fridge for several days. You’ll love loitering over these succulent Thai beef salad leftovers!
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Travel to Thailand by Making Nam Tok at Home
On my first visit I spent over a month backpacking through Thailand. I’ve revisited Thailand two times since as a food and travel journalist and always love to discover new regional dishes. Over the years I’ve explored Thai destinations such as Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Chiang Khong, Chang Mai, Sukothai and Bangkok.
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Where To Eat Nam Tok
Haven’t traveled to Thailand before? It may be helpful to first sample Nam Tok at a local Thai restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can also assess the variety of ingredients used and sample the correct texture before trying to make Thai Beef Steak Salad at home from scratch
I spent months researching the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, visiting popular restaurants that serve authentic Thai dishes such as Sabai Sabai, Sukothai, Khao San Road, Pai, Kiin, Bangkok Garden, Mengrai Thai and Favorites Thai BBQ. If you’re looking to sample traditional Nam Tok in Toronto try visiting one of these award-winning restaurants.
What Is Nam Tok?
In the Thai language, Nam Tok Neua translates to Nam Tok “waterfall,” and Neua “beef.” The name refers to the fact that there is still water or liquid, in the meat when served aka juicy medium rare bloody beef steak slices. I don’t know about you, but the idea of sitting under a cascading Thai Steak Salad waterfall is what my dreams are made of!
- Nam Tok Soup: In Central Thailand, Nam Tok is served to locals as a spicy soup enriched and thickened with raw cow or pigs blood. One of the most popular variations of nam tok noodle soup is known as kuai-tiao mu nam tok. The soup’s ingredients list features broth, blood, noodles, bean sprouts, liver, pork, dumplings, green vegetables and spices. The popular Thai soup is served throughout the central region by streetside vendors who operate out of tiny food stalls.
- Nam Tok Salad: Is the most common interpretation of the dish in Thailand, a cold meat salad similar to larb in neighbouring Laos. The dressing of this meat salad is made with ground roasted rice, chillies, fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, mint leaves and scallions. It is traditionally eaten with sticky rice, steamed jasmine rice and raw vegetables such as long beans and bean sprouts.
The dish is traditionally prepared with beef steak but can also be substituted for pork tenderloin.
What Meat To Use in Nam Tok
Authentic Nak Tok recipes are traditionally prepared using beef steak but can also be made with high quality pork.
We suggest visiting your local butcher to purchase a high quality cut of Canadian beef. Ask for a cut like sirloin, ribeye or tenderloin and ensure it is well marbled so the steak in your cold Thai salad will be juicy and tender.
You can sear the steak over a barbecue or in a skillet over the stove. If you’re unfamiliar with cooking beef to perfection check out this great resource, How To Tell When Your Steak Is Done. Gently press two fingers onto the surface of your steak to determine if it is medium well (forehead), medium (chin) or medium rare (cheeks).
If you have a professional thermometer, you can also assess the state of your steak by checking the internal temperature: medium well (145-150F), medium (135-145F), or medium rare (130-135F).
Once your steak is finished cooking on the grill or skillet, make sure you let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. My family tents our beef, covering the cooked steak with aluminium foil as it cools to room temperature to ensure the moisture doesn’t escape and dry out the meat. After the steak has cooled, slice it against the grain into thin strips, before adding to a mixing bowl.
We’re certain the best Nam Tok recipe is prepared with medium rare steak. When you cook beef cuts to medium rare the outside surface of the steak chars nicely, while the interior is soft and juicy, making it much easier to chew when presented as slices in a cold salad.
Tips for Making Authentic Thai Beef Salad
If it’s your first time making Nam Tok we suggest you start by reading the ingredients list and recipe directions below.
Nam Tok is the perfect quick & easy Thai salad too make when you’ve got a busy week and find yourself unable to cook for hours on end. From start to finish it only takes 30 minutes to cook Thai Beef Salad at home in your kitchen. Since it’s served cold, we love to enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.
When slicing the spicy red chilies, be sure to wear gloves and avoid touching the seeds as they contain oil that will irritate your eyes and skin. I once forgot to wear gloves when slicing a mountain of birds eye chilies and spent hours suffering the sting of burning hands. If you do find yourself with swollen and irritated skin from chili oil exposure, soak your irritated skin in cold milk or yogurt.
If you’re a lover of spicy food feel free to add additional chilies. You can also increase the heat of the dish by adding the chili seeds into the stir fry rather than disposing of them. If you have a low tolerance for spicy food we still suggest adding peppers as they offer an important flavour profile to the dish. Simply remove all of seeds to ensure the spice level is to your pallet’s preference.
Traditional Nam Tok features herb garden favourites such as scallions, mint and cilantro. If you have fresh basil feel free to toss the fragrant herb into the mix as well.
Freshly squeezed lime juice for sourness, paired with fish sauce for saltiness, is the main flavour profile for traditional Thai waterfall salad recipes. If you love the zing of citrus, feel free to add some of the zest of your limes, or thinly sliced lime leaf.
If you don’t have access to shallots you can always substitute for a small cooking onion. If you love fishy flavours, feel free to add a teaspoon of Thai shrimp paste.
What To Serve with Cold Thai Steak Salad
If you’re hosting a large dinner party, serve homemade Thai Beef Salad alongside entrees like Thai Beef and Pumpkin Curry, Thai Red Prawn Curry, Pad Kra Pao, Gaeng Masaman, Khua Kling and Gaeng Keow Wan.
Nam Tok keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days so store it in an airtight container and enjoy leftovers as a quick and easy lunch at work.
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Best Nam Tok Thai Steak Salad Recipe
Nam Tok Thai Beef Salad
- Stove or Barbecue
- French knife
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- 4 shallots
- 4 scallions
- 1 cup mint chopped
- 1 cup cilantro chopped
- 2 Thai red chili
- 4 tbsp rice
- 2 lb sirloin steak
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 limes juiced
- Thinly slice shallots and green onions and roughly chop the mint and cilantro. Slice the chili into thin strips, removing the seeds. Place chopped vegetables into a mixing bowl.
- Gently toast rice in a dry skillet until gently browned. Grind toasted rice with a mortar and pestle until fine flour is formed.
- Grill steak on the barbecue or on the stove in a skillet until medium rare. Let the steak rest a couple minutes before thinly slicing on a cutting board.
- Add warm sliced beef to the bowl with herbs and onions. Add the fish sauce and lime juice then toss. Serve Nam Tok Thai Beef Salad topped with the ground crunchy rice.
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