Tamarind Beef and Cucumber Salad

January 12, 2011

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To cut a story short, I decided to buy Citrus and Candy a new dress, seeing as its present look was getting way too dated to be retro cool. I cursed, I whinged, I procrastinated and was reminded exactly why I don’t do ‘blog-overs’ often. IT and coding skills? None… and I nearly broke my blog at least once. But tada! I know it ain’t much but it feels like I actually took a vacuum to the place (btw, if things are wonky in any way, feel free to let me know!). In any case, I now feel… so clean. 

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There’s somebody else who needs a little makeover of her own… diet-wise that is. And that would be moi. I hate making resolutions but I did secretly told myself to try:

• Eating more regular meals. Skipping brekkie and lunch most days of the week is bad x 100.

• Eating slightly healthier foods more often. More veges and less “dirty bird” to counter all the sweet stuff I hoover down.

• Including more savoury recipes and ‘cooking’ on the blog rather than just desserts and chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

(and finally)

• Cooking more “Asian” stuff and actually opening myself up to my oriental roots.


I thought it’d be fitting to start the year off with a dish that plays nice with these vows. This is a Tamarind Beef and Cucumber Salad courtesy of Luke Nguyen’s Songs of Sapa, which, by the way, is truly an exquisite cookbook. Gorgeous to look at, engaging to read and plenty of photos to drool over. I know absolutely bubkiss about Vietnamese food past a bowl of Phở and Bánh Mì but thanks to a couple of gorgeous Vietnamese friends and bloggers (whether they realise it or not), I’ve now become intrigued and fascinated by the cuisine.

This salad is just the tip of the iceberg but it’s a lot more tastier than I anticipated. All the elements are here – salty, sour, sweet, spicy and refreshing to boot. I’m definitely NOT a salad girl but I scoffed this down quicksmart with a cup of Jasmine tea for lunch and I felt better about myself already. Even after I scoffed down slices of cake shortly after.

Baby steps my friends, towards a more balanced Miss Candy…



Tamarind Beef and Cucumber Salad (Bò Thấu Me Dưa Leo)

Serving: 4-6 as part of a shared meal or 2-3 as a meal on its own
Measurements: Just for this recipe, I’m using Australian 20ml-sized tablespoons.


• 300g telegraph cucumber – finely shaved with a vege peeler
• 1 large carrot – peeled then finely shaved with a vege peeler (or you could mandolin or julienne the veges)
• 2 Tbl of caster sugar
• 2 Tbl of vege or peanut oil
• 2 large cloves of garlic – finely chopped
• 350g beef eye fillet – trimmed and sliced thinly into strips
• 2 Tbl of Tamarind Water (recipe below)
• Handful of Vietnamese mint
• Handful of Vietnamese or Thai basil
• Handful of Sawtooth herb (Ngò Gai) – leaves sliced (optional if you could find it)
• 2 Tbl of fried garlic (finely chopped garlic fried in hot vege oil at 180°C for a minute or until golden)
• 2 Tbl of “Aunty Nine’s salad dressing” (recipe below)
• 50g roasted chopped peanuts
• 2 bird’s eye chillis – finely chopped and deseeded


Place, the cucumber, carrot and sugar in a bowl, toss to combine and sit for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Heat a wok with the oil over high heat until smoking. Working fast, toss in the garlic, sauté until fragrant then add the beef, season to taste with sea salt and ground black pepper and fry for no more than 3 minutes. Remove from wok then add 1 tablespoon of Tamarind Water. Mix and set aside. (Note – make sure you do not over crowd your wok with beef other the temperature goes down and it’ll stew instead of stir fry. If necessary, fry beef in small batches).

In another bowl, combine the cucumber, carrot, Vietnamese mint and basil, sawtooth herb, fried garlic and tamarind beef. Add remaining tablespoon of tamarind water and the salad dressing then toss to combine. Pile the salad on serving plate and garnish with peanuts and chilli.

“Aunty Nine’s Salad Dressing” (Dấu Dấm Dì Chín)

Serving: 125ml of dressing.
Measurements: Just for this recipe, I’m using Australian 20ml-sized tablespoons.


• 4 Tbl of lemon juice
• 2 Tbl of caster sugar (I added a little for extra sweetness)
• 1 Tbl fish sauce
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
• 1 small bird’s eye chilli – finely chopped (and deseeded if you wish)


Whisk all ingredients together until combined and sugar has dissolved. This can be made in advance and stored in a clean jar in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Tamarind Water (Nước Me)

Serving: Makes about 300ml.


• 100g seedless tamarind pulp (available in Asian grocers)
• 300ml boiling water


Place the pulp in a heatproof bowl and pour over the water. Once it’s cool enough to handle, break up and squeeze the pulp with your hands then strain the mixture to make a smooth paste.

This can be done in advance and will store up to a month in an airtight container in the fridge. Add to soups, curries, sauces and stir fries.

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All recipes adapted from Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen (published by Murdoch Books)