Tamarind Beef and Cucumber Salad

January 12, 2011

tamarind 3

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. 

tamarind 2

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.

Print these recipes!

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

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah - For the Love of Food January 17, 2011 at 13:46

Ooh this looks mighty fine for a summer's evening.Nice and healthy too. Love the clean, simple look.


Three-Cookies January 16, 2011 at 13:07

Looks really delicious, and lovely photos, bright colors


joey@FoodiePop January 15, 2011 at 10:56

Less dirty bird? LOL

The salad looks divine. Good luck with your resolutions!


Katherine January 14, 2011 at 13:59

Love the new layout Karen. Gosh I wish I knew how to code… I love the salad. It has so many fresh ingredients. Now this is my kind of salad…


Helen l grabyourfork January 13, 2011 at 15:20

Looks great and well done on the new layout. I love the photos in the Songs of Sapa too.


thang@noodlies January 13, 2011 at 11:07

Yum, the beef salad looks delicious.. and all looks relatively healthy too!


Susan January 13, 2011 at 00:58

I love a good asian beef salad. I always like to have a bit of rice with mine though, cause I always make it really hot, that I need the rice to cool it down!


Jacq January 12, 2011 at 14:03

nice work on the new layout karen! and good luck with the new years resolutions


mlle délicieuse January 12, 2011 at 11:13

Less dirty bird, right, yes, less dirty bird…

And I do love the (f)rolicking new look/dress with clean lines which is now adorning Candy-land =)


sugarpuffi January 12, 2011 at 07:17

ohh i love ur new layout! and best of all, i can finally comment on ur blog!! before, every time i click leave comment, everything shuffles to the right and i cant see where im supposed to click.

ur salad looks awesome but at first i thought the crushed peanuts were chili seeds and i was like WHOA this is one hot salad. *face palm*


@bellyrumbles January 12, 2011 at 06:41

Loving the new look. What a yummy healthy, full of flavour salad – perfect as I'm on a diet, thanks Karen.


Mei Sze January 12, 2011 at 03:43

love the the spaciousness of the new look! :) Great resolutions, I myself am trying to undo the side-effects of creating foodsze. Love the flavours in the salad..mmmmm..zing!!


fouad January 12, 2011 at 03:27

congrats on the new look Karen. It looks great, not that I minded the old look. Keep the writing coming :)


OohLookBel January 12, 2011 at 03:19

Very nice new look – so refreshingly clean and clear, just like the delicious salad!


Prerna@IndianSimmer January 12, 2011 at 03:10

Oh my! That looks and sounds FABULOUS!!


pickyin@LifeIsGreat January 12, 2011 at 03:10

I'm all for clean and streamline designs. Faltered on my eat healtiher resolutions though * stuffing world peace cookie into mouth *. All the best for you in 2011!


Soma January 12, 2011 at 03:08

I have never used Vietnamese mint. Wonder how different it is from regular mint. This looks delish.


Howard January 12, 2011 at 03:03

Awesome salad, also have the cookbook! Like the new layout too, lean and clean!


@IronChefShellie January 12, 2011 at 02:54

Oh Karen, it looks soooooo good!


Gizzit January 12, 2011 at 02:22

Haha I made the same dish for dinner last night. Also part of my resolution to try and be healthy (occasionally)! It may be a salad but it sure as hell beats a boring plate of lettuce!!! Please don't skimp on the chocolate recipes though…I think a 'balanced' diet (even if it is a little heavier on the chocolate side) is definitely encouraged.

The new blog looks great.


KayB January 11, 2011 at 23:03

This looks amazing! Thanks for the recipe


Alina January 11, 2011 at 22:38

The salad sounds healthy and refreshing, especially good after all the holiday sweets and pastry! Also love the garlic in it. I like your current blog layout – it's very clean indeed and it doesn't distract the reader from the photos.


Reemski January 11, 2011 at 22:16

Looks Gorgeous Karen! Well done. And the recipe is great too. I ahve the book but am yet to crack it open. my bad.


Steph January 11, 2011 at 21:05

Loving how clean your new layout is, and loving your photos :) Now I need to get off my butt and bake something so I can blog too!


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