(serves 6-8 with several other Thai - style dishes as main courses, or 3-4 as a main course with steamed rice)

This is a take on the more common beef salad served in Thai restaurants and was first cooked for me by chirpy Melbourne chef and cooking teacher, Tony Tan. Tony said, "Remember that Thai salad can be at times (like Western salads) cavalier - whatever is available at the time - the opportunity to improvise is only limited to your imagination." He suggests it needs lots and lots of herbs and prefers Asian eggplants for this recipe, but adds that the more common oval-shaped variety works just as well.


1 tbsp rice
2 eggplants
500g beef fillet (in the piece)
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
45ml (3 tbsp) oil
1 lemon grass (fleshy lower part, finely sliced)
1 long red chilli (leave seeds in if you like heat, julienned)
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1 tsp fried shallots (finely slice shallots and fry in a little oil till crispy)

3 kaffir lime leaves (ribs removed and leaves finely shredded)
handful of Thai basil, mint and coriander leaves

60ml (4 tbsp) lime juice
60ml (4 tbsp) Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp white sugar
1-2 birds-eye chillies (leave seeds in if you like heat, minced)


  • Place rice in a pan over a medium heat and cook for a few minutes, or till rice is light brown and fragrant. Cool and grind in a coffee grinder, mortar with a pestle, or in a food processor.
  • On a trivet set over a gas hob place eggplants, or alternatively hold an eggplant with tongs over gas hob and char till skin is black and crinkly and the flesh is soft. Cool and remove skin. Rinse eggplant to remove any residue of charred skin and thickly slice flesh.
  • Season beef and place under a grill or on a flat grill plate. Turn as required and grill for 10-15 minutes or till medium-rare. Rest away from heat, covered with a tea towel.
  • Make dressing by combining ingredients in a small bowl. It should taste salty, hot, sour and slightly sweet, so adjust seasonings accordingly.
  • Slice beef and to serve, combine beef with all the ingredients except dressing and herbs. Toss gently, add dressing a little at a time, then taste. Add rest of ingredients and serve.