Northeastern Thai (Isaan) Flank Steak Salad

Last Updated on September 17, 2023

This salad featuring steak comes from Derek Rugsaken, the chef and owner of Southeast by Southwest, a Thai pop-up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. With origins in the northeast ‘Isaan’ region of Thailand, where Rugsaken’s father is from, the flavors and smells of this salad remind him of eating at the table with his dad as a child. “When I was young, my dada was unemployed for a time and we spent a lot of time together. The scent of lemongrass, mint and cilantro live deep in my memory, smelling them on his hands as he fed me bites of grilled meat or fresh yard-long beans from his garden” Rugsaken shares.

Rugsaken started cooking in his teens at his uncle’s Thai restaurant in central Indiana later, when in Indiana, his passion for cooking led him to find connections between the stories of Latin and East Asian cuisine, and so he continues to share that story through his food at his pop up and podcast under the same name: Southeast by Southwest.

This salad is as much about flavor as it is about textures. Tender steak, crisp radishes and onion, nutty ground toasted rice and lemongrass all lend to the textural and flavor complexity here. Although delicious on its own, this salad would also be delightful with lettuce leaves to scoop up the salad. This recipe makes extra toasted rice powder to top off future flank steak salads, to bread chicken or even dust a fried egg or tofu.

Northeastern Thai (Isaan) Flank Steak Salad

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Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4


  • ½ cup jasmine rice
  • 1 ¼ lb ButcherBox Flank Steak defrosted and pat very dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola or other high-heat sauté oil
  • 2 stalks lemongrass tough outer layers removed and discarded
  • 1 medium red onion halved and thinly sliced into crescent half-moons
  • 1 bunch breakfast radishes thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline
  • 2 small fresh Thai chiles stemmed and very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup mint leaves


  • Heat a large, 10 to 12-inch skillet or fry pan over medium. Once warm ,add the jasmine rice and toast, stirring often until lightly brown all over and the rice is nutty and aromatic, about 7 minutes. Turn off heat, transfer rice to a blender (or spice grinder in two batches) and grind until you have a grainy powder. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Wipe the large griddle pan clean.
  • If needed, cut the flank steak into sizes that will fit in the pan above then season the steak with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat the canola oil in the wiped clean large griddle pan over a high. Once the oil is hot and shimmery, sear the steak in batches, undisturbed until they have developed a well-browned crust, about 4 minutes. Turn the steak over, and cook for an additional 3 minutes or to 145 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate to rest.
  • With a sharp chef’s knife, slice off the bottom fibrous part of the lemongrass stalks (about 1/2 inch) and then slice each stalk into extremely thin rings (seriously, as thin as possible) and transfer to a large mixing bowl with the onion, radishes, Thai chile, five spice, lime juice, fish sauce and set aside.
  • Slice the steak against the grain into long thin steps and add to the lemongrass bowl. Toss very well so the steak is coated evenly with the lemongrass, spices and chile evenly. Add the cilantro, mint and 3 tablespoons of the rice powder and toss again.
  • Transfer the steak salad to a serving platter with white rice and the remaining toasted rice powder on the side.
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