Waterfall Beef Salad (Neua Naam Tok) น้ำตกเนื้อ

Thai Waterfall Beef Salad (Neua Naam Tok) น้ำตกเนื้อ

Unless you are a Buddhist monk, you are unlikely to ever encounter truly vegetarian food in Asia and like most other regional cuisines, Thai food is no exception. Thai Salads (or “yam” as they are known locally) are often spiked with a sneaky portion of dried shrimps or the meat-to-vegetable ratio is often skewed in favour of the meat.  Ask for a salad in Thailand and chances are you’ll be served something as far removed from what you imagined a salad could, or should, be. That said, yams are utterly delicious and make an essential addition to any Thai-style meal.Aside from my obsession with the classic Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad), one of my favourite yam is Waterfall Beef. Often the first thing people ask about is the dish’s name. “Waterfall” seemingly conjures up evocative images of cascading falls in a topical paradise. Sadly, however, the truth is far less poetic, as the “waterfall” actually refers to beef juices that drip from the meat as it is cooked over hot charcoal. Traditionally Waterfall Beef is eaten with sticky rice, but it also offers a wonderful counter-balance to other, richer Thai flavours, especially when paired with a classic Thai curry like  mussaman or green curry.

Whilst simple to make, Waterfall Beef is not without its pitfalls. Firstly, the steak must never be done past medium-rare and must be afforded enough time to rest before being thinly sliced. Secondly, the salad must be served immediately as the acidity of the dressing will “cook” the beef if left to stand too long. Another thing to consider is the ratio of herbs to meat in the dish. Don’t be shy with the herbs as they are what makes this is a salad – they are not there as a token garnish. Aim for a 40/60 ratio in favour of the beef.

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 Waterfall Beef Salad: Serves 4 (as part of a larger Thai spread)

  • 500 to 600g Rump Steak
  • 6 stalks of lemongrass, outer husks removed
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Juice from 2 limes (about 2 tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. chilli flakes
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tsp. khao koor (roasted rice powder), optional
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds, optional

Recommended accompaniments:

  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Green cabbage, shredded


  1. Finely chop 2 of the lemongrass stalks. Along with the peppercorns, add to a stone pestle and mortar, pound until you have a coarse paste. In a mixing bowl, combine the paste with 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce and smear the paste all over the  steak. Cover and refrigerate for up to an hour (but for a minimum of 30 minutes)
  2. In the meantime, prepare your dressing. Finely slice the 4 remaining lemongrass stalks. In a medium pan, combine the lime juice, remaining fish sauce (2 tablespoons), sugar, chilli flakes/powder and sliced lemongrass. Gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and set aside. Taste for balance and adjust accordingly
  3. Prepare either your braai/barbeque using charcoal or preheat a heavy griddle pan
  4. Pour the vegetable oil  over the steak and rub all over
  5. Grill the steak until well browned on the outside, but still juicy on the inside (about 4 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the steak). Remove the meat from the heat and place on a plate – allow to rest for at least 5 minutes
  6. Once the steak has rested, pour any meat juices into the prepared dressing
  7. Cut the steak into thin slices, across the grain
  8. In a bowl, combine the steak slices with the sliced shallots, herbs and, if using, the sliced red chilli, roasted rice powder and toasted sesame seeds. Mix using your hands and then transfer to a serving plate
  9. Add the green beans and/or shredded cabbage on the side and serve immediately

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