On the Grill: Yum Nua Salad


It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but when I told a restaurant recently that I had attempted to make one of their signature dishes, it did not take the signature smirk of Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney for me to know that they were not impressed.

It started when I ordered some Thai take-out on a business trip.  Looking at the menu, I could not even pronounce the names of the Thai dishes and had never heard of some of the ingredients.  Fortunately, they had concise, vibrant descriptions but it did not make the choosing process any easier.

I settled on something called Yum Nua Salad.  It was a spicy beef salad, warm, with incredibly diverse flavors.  Onion, cilantro, chili pepper, mint leaves, and something called rice powder rounded out the dish.  It was served with lettuce and brown rice.  My first bite of the salad made me angry.  The second, furious!  I was steaming mad that I was dining alone, in my hotel room and had no one to share the amazing foreign flavors with.

I got the grill glowing hot and seared off some beef to a medium rare that looked like a pink summer sunset.

A few mouse clicks later, I had found a recipe for the ambrosial salad and began planning my mise en place.  For me, this is one of the true joys of dining out – when you dine on something that is so interesting, you can’t wait to get back home and make it yourself.

The ingredients were simple enough.  The website thai table helped me out with the technique, and it was time to see if the dish could be adapted to cooking on a grill.

I got the grill glowing hot and seared off some beef to a medium rare that looked like a pink summer sunset.  I blew the dust off of my seldom-used wok and heated it over the hot hardwood lump charcoal.  The wok fits marvelously on my grill and I find that I can get blazing hot temperatures that just could not be achieved on my electric range.  The wok instantly came to life when I dropped in the fresh herbs and veggies.  The immediate sight, sounds, and smells of Thailand engulfed my back yard cooking space, leaving the neighborhood smelling wonderfully foreign.

I sliced the cooked meat thinly after it rested and added it with its juices to the stir-fried veggies.  The salad was finished with some fresh cilantro, mint, lime juice, and rice powder before it got an incorporating toss.

I used iceberg lettuce cups as a serving vessel.  Wrapping the warm salad in cool lettuce matched the juxtaposed flavors that danced with the first bite.  Its complexity and taste was as diverse as I had remembered.    Fortunately, this time I had someone to share it with.

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Check out Paul’s other tasty grilling recipes for summer (or any season!) in his blog archive.


Paul Sidoriak grills it up on the Big Green Egg.

Paul moved to Montana in 1996 with about a dozen friends from Lyndon State College in Vermont. He is still reluctantly paying his student loans and has carved out a career working as a supplier representative for various food and beverage products.

Paul enjoys grilling after a day on the water or an afternoon in the garden, where he has been known to grow heirloom tomatoes and peppers out of spite. Often cooking for extended family and friends, he takes a whimsical approach to cooking simple, seasonal dishes, while not taking it too seriously.

Paul does all of his grilling on the Big Green Egg Grill, available in Missoula at the Axmen.

You can read more of Paul’s grilling recipes at his blog site, Grilling Montana.