Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Steak Salad

All the flavours of southeast Asia are contained in this colourful, crunchy, and protein-rich salad.


The flavours of Vietnamese food have always been some of my favourite. Spicy, salty, sour, and a bit of sweet. High notes of citrus and the depth of fish sauce, fresh herbs, and all those noodles. I could easily eat it three times a week. I’ve been inspired lately, mostly from a short trip to Portland where four of my best girlfriends and I feasted on some delicious Vietnamese food at Luc Lac — we ordered a table full of pho, sugar cane shrimp, spring rolls, papaya salad, a plethora of surprisingly good cocktails, and, of course, the vermicelli salad.

Here is my version. It’s nice to plate the greens and dressed noodles, then let everyone top the salad with whatever they like. Extra mint and peanuts for me! 


Sub It Out: Beef is an important part of Vietnamese food—those wonderful beef broths—so I used here. Good substitutes for those who don’t eat red meat—grilled/skewered shrimp or chicken or brined and sauteéd tofu.  


Serves 4-6.

For the grilled steak:

2 lbs sirloin steak

3 Tbsp minced fresh lemongrass (about 3 stalks)

2 Tbsp minced fresh mint leaves

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger (1-2 inches)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp oyster sauce

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tsp finely minced orange zest

1 red or green Thai chili, minced


For the dressing:

1 cup water

¼ cup granulated sugar

4 Tbsp fish sauce

4 Tbsp rice vinegar

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp fresh orange juice

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2-3 cloves garlic, very finely minced

1 red or green Thai chili, very finely minced (optional)


For the pickled vegetables

½ cup water

½ cup rice vinegar

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp salt

3-4 carrots, peeled and spiralized or cut into matchsticks

1 small daikon radish (*see notes) cut into matchsticks OR 6 red radishes, thinly sliced

4 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced


For the salad:

½ lb rice vermicelli or mung bean noodles

4 oz fresh bean sprouts

1 head butter lettuce

1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves

⅓ cup thinly sliced green onions

½ cup crushed roasted peanuts

½ cup crispy fried shallots (*see notes)

Thinly sliced chili peppers to taste

Fresh lime wedges for serving


Trim the excess fat from the steak, then slice very thin, against the grain.

Combine the lemongrass, mint, ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, garlic, orange zest, and chili in a large bowl. Toss well with the steak, cover, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Keep in mind, the better cut of meat you use, the less time it will need to marinate, or the texture can become less than desirable. If you decide to use flank steak, for example, feel free to marinate overnight. 

Soak enough wooden skewers to accommodate all the meat. You can use 2 short skewers per person or 1 long. Soak in water for 2-3 hours.

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the pickled vegetables, combine water, sugar, vinegar, and salt. Stir until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Pour into a bowl and add the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, tossing occasionally. This is meant to be a subtle and sweet pickle, but adjust sugar or vinegar to your liking.

Set a grill to medium-high heat. Thread the beef onto the skewers, taking care not to thread them too tightly together, as you want the smoke and heat from the grill to get in between the pieces and cook them evenly. Discard any remaining marinade.

Grill the steak skewers for 10-12 minutes, rotating occasionally, so all sides get slightly charred. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the vermicelli noodles according to package directions. (This usually takes only a few minutes.) Rinse with cold water and drain well. Place in a large bowl. Top the noodles with the bean sprouts and toss well with half of the dressing. Place a few leaves of lettuce on individual plates and divide the noodles between the plates. Top with mint, cilantro, green onions, peanuts, shallots, and chili peppers as desired. You can also plate on one large serving platter or put the toppings in individual bowls and allow guests to top their salads themselves. 

Top the salads with the steak skewers and serve with lemon wedges and extra dressing. 


Note: The daikon radishes you find in the grocery store are often huge and somewhat woody and tough. If you happen upon some at your local farmer’s market, they will likely be a manageable size, and a lot more crisp, fresh, and tender. And if you can’t find those, red radishes are a fine option.

  Fried shallots are a traditional topping for this type of salad and can be found at most Asian specialty shops in jars or bags. Alternatively, you can fry your own by slicing 3-4 large shallots very thin and deep frying until golden brown and crispy.

Image: Rebecca Wellman

Written By:

Having lived on the West Coast all her life, Rebecca made the move from Vancouver to Vancouver Island in 2004 to pursue her love of fine food and expressive portraiture. A food and lifestyle photographer, her work can be defined ...

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