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That's One Hot Cold Dish

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
July 15, 2014

Spicy pork Thai dish with vermicelli noodles. Photo credit: StockFood, ISTL

When it’s steamy as all get out outside and the weekly laundry load has doubled thanks to all that foxy, foxy sweat, there’s something to be said for bringing your sweat on more.

So eat hot: not hot-to-the-touch hot, but fiery-as-hell-on-the-palate hot. 

All around the world, there’s a long-standing tradition of eating spicy foods in hot climates. And while a steaming bowl of ramen can fit the Bikram-level sweat bill—we humans can be perverse that way—even better is a cold hot dish: cool in temperature, hot on the tastebuds.

In Thailand, according to Nong Poonsukwattana of popular Portland, Oregon chicken rice stand Nong’s Khao Man Gai, it is “hot all year, it’s just rain or no rain.” It’s “absolutely” common to eat something spicy when it’s hot outside, she told us, and the classic that first came to mind was yam woon sen, a simple vermicelli noodle dish of ground pork, shrimp, chicken broth, Thai bird’s eye chiles, fish sauce, lime juice, and garlic. In Thailand the dish dots both high-end restaurant and street vendor menus: “Personally I like it super-spicy, but it can be adjusted to preference.”

The heat in this steak and vermicelli noodle salad can be adjusted just the same: If those hot pepper flakes don’t suffice, just mince bird’s eye chiles and toss with noodles before serving. Yow!

Asian Steak and Noodle Salad
Serves 6-8

1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 lb. flank steak
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
6 Tbsp. water
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (2 medium)
8 oz. dried vermicelli rice-stick noodles*
2 medium Granny Smith apples
7 oz. Asian salad mix (16 cups loosely packed)
1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces if large
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts (sometimes labeled “cocktail peanuts”), chopped

Whisk together fish sauce, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Pour marinade into a large sealable plastic bag. Pat steak dry and place in bag, then press out excess air and seal bag. Turn bag over 2 or 3 times to coat meat, then place in a shallow dish (in case of leaks) and chill at least 4 hours and up to 8. Bring steak to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).

Remove steak from marinade (discard marinade) and pat dry with paper towels. Grill, uncovered unless using a gas grill, over direct heat, turning over once, until medium-rare, 12 to 14 minutes total.

Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together lime juice, water, sugar, fish sauce, and red-pepper flakes in a bowl until sugar is dissolved, then stir in shallots.

Cook noodles in a 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, then rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1/2 cup dressing. Working around core of each apple, cut thin slices (about 1/8 inch thick) with slicer, then stack slices. Cut slices lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide matchsticks.

Combine apples, greens, and mint in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup dressing and toss well to coat.

Thinly slice steak across the grain.

Arrange noodles on a large platter and mound greens on top of noodles. Arrange steak slices on greens and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve at room temperature with remaining dressing on the side.

*Found in Asian markets and uwajimaya.com.