1.14.2010

Be Still My Taste Buds: Houston's Evil Jungle Thai Steak Salad

My favorite salad in the world is Houston's Evil Jungle Thai Steak Salad. They've changed the name to something like Thai Steak Salad, but I refuse to call it that. It will always be the Evil Jungle Salad to me.

This salad is seriously spectacular, at least for my bipolar taste. I love flavor and texture contrast in meals, and this salad really hits it on the head. While normally it comes with chunks of medium rare filet mignon, sometimes I mix it up and order it with a warm, juicy chicken breast; clearly cut from a hot-out-of-the-rotisserie chicken. The colors are bright and beautiful; the flavors robust and fragrant, even before you take your first bite. Perhaps the part of the salad that I love most is that it plays with your senses; it's sweet, salty, spicy, hot, cold, crunchy and smooth, all at the same time.


I've recreated this salad at home several times, but never with such success that it truly rivals Houston's. Then again I'm kind of high maintenance about these things. The key ingredients are the easy part – chicken or steak, mango, tomato, avocado, cabbage, chinese egg noodles, mint, Thai basil, cilantro and roasted peanuts – but it's the dressing that still vexes me. I've found various "claims" of the recipe online, but to date the only one I've found that comes closest to mimicking the infamous Evil Jungle Thai Steak Salad stems from Epicurious. Here it is:

Dressing Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha or similar chile paste
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
Salad Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound filet mignon, cut into chunks (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks)
  • 1 ounce Chinese egg noodles, cooked al dente
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 small julienned carrot
  • 1/3 cup seeded, diced cucumber
  • 1/3 cup diced mango
  • 1/3 cup seeded, diced tomato
  • 2 thinly-sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons toasted, crushed peanuts
  • 1/2 cup combination of chopped cilantro, mint, and Thai basil

To prepare the dressing, whisk all ingredients together and set aside. To make the salad, season the filet with salt and pepper and sear in a hot skillet for 2-3 minutes per side, or until medium rare. Let the meat rest for a few minutes, then slice on the bias and toss with 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing. Mix the remaining salad ingredients (except the peanuts) in a large bowl and drizzle with dressing until well coated. Divide the salad between two plates, mound the beef on top and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

That's about as close as it comes. If there are any other Houston's Evil Jungle Thai Steak Salad lovers out there, let me know if you've tried it and if you've got a recipe that comes close! Otherwise, enjoy!


20 comments:

  1. Good lord that sounds just about perfect, especially using the beef version. I love thai flavors.

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  2. It's the Shiso that is sort of a secret ingredient. Shiso is a Japanese leaf (often found in Sushi preparations)that is a spicy mint/basil flavor all at the same time.

    Drew Morgan

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  3. Thank you for the best version of this salad I've found so far. I LOVE this salad.

    I ate at Houston's a couple of days ago and found toasted coconut pieces in the salad but no cucumbers. I don't think the peanuts had been toasted. I made the salad tonight and added coconut milk to your dressing recipe, and it seems a little closer to the sweetness of the Houston's dressing. Thanks again for your version of this fabulous salad.

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  4. Christie, I've never tasted that dressing but if it lacks a certain tartness, the mystery ingredient may be tamarind.

    Love the blog! :)

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  5. love this salad.. obsessed. hoping this recipe is fab (and that my hubby makes it for me).

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  6. I am such a fan of Houston's evil tai jungle salad that I've looked all over the web for the recipe - thank you so much for this, I can't wait to make it this weekend!!

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  7. Having the salad as takeout on occasion, to me, I taste some differences from your recipe, which I've tried once before, and a second time today. These are my considerations: It tastes as if instead of the lime juice, they are using either a simple white or apple vinegar. Regular sugar is used, and cooked w/ the vinegar and water to reduce/make syrupy (as with Thai dipping sauces). Lessen the sesame oil slightly (although sesame oil is awesome). Chili paste, not sriracha- the dressing is too clear to have sriracha particles floating throughout. They use a considerable amount of oil to cut the acidity (as well as the sugar). Again, the dressing is too clear to be using coconut, but heck, coconut is a great addition. Tamarind is a very strong and distinct flavor, and I don't believe I taste it in their dressing. Ah, well, just considerations. Take care.

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  8. Oh, peanut oil instead, and less fish sauce (they cater to a very American palate). :)

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  9. Awesome recipe!! I just recently fell in love with this salad! My biyfriend took me to Houston's in Miami and I loved it so much, i needed to make it at home. This version is close enough for me..I made it tonight and it was delicious! I just needed to say thank you for sharing it!

    -eve p.

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  10. The EXACT recipe is 3/4 cups extra virgin fish sauce, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cups honey, 2 TBS fresh garlic, 1 1/2 cups Sambal Oelek, 3 cups peanut oil, 3 TBS sesame oil, 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice. This recipe make a little more than 9 cups of dressing. This is not a speculation. This is not a foodie's best attempt. This is not from Epicurious. This IS the recipe.

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    Replies
    1. Where does the spicy element in the salad come from?

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    2. i'm not the original poster, but can speak to your question. sambal oelek is a chili-based spicy sauce. in all honesty, i had to look it up. i've never heard of it, but am willing to try anything to recreate that salad. thanks for posting the actual recipe... i'm going to try it this weekend!

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    3. Would you happen to have the recipe for Houston's Apple Walnut Cobbler? I've never been able to recreate that perfect tart-sweetness!

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    4. I'm sorry to say I don't have the recipe for the Apple Walnut Cobbler. Best of luck finding it!

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    5. I just made the "EXACT" recipe as stated above, by the poster on "March 17, 2013 at 7:10 a.m." ...and s/he is absolutely correct. Closest representation of the original Houston's/Rutherford Grill/ R&D Kitchen recipe, I've seen. Sambal Oeelek was not too hard to find. At my average-American grocery store, it was located right next to the Siriachi sauce in the Asian food section. I went to Whole Foods for the Extra Virgin Fish Sauce. Thank you very much for this recipe!

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    6. Anonymous can you give us more Houston's recipes your obviously a cook there

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  11. I've had it numerous times as well and love it. I remember there being avocado in it though, every time. I found some other recipes post the pic (that show avocado) and also forget to include it. Just a helpful note!

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  12. THANK YOU for this!! I absolutely LOVE this salad!!! Best in the world!! I live in Sweden and we don´t have Houston´s here so finally I´m able to it myself!! Also love the name "Evil jungle thai steak salad"!! (wonder why they changed it?)
    Thank god for google!! :)

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