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Indulge in the vibrant and tantalizing flavors of Thailand with our Yum Nua Recipe. Yum Nua, also known as Thai Spicy Beef Salad, is a mouthwatering dish that combines thinly sliced, tender beef with a zesty and aromatic dressing. This salad is a delightful blend of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy elements, making it a perfect choice for those who crave bold and refreshing flavors. In this recipe, we’ll guide you through the steps to create this Thai culinary masterpiece, with a focus on the Yum Nua Recipe that captures the essence of Thailand on your plate. Enjoy a burst of Thai cuisine in every bite!

Origins of Yum Nua Recipe

Yum Nua originates from Thailand’s Northeastern region, known as Isaan. This region’s food is famously spicy, and Yum Nua is no exception. It’s a testament to the Thai people’s love for fiery flavors, balancing heat with a symphony of tastes.

The name ‘Yum Nua’ translates to ‘spicy beef salad,’ revealing its key components. The dish’s inception dates back centuries, born out of necessity and the available resources. Cattle were abundant, and the Thai people discovered that marinating and grilling the beef resulted in an appetizing meal.

The dish gained popularity over time, spreading throughout Thailand before making its way to the global stage. Today, you’ll find Yum Nua in Thai restaurants worldwide, each serving their unique take on this classic dish. Despite its global reach, Yum Nua retains its Isan roots, preserving the traditional flavors that make it so beloved.

Key Ingredients Explained

First up, we’ve beef. You can’t have Yum Nua without it. This protein-packed ingredient is typically grilled or pan-seared to perfection and then thinly sliced. The cut of beef you choose can greatly influence the taste and texture of the salad, so opt for a tender, flavorful cut like sirloin or ribeye.

Next, you’ll need a mix of fresh vegetables. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions are commonly used in Yum Nua. They provide a refreshing crunch that counterbalances the richness of the beef.

The third key ingredient is chili. This fiery component gives Yum Nua its signature kick. However, you can adjust the amount of chili to suit your preference.

Fourth, you have lime juice. This citrusy element brings a burst of freshness and acidity, enhancing the flavors of the other ingredients.

Lastly, you’ll need fish sauce. This savory, umami-rich condiment is used in many Thai dishes, including Yum Nua. It adds depth to the salad and ties all the flavors together.

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Variations of Yum Nua Recipe Across Thailand

Traveling across Thailand, you’ll discover various regional twists on the classic Yum Nua recipe. These variations showcase the diversity of Thai cuisine, influencing the flavor, texture, and ingredients used in each version of this spicy beef salad.

In the Northeastern region, known as Isaan, you’ll encounter a spicier take on Yum Nua. The use of ‘prik kee noo’, or bird’s eye chili, is more prevalent, resulting in a fiery kick that’s sure to leave your mouth tingling. They also incorporate ‘pla ra’, a fermented fish sauce, adding a distinctive tang to the dish.

Heading South, you’ll find a slightly different version. The Southern Thais prefer to use seafood, especially fish, instead of beef. This variation, called Yum Pla, replaces the beef with grilled or fried fish. The dressing is also more citrus-forward, with a stronger emphasis on lime and tamarind for a fresh, zesty flavor.

Over in the Central region, the Yum Nua dish is typically milder. The beef is often marinated with a mix of palm sugar, soy sauce, and coriander before being grilled, offering a sweeter and richer flavor profile.

Thus, each region offers a unique twist on the Yum Nua, giving you a taste of Thailand’s diverse culinary landscape.

Serving and Eating Etiquette

While exploring the regional variations of Yum Nua across Thailand, it’s also essential to understand the etiquette involved in serving and eating this flavorful dish. Traditionally, Yum Nua is served as part of a larger, family-style meal. It’s not just about the food, but also the shared experience.

When you’re serving Yum Nua, remember to offer it along with other dishes. It’s typically part of a spread that might include rice, soup, and other entrees. Thais believe in the balance of flavors, so the spicy Yum Nua is usually complemented with milder dishes.

As for eating etiquette, you’ll use a fork and spoon, not chopsticks. The fork is used to push food onto the spoon, which then goes into your mouth. It’s considered good manners to take only one bite-sized piece at a time, and to finish everything on your plate.

Whether you’re enjoying Yum Nua at a bustling street food stall in Bangkok or a quiet dinner at home, these serving and eating etiquette tips will help you savor the dish in the most authentic way.

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Popular Side Dishes

A hot bowl of jasmine rice, with its soft, fragrant grains, is an excellent choice. It soothes the palate and balances the spiciness of the salad, making each bite a delightful blend of fire and comfort.

Another crowd-pleaser is Thai spring rolls or vegetable stir-fry can also complement the salad with their mild and crunchy profiles, providing a reprieve from the salad’s heat.

If you prefer a more adventurous side, consider Papaya salad. Its unique blend of sweet, sour, and spicy notes pairs wonderfully with Yum Nua. The freshness of the papaya salad cuts through the richness of the spicy beef, creating a harmonious fusion of flavors.

Lastly, don’t forget a warm bowl of Tom Kha soup. Its creamy coconut base and zingy lemongrass notes provide a soothing counterpoint to the spicy Yum Nua. Each spoonful calms the palate and prepares it for the next bite of your spicy beef.

Understanding Thai Spices

Firstly, there’s chili. Thai food is known for its heat, and chili is often the source. Whether it’s in the form of fresh, dried, or powdered, it adds that fiery punch you’re looking for.

Then, there’s garlic. It may be a universal spice, but in Thai cooking, it’s often used in larger quantities than you’d expect, adding a depth of flavor that’s hard to beat.

Next up is lemongrass. This aromatic herb is a staple in Thai cuisine, delivering a fresh, citrusy note that balances out the heat from the chili.

And we can’t forget about coriander and lime. Coriander, both in seed and leaf form, imparts a slightly citrusy, earthy flavor, while lime gives a refreshing tang that’s essential in Thai salads like Yum Nua.

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All About Thai Beef Cuts

In Thailand, beef cuts aren’t as specific as in Western countries. But, knowing more about them will surely elevate your Yum Nua.

Thai cooks often use ‘Nua Toon,’ meaning boiled beef. They prefer tougher cuts, like shank or brisket, which soften and intensify in flavor during slow cooking. That’s why these cuts work well for Yum Nua, as they absorb the robust flavors of the spicy dressing perfectly.

‘Nua Sawan’ or ‘Heavenly Beef’ is another popular choice. It’s sun-dried beef, usually made from lean cuts like eye round. It’s then thinly sliced, marinated in soy and sesame, dried in the sun, and finally deep-fried. The result? Crispy, flavorful beef that adds a unique texture to Yum Nua.

Finally, there’s ‘Nua Yang,’ or grilled beef. Here, tender cuts like sirloin or ribeye are used. These cuts are marinated, then grilled to perfection. The charred, smoky flavor brings another layer of complexity to your salad.

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How to make Yum Nua (Thai Spicy Beef Salad) at home

Yum Nua, or Thai Spicy Beef Salad, is a delicious and refreshing Thai dish that combines tender slices of beef with a spicy, tangy, and aromatic dressing. It's a popular dish in Thai cuisine known for its bold and vibrant flavors. Here's a detailed recipe for you to try:
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Asian, Thai
Servings 4
Calories 400 kcal


  • Cutting board A clean and sturdy cutting board for slicing vegetables and herbs.
  • Sharp knife A sharp chef's knife for slicing the beef and other ingredients.
  • Skillet or Grill Pan: To sear the beef quickly. A grill can also be used for a smoky flavor.
  • Mixing bowl A large mixing bowl to toss and combine the salad ingredients.
  • Small bowl A small bowl for preparing the dressing.
  • Mortar and pestle or spice grinder If you're making your roasted rice powder, you'll need a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to grind the roasted rice into a coarse powder.
  • Pan or Skillet (for roasting rice): If you're making your roasted rice powder, you'll need a pan or skillet to dry-roast the rice.
  • Measuring spoons For measuring the ingredients for the dressing accurately.
  • Spatula or Tongs: To flip and remove the beef from the skillet or grill.
  • Citrus Juicer: If you want to make it easier to extract lime juice from fresh limes.
  • Lime Wedge Squeezer (optional): This can be handy for squeezing lime wedges over the salad when serving.
  • Small Whisk or Fork: To whisk and mix the dressing ingredients together.
  • Plates or Serving Platter: For serving the finished Yum Nua.
  • Fork and Spoon: To toss the salad and mix it with the dressing.
  • Garnish Plate: A plate or dish to place the fresh herbs and roasted rice powder for garnishing.
  • Lime Wedges: For garnishing and serving on the side.
  • Optional: Sticky Rice Basket: If you plan to serve sticky rice as a side dish, you may need a bamboo sticky rice basket and cheesecloth for steaming the rice.


For the Salad:

  • 450 g beef sirloin, flank steak, or ribeye, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into wedges or slices
  • 1-2 shallots, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular basil if Thai basil is not available)

For the Dressing:

  • 3-4 Thai bird's eye chilies, minced (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp sugar (palm sugar is traditional, but you can use white or brown sugar)
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce
  • Lime wedges for garnish


Prepare the Beef:

  • If you're using a larger cut of beef, like sirloin or flank steak, slice it thinly against the grain. You can partially freeze it for easier slicing.
  • Heat a skillet or grill pan over high heat. Quickly sear the beef slices for about 1-2 minutes on each side or until they're just cooked to medium-rare or your preferred doneness. Be careful not to overcook as the beef should remain tender. Once done, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Prepare the Dressing:

  • In a small bowl, combine the minced chilies, minced garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and soy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to your taste, balancing the sweet, salty, and sour flavors. Keep in mind that Thai food often has a balance of these flavors.

Assemble the Salad:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, and shallots (if using)
  • Add the cooked and cooled beef slices to the bowl.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine, ensuring the ingredients are well coated with the dressing


  • Transfer the salad to a serving platter or individual plates.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro, mint, and Thai basil leaves.
  • Serve with lime wedges on the side for an extra squeeze of lime juice if desired.


  • Beef Slicing: For the best results, slice the beef as thinly as possible against the grain. Partially freezing the beef for about 30 minutes can make slicing easier.
  • Chilies: Thai bird’s eye chilies are quite spicy. Adjust the number of chilies to your heat preference. You can also remove the seeds and membranes from the chilies if you want to reduce the heat while retaining the chili flavor.
  • Fish Sauce: Fish sauce is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine and provides the salty umami flavor. Adjust the amount according to your taste. You can start with a smaller amount and add more if needed.
  • Lime Juice: Use fresh lime juice for the best flavor. Adjust the amount of lime juice to balance the sourness in the dressing.
  • Shrimp Paste: Shrimp paste is optional but adds depth of flavor to the dressing. If you’re not a fan of its strong taste, you can omit it.
  • Roasted Rice Powder: The roasted rice powder adds a unique nutty flavor and a pleasant crunch to the salad. If you can’t find roasted rice powder, you can make it by dry-roasting uncooked sticky rice in a pan until golden brown and then grinding it into a coarse powder.
  • Herbs: Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, and Thai basil are essential for the salad’s freshness and aroma. If you can’t find Thai basil, regular basil works as a substitute.
  • Resting Time: Allowing the beef to cool slightly before assembling the salad helps prevent the herbs from wilting and maintains the freshness of the dish.
  • Serve Fresh: Yum Nua is best served immediately after assembling to enjoy the vibrant flavors and textures.
  • Customization: Feel free to customize the salad with other vegetables like bell peppers, cucumber, or even fruits like green apple for a unique twist.
  • Accompaniments: Yum Nua is often served with a side of sticky rice (khao niew) to balance the spiciness and provide a textural contrast. It’s also delicious with lettuce leaves for wrapping.
Keyword beef, salad, Spicy

Yum Nua Recipe in Thai Cuisine

In Thai cuisine, Yum Nua is a flavorful salad that combines tender pieces of beef with a medley of fresh herbs and vegetables. The beef, usually a lean cut like sirloin or flank, is typically grilled or pan-seared to enhance its natural flavors. It’s then sliced into thin strips to allow the dressing’s flavors to penetrate.

The preparation doesn’t stop with the beef, though. Yum Nua’s vibrancy also comes from its fresh ingredients. You’ll find crisp cucumber, juicy tomatoes, and sharp onions in the mix. Fragrant herbs like mint, cilantro, and lemongrass also play a critical role in bringing this dish to life.

The salad is then tossed in a zesty dressing, a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and fiery Thai chilies. It’s this dressing that gives Yum Nua its characteristic kick and elevates the beef’s flavor.

Yum Nua in Western Culture

In the realm of Western cuisine, you’ve likely noticed the rising popularity of Yum Nua. This Thai spicy beef salad is gaining traction, not just for its tantalizing flavors, but also for its healthy profile. It’s no secret that Westerners are becoming more health-conscious and adventurous with their food choices, and Yum Nua fits the bill perfectly.

You’ll find Yum Nua gracing the menus of high-end restaurants and casual eateries alike. Celebrity chefs are giving it their own spin, and it’s a regular feature in cooking shows and food blogs. It’s a dish that’s making waves, with its unique blend of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavors appealing to the Western palate.

But it’s not just about the taste. Yum Nua’s appeal in Western culture extends to its preparation. It’s an art form, a testament to culinary finesse. The way the beef is cooked to perfection, the harmonious mix of fresh herbs and spices, and the presentation – it’s a culinary experience that’s hard to resist.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Yum Nua?

Yum Nua is packed with protein from the beef, providing essential amino acids. It’s also full of vegetables, adding dietary fiber and vitamins.

The spicy dressing can kickstart your metabolism. However, it’s key to watch your portion sizes, as the dressing can be high in sodium.

Yum Nua, when consumed in moderation, can be a beneficial addition to a balanced diet.

Are There Any Vegetarian or Vegan Alternatives to Yum Nua?

Absolutely, there are! You can easily swap the beef for tofu or tempeh. For a more meat-like texture, seitan or jackfruit can be good options. Heart of palm or mushroom can also work. Just make sure to marinate your plant-based protein in similar spices as you’d with beef to retain that characteristic Thai flavor.

How Can the Spice Level of Yum Nua Be Adjusted?

Adjusting the spice level in Yum Nua is simple. You’re in control of the heat. If you’re sensitive to spicy foods, reduce the amount of chili peppers. Don’t worry, it won’t compromise the dish’s flavor.

If you’re a heat seeker, add more. Remember, it’s easier to add heat than to take it away, so start small and increase gradually.

Can Yum Nua Be Prepared Ahead of Time and Stored?

Yes, you can prepare Yum Nua ahead of time.

However, it’s best to store the cooked beef and the dressing separately.

You can refrigerate the beef for up to three days.

Just before serving, you’ll want to toss the beef with the dressing to ensure it’s fresh and flavorful.

What Are Some Tips for Cooking the Beef in Yum Nua to Ensure It’s Tender and Flavorful?

When cooking the beef for Yum Nua, you’ll want it tender and packed with flavor. First, marinate it in the fridge for at least an hour.

It’s crucial to let the meat reach room temperature before grilling. You shouldn’t overcook it, medium-rare is ideal.

After grilling, let it rest for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute.

Lastly, thinly slice it against the grain to ensure maximum tenderness.

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My name is Mint. I am a Thai girl who loves to cook and share my Thai food with everyone! Learn more about me here.

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