Curry Powder Shortcuts Savory Beef Skewers

Across Southeast Asia, sidewalk hawkers offer sizzling meat skewers bathed in the smoky aroma of smoldering wood coals and a seemingly endless combination of savory sauces.

In Thailand, they might be pork slathered in coconut cream, or in Singapore, they could be charred chicken smothered in spicy peanut sauce.

For this recipe from our book “COOKish,” which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, we decided to highlight the lesser-known but still familiar flavors of Myanmar. In that country, tucked between India and Thailand, beef skewers commonly are marinated then basted in a tasty slurry that features turmeric, fish sauce, garlic and ginger, among other seasonings.

In the marinade, we use curry powder for a spice-cabinet shortcut as well as lime zest to brighten the sauce. Grated fresh ginger and garlic add plenty of kick, too.

If you like, trim the ends off two medium shallots, then peel and halve them lengthwise; before cooking, cap each beef skewer with a shallot. Broiling will char the shallots’ outer layers and the interiors will be sweet and tender, a nice complement to the beef.

Serve with fragrant basmati or jasmine rice.


Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

¼ cup neutral oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1½ tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1½ teaspoons curry powder
Grated zest of 1 lime, plus lime wedges to serve
Ground black pepper
1½ pounds beef flat iron steak OR boneless short ribs, trimmed and sliced against the grain into ½-inch-thick strips

Heat the broiler with a rack 4 inches from the element. Stir together the oil, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, curry powder, lime zest and a pinch of pepper. In a medium bowl, toss the steak with half the seasoning paste. Scrunch the meat onto metal skewers, adding the halved shallots to the ends, if using, then arrange the skewers on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil until charred on both sides, 6 to 10 minutes, flipping once. Brush the skewers with the remaining seasoning paste, then let stand for 10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.

Optional garnishes: Fried shallots OR hot sauce OR chopped roasted peanuts OR Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed and chopped

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