Thai-Grilled Beef Skewers With Pickled Cucumbers

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Pickled cucumbers

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

½ Asian cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced

1 small hot red or green chile, thinly sliced

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

Beef skewers

½ cup soy sauce

4 teaspoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons mirin

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

4 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes or Thai chili paste

Juice of 1 lime

1 pound sirloin, rib eye, or New York strip steak, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 scallions (white and light green parts), cut into 1-inch lengths, plus additional, sliced, for garnish

  1. First, pickle the cucumbers: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, salt, vinegar, and ¼ cup water over medium-high heat until the sugar and salt dissolve; remove from heat. Put the cucumber, chile, and red onion in a medium bowl, and pour the hot brine over. Let cool; then add the cilantro. Chill.
  2. Make the beef skewers: In a medium bowl, blend the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, mirin, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. Pour half of the mixture into a serving bowl, add the lime juice, and reserve for a dipping sauce. Put the beef cubes in a zipper bag and "pour in the remaining marinade. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Put in a bowl, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
  3. Preheat a grill to high heat.
  4. Drain the meat, discarding the marinade. Thread the cubes onto skewers (1 to 4 per skewer), separating each cube with a round of scallion. Grill directly over coals, turning once, until nicely charred, about 3 minutes per side.
  5. Sprinkle with sliced scallions. Serve warm or cold with the reserved marinade for dipping and the pickled cucumbers and chiles on the side.

If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes to keep them from burning.