For the pickled cucumbers:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
- 1/2 Asian cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1 small hot red or green chile, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
For the beef skewers:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 3 cloves garlic, 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
Pickle the cucumbers: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar, salt, vinegar and 1/4 cup water over medium-high heat until the sugar and salt dissolve; remove from the heat. Put the cucumber, chile and red onion in a medium bowl and pour the hot brine over them. Let cool, then add the cilantro. Chill.
Make the beef skewers: In a medium bowl, mix 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 as a dipping sauce. Put the beef cubes in a zip-top bag and pour in the remaining marinade. Seal the bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Put in a bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat a grill to high. Drain the meat, discarding the marinade. Thread the cubes onto skewers (1 to 4 per skewer), separating each cube with a piece of scallion. Grill directly over the coals, turning once, until nicely charred, about 3 minutes per side.
Sprinkle with sliced scallions. Serve warm or cold with the reserved marinade for dipping and the pickled cucumber and chiles on the side.
Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes to keep them from burning on the grill.
Photograph by Antonis Achilleos