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COOKING | Magazine

Recipes: One dipping sauce creates two distinct shrimp and steak dishes

This 4-ingredient sauce is as common in Cambodia as ketchup is in the United States.

Grilled skirt steak with pepper-lime dipping sauce.
Grilled skirt steak with pepper-lime dipping sauce.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Traveling through Cambodia, we came across a bright, slightly sweet dipping sauce that’s as ubiquitous as ketchup is in the United States. The four-ingredient mixture of black pepper, lime juice, sugar, and salt called tuk meric is traditionally served with the rich beef stir-fry loc lac, but the sweet heat of the pepper and brightness of the citrus balance all manner of meaty dishes. We use it as a dipping sauce for strip steak marinated in cilantro, fish sauce, and lime. Grilled shrimp skewers prepared in much the same way also are delicious. And this new pantry staple works just as well as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken, or spooned liberally over roasted cauliflower.

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Pepper-Lime Dipping Sauce (Tuk Meric)

Makes about 1/3 cup

The Cambodian dipping sauce tuk meric typically goes equally well with simply seasoned and grilled shrimp, chicken, beef, or vegetables. Toasting the peppercorns in a dry skillet until lightly smoking brings out their pleasantly sharp flavor, enhances their spicy aroma, and slightly crisps their texture.

Avoid pre-ground pepper, even if it’s coarsely ground. Start with fresh, whole peppercorns, then use a mortar and pestle to coarsely crack them. Pulsing in a spice grinder works, too, but yields an inconsistent texture.

¼ cup black peppercorns, coarsely cracked

¼ cup lime juice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly smoking, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a small bowl. Add the lime juice, salt, and sugar, then whisk until the sugar and salt dissolve.

Grilled Cilantro-Lime Skirt Steak

Makes 4 servings

The saltiness of the steak pairs perfectly with the Pepper-Lime Dipping Sauce. Grate the zest from the same limes you will juice to make the sauce.

Marinate the steak for no more than an hour. The fish sauce will make it too salty.

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½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup fish sauce

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

1½ pounds beef skirt steak, trimmed, patted dry, and cut with the grain into 3 pieces

In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, fish sauce, oil, zest, and sugar. Place the steak in a large baking dish and pour the cilantro mixture over it, turning to coat. Refrigerate while preparing the grill.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, turn half of the burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.

When the grill is ready, pat the steak dry with paper towels and place on the hot side of the grill. Cook, uncovered, until lightly charred on both sides and the center of the thickest part is pink when cut into, 4 to 6 minutes total, flipping once halfway through. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the steak with the grain into 2-inch-wide pieces, then thinly slice each piece on a bias against the grain. Serve with Pepper-Lime Dipping Sauce.

Grilled skewered cilantro-lime shrimp with pepper-lime dipping sauce.
Grilled skewered cilantro-lime shrimp with pepper-lime dipping sauce.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Grilled Skewered Cilantro-Lime Shrimp

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Makes 4 servings

The shrimp can be served on the skewers or slid off onto a platter or bowl. Apply the seasonings after skewering the shrimp. The marinade makes them slippery and more difficult to skewer.

½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup fish sauce

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

1½ pounds extra-large shrimp (21/25 per pound), peeled, deveined, and patted dry

In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, fish sauce, oil, zest, and sugar. Skewering them in a C shape, thread the shrimp onto eight 8- to 10-inch metal skewers. Place the skewers in a large baking dish and pour the cilantro mixture over them, turning to coat. Refrigerate while preparing the grill.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney filled ¾ full of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute the coals evenly over the grill bed; open the bottom vents and the lid vent. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.

Grill the skewers until the shrimp turn opaque and are lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the shrimp are just opaque, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate.

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Correction: This article has been updated to correct the amount of shrimp per pound.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.