Food and Drink

Too tired to cook? This pho-inspired flank steak wrap recipe couldn’t be easier

I’m a flank steak evangelist, just ask my friends. It is *the best* meal for the end of an exhausting pandemic work/school day. You have to plan ahead just enough to remember to marinate it in the fridge, then you throw it on the grill for like 10 minutes and bam! Add a salad and you’ve got dinner. Added bonus: You can get a two-pack of steaks at Costco, freeze them and have them on hand.

I started this summer doing a classic flank steak marinade: half soy sauce, half pineapple juice and a couple squirts of Sriracha sauce, and it’s great. But then one day I had a bunch of herbs leftover from an order of oxtail pho from PhoNatik. And it got me thinking: what if I used Vietnamese flavors in a flank steak marinade? So I gave it a try. I used equal parts lime juice, tamari and fish sauce, added some sweetness from maple syrup and threw in all the pho herbs. The result was superb. And once again: super easy.

The next time I made the steak, I decided to use it in hand wraps, with warm calrose rice, lettuce, herbs and store-bought spring roll dipping sauce. It was a huge crowd-pleaser. I regretted not making two steaks. (The leftovers are pretty tasty!)

This marinade is flexible. I used bottled lime juice, but you could use fresh. You could use brown sugar or palm sugar in place of the syrup. You could also throw in some lime zest. If you don’t have fresh jalapeno, sub in red pepper flakes, Sriracha or sambal. You can also sub in rice noodles or cellophane noodles for rice.

Pho-inspired flank steak hand wraps

Serves 4

1 flank steak (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)

⅓ cup tamari or soy sauce


⅓ cup fish sauce

⅓ cup lime juice

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ fresh jalapeno, seeded and diced

¼ of a white onion thinly sliced

To serve:

Approximately 12 romaine lettuce leaves, washed

Washed whole herbs: mint, cilantro, Thai basil, cleaned green onions

Lime wedges (optional)

2 cups cooked short grain white rice, warm

¾ cup spring roll dipping sauce

Twelve to 24 hours before you plan to make the steak, mix tamari, fish sauce, lime juice, maple syrup, jalapeno and onion in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Slide the steak into the marinade, shake it gently to make sure the meat is fully covered and refrigerate, turning at least once. About 20 minutes before you plan to eat, begin cooking your rice in a rice cooker, assemble and wash your herbs and lettuce.

Heat a grill to high heat, about 450 degrees. Once the grill is hot, remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the grill, roughly 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on how rare you like it. (Four minutes per side for rare.) Remove to a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes and then slice thinly and serve with rice, herbs, lime, lettuce and dipping sauce for hand wraps.

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Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently a guest curator at the Anchorage Museum.