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Kachumber, or kachumbari, is a tart cucumber-based side salad that often accompanies heavier dishes like pilau and biryani in Swahili cuisine. Here it serves as a fresh counterpoint to a marinated, well-marbled New York strip steak. The marinade, borrowed from the flavors of my favorite East African grilled beef skewers, mishkaki, features flavorful garam masala and a lot of garlic. The sugar provides balance to the savoriness of the spices and ensures a nice, dark crust on the meat. If the weather is cooperating, grill the steaks for even more flavor. 

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4–6 servings


garlic cloves


red Thai chiles, 2 coarsely chopped, 1 thinly sliced


1½” piece ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped

tsp. sugar


tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¾ tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided


Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste

tsp. garam masala


Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided


1″-thick boneless New York strip steaks (about 12 oz. each)


small red onion, finely chopped


small Persian cucumber, very thinly sliced


Tbsp. vegetable oil

Unsalted butter (for serving)

Flaky sea salt


  1. Step 1

    Crush 6 garlic cloves, 2 red Thai chiles, coarsely chopped, one 1½” piece ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped, 1½ tsp. sugar, and 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt with a mortar and pestle or process in a food processor to a smooth paste. Add 1 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste, 1½ tsp. garam masala, and 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice and mix (or pulse) to combine; transfer marinade to a medium bowl.

    Step 2

    Pat two 1″-thick boneless New York strip steaks (about 12 oz. each) dry with paper towels and add to marinade, turning to coat. Let sit at room temperature 15–20 minutes.

    Step 3

    Meanwhile, toss 1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced, 1 small red onion, finely chopped, and 1 small Persian cucumber, very thinly sliced, in a small bowl; season with remaining 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice; toss again. Chill kachumber until ready to serve.

    Step 4

    Heat a dry large cast-iron skillet over medium-high; drizzle in 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil to evenly coat pan. Remove steaks from marinade, brushing off any solids, and transfer to skillet. Cook steaks, turning every 3 minutes or so, until deeply browned and charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 120°, 8–10 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and top each with a generous pat of unsalted butter; sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let rest 10 minutes.

    Step 5

    Slice steaks against the grain ¼” thick and transfer to a platter. Top with most of kachumber; serve remaining kachumber alongside.

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