You may be familiar with Bastien’s, of local Colfax fame. An iconic, mid-century rotunda of a building, it was rebuilt in 1958 (designed by Mr. Bastien himself!) and still sports a neon sign proudly boasting its famous sugar steaks. When we first moved back to Denver, my husband and I were curious about these sugar steaks and were charmed by the restaurant’s interior, a real throwback to the good old days. On that first visit, we couldn’t resist the novelty of their deep-fried burger and ordered one instead. Stuffed with corned beef, and featured in the “Lighter Fare” section, it looked liked a crispy, golden UFO.  And while the first few bites were good in the fattiest way, it was not sustainable eating (as is evidenced by its subsequent removal from the menu). We did eventually return to dine on sugar steaks and while the meal itself was not so memorable, the name did stick. 

  Fast forward a dozen years and our dinner plate ratio now has many more vegetables, whole grains, and small portions of meat, or no meat at all. The three of us will often split one steak (with leftovers) in tacos or served with brown rice (or noodles), some crisp vegetables and a selection of condiments and toppings.  I have used a version of this recipe on a variety of meats and it is quick and flavorful. For us, a typical assembly might be steamed rice topped with sliced grilled steak, cucumber, pickled onion, avocado, a sprinkle of cilantro, mint and crushed peanuts or sesame seeds. And a drizzle of local condiment hero Chili Crunch, of course. 

  I will often grill a large batch of chicken thighs, pork chops or steak and freeze the rest for easy weeknight meals. It is great served with hearty greens, on top of a big salad or on a baguette banh mi-style with mayo, sriracha, pickled vegetables, mint, basil, cilantro and jalapeño. You can also add it to broth with noodles, broccoli, lime juice and chiles or simmer that leftover brown rice in some broth with ginger to make a porridge instead. It is a quick, easy and versatile marinade to add to your recipe rotation. 


4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons lime juice, divided

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pound skirt or flap steak

1 tablespoon butter (optional)


In a large bowl, mix the fish sauce, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, and garlic. Place the steak in the bowl to marinate and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours.

  Remove the steak from the refrigerator and allow it to return to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Reserving the marinade, remove the steak from the bowl. 

  Over a grill or in an oiled cast-iron skillet over high heat, grill the steak for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until medium-rare.

  Allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes, then slice it thinly across the grain. Cook the remaining marinade in a saucepan over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rest of the lime juice, then swirl in the butter for extra deliciousness, if desired. Serve steak with sauce at the side.

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