Spicy Beef with Thai Basil


Thai Basil might be one of my favorite herbs in the whole wide world. If you're unfamiliar with it, I can tell you only that it "smells like Thai food." Inhale deeply, and you might smell anise. Before it's incorporated into your food, while on the stalk, it has beautiful dark purple flowers that emanate the most intense aroma.

Thai Basil, photo from Mas Du Diable.

So, anywho, it never occurred to me that things like Thai basil and lemongrass were, y'know, growable in your own backyard. My friend Kathy began her own organic herb garden, and both of the aforementioned were part of this summer's bounty. While I got many great herbs from her this summer (things like chocolate mint and lemon verbena included!), these were by far my favorite as exotic items are not always easy to find here in Urbana-Champaign.

One of my very favorite dishes to order comes from Vientiane Palace in Madison--Fried Whole Basil with Beef (though I'm pretty sure it used to be called "Fried Holy Basil," and Thai Holy Basil is a different thing entirely). The dish came with entire bunches of thai basil--stalks and all--fried up and served in a spicy brown sauce with succulent slices of beef. It. is. so. good. This was my attempt at making something similar at home.

Spicy Beef with Thai Basil (from The Food Addicts)
-1 lb. stir fry beef, sliced thin
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-3 shallots, sliced thin
-2 red Thai chiles, minced (these can be dried and rehydrated in warm water)
-1-2 teaspoons lemongrass, minced (**this is optional, but oh-so-tasty!**)
-1/2-1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
-1/2-1 orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1 tablespoon mirin
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-Cracked pepper to taste
-1 cup Thai basil leaves (leave whole or slice them chiffonade--it's up to you)

1. Saute beef over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and chiles. Saute for 1 minute more.

2. Add the bell peppers and mix in. Saute for a few minutes more, until beef and peppers are tender.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, mirin, and cornstarch. Pour over the beef-pepper mixture, stirring to coat. When sauce thickens, add a bit of cracked pepper to taste.

4. Remove pan from heat. Toss in the Thai basil. Don't cook the basil, or it will turn black. Serve immediately with rice.

-4 small-ish servings (to extend it a bit, add 2 whole bell peppers)

Note: This dish is delightful and tasty, but VERY spicy. If you want to dial the spicy down a notch, only put in 1 Thai chile, or use milder chiles.


Kelly @ Eat Yourself Skinny said...

Wow this dish looks incredible!! Love all the flavors! :)

Shaheen said...

I've never had Thai basil. I will have to keep my eyes out for it the next time I visit the Oriental supermarket. But it very unlikely I'll find some here, unless i attempt to grow my own, which is unlikely because I can't even grow traditional basil.

kita said...

I love me some basil and I love me some Thai. I am planning on growing more varieties next year. This dish sounds great. :D

The Food Mentalist said...

I absolutely love all things basil! Great recipe!

FamilySpice said...

Thai basil has a little bite to it, right? This looks really delicious!

Peggy said...

This is one of my favorite dishes to order out at Thai places... and you know, I always grow normal basil out on the deck - and I have no idea why I've never grown Thai basil out there! I'd be able to have meals like these at home more often if I did =)

Amy said...

I love thai basil! What a great way to use it with such fresh flavors and beautiful colors in a dish!

Mary said...

This really is a delicious dish and your photo makes it even more appealing. This is my first visit to your blog, so I decided to browse through your earlier entries while I was here. I'm so glad I did that. I really love the food and recipes you feature here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Lori said...

Wow that looks so good. I sure wouldnt mind the heat. I love it.

Angeline said...

Love to try this recipe someday. It looks easy, and Thai Basil is one of my favorite herbs as well. I tried to make similar dish before except that I didn't add mirin and fish sauce, and it tasted different than the dish that I got from a loca Thai restaurant.

Toyin O. said...

That looks so good!

Dom said...

Great recipe! Just made it for the guys and it was a big hit.

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