Savory, spicy, and packed with basil and fish sauce flavor, that is what flashes across my mind when I think of Thai basil beef.
It is a perfect one-pot meal, as it can make it in less than 30 minutes and satisfy almost every palate.
The star of the dish is the whole bunch of fresh basil leaves thrown into the wok. You will be greeted by the aroma of basil wafting up immediately to perfume the entire kitchen.
Thai basil beef is so versatile that it can be served as noodles or rice topped with a fried egg.
Let’s get into the details of making the beloved dish at home rather than ordering from a Thai restaurant.
How to make Thai basil beef (pad gra prow)
This basil beef recipe is quick and easy. You can do it in less than thirty minutes once the ingredients are ready.
I will break it down into a few small steps to explain it in detail.
1. Use ground beef
The quickest way to prepare the pad gra pow is to use store-bought ground meat. Otherwise, you can choose the cut of beef to mince it yourself. I suggest using either chuck steak because it has a rich flavor and a balanced meat-to-fat ratio. Round steak is also suitable.
There is no need to mince the beef finely. Instead, I cut the half-frozen beef chuck into thin slices, then into strips, and then down to small cubes. It works perfectly for this Thai spicy basil beef recipe.
2. Prepare the seasonings
The Thai basil beef recipe (pad gra prow or pad krapow) utilizes the trinity combination for Thai cooking. (fish sauce, light soy sauce, and oyster sauce). There is no need to use salt since these items are salty. Each ingredient’s amount can vary based on individual preference, but it is roughly an equal portion of each item. Please refer to the recipe below for the amount I use.
Dark soy sauce is included primarily to darken the color to make it look more appetizing. I also add some sugar to balance the flavor since other seasonings are salty. Lastly, add two tablespoons of water and mix well with the sugar.
I pre-mix these ingredients in a small bowl so that I will not be left out of any items during stir-frying. You can add them directly to the wok during stir-frying if you can do it right confidently.
3. Grind the chili and garlic with mortar and pestle
Garlic and chilies are indispensable for any Thai food, with no exception to the spicy basil beef recipe. However, the amount is quite flexible which can be adjusted based on your preference. I like garlic and have used eight medium-sized cloves for one pound of beef.
There are two types of chilies in the recipe. The first type is the bird’s eye chilies, which are relatively small (one to two inches long) but very spicy. I only use three in the recipe, but you can include more if you take the heat. Removing the seeds is also quite tricky since they are small and usually included in the recipe.
I also use some large red Thai chilies, which are less hot. They provide additional chili flavor to the beef stir-fry. (Bell peppers aren’t a usual ingredient in this recipe, but they complement the flavors well. Diced red bell pepper can be used as a substitute for chopped red chili to reduce the dish’s spicy level.)
Grinding the garlic and chili with a mortar and pestle helps release their flavor, but the difference is not very significant compared to chopping them finely.
4. Stir-fry the minced beef
- Heat some oil in a wok or a large skillet.
- Add the ground garlic and chili to the oil and stir fry until aromatic, roughly taking about half to one minute over low to medium heat.
- Mix the minced beef with the garlic and chili. Keep stir-frying until the meat starts to cook and releases its juice. It is advisable to remove the beef (and the juice) and continue to stir-fry the long beans and onion separately from the beef. Long beans need a longer time to cook until soft, so you will overcook the beef if you stir-fry the beans with the meat at this moment.
5. Stir-fry the long beans and onions
I like to cut the long bean on the bias to about one cm long and cut the onion into small dice. Both will give some texture and crunch to the minced beef that is soft and tender. Use green beans (French beans) if the Asian long beans are unavailable.
After removing the beef from the wok, add some oil to stir-fry the long beans and onion for a minute or two until they turn soft. You can add one to two tablespoons of water to stir-fry should it become too dry.
6. Season the beef with the sauce
- Return the beef to the wok and combine with other ingredients over medium-high heat.
- Now, flavor the beef stir fry with the mixture of seasonings. Pour it into the beef and continue to stir fry. Most of the juices will become dry when the beef is fully cooked.
- Before adding the basil leaves, prepare a cornstarch slurry by combining 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Add it to the beef and give it a few quick stirs. The cornstarch will thicken the sauce immediately, making it ideal to cling to the noodles and stick well onto the rice.
7. The final step: Add the basil leaves
Now, it comes to the final step, i.e., adding the basil leaves. You can use Thai holy basil, but if it is unavailable, substitute it with regular basil, such as Italian basil or sweet basil.
When adding one cup of basil leaves to the beef, it may look a lot, but the leaves will wilt and hardly add any volume to the final dish.
Mix the basil leaves with the minced beef and give it a few quick flips and stirs. Now you can turn off the heat. The remaining heat will cause the basil leaves to wilt. By now, you should be able to smell the aroma of the fish sauce, chili, and basil drifting into your dining room.
Bonus step: Fry an egg, Thai-style
This method of frying the egg is anything between pan-fry and deep-fry, and the result is very different from most Western-style fried egg, which does not want to brown the edges.
- Add three to four tablespoons of oil to the wok.
- Wait until the oil is hot and start to smoke.
- Place an egg gently into the oil. The egg will start to form bubbly, crispy edges.
- Gently push the egg with the spatula if the egg starts to stick to the bottom. Do not turn the egg over!
- The air pocket inside the egg white will expand and form large blisters and sometimes expand so much that it looks like a choux pastry! Eventually, they will break and divide. Once you see the edges are golden, remove it and drain the oil.
The Thai basil beef is best served on a bed of Jasmine rice and topped with Thai-style fried eggs. Add some sweet chili sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice for extra flavor if you like. It is also best to serve with any noodles. Add enough pad gra prow to any noodles mix, and top with an egg if you want.
Related recipes to pad gra prow
If you like this Thai basil beef stir fry, I want you to try other Thai cuisine on this blog. Here are my picks:
- Tom yum soup looks deceptively unpretentious but has a bold, citrusy, and savory flavor. You will feel the bursting taste of the fresh Thai herbs with a pop of spicy heat lingering in your mouth.
- Pad see ew is the Thai-style stir-fried noodles with soy sauce. Here is the detailed instruction on how to prepare it.
- Pandan leaf chicken is one of the best specialty chicken dishes in Thailand. The chicken is moist, tender, infused with a refreshing pandan aroma, and encased in leaf packets. The taste is worth hunting down to get pandan leaves if you live outside Asia, usually at Asian grocery stores.
- Try this Thai Basil Chicken if you do not eat beef. It is one of my favorite Thai dishes.
Ingredients A- to grind
- 8 cloves garlic
- 3 bird’s eye chili
- 3 large red chili, remove seeds
Ingredients B- Seasonings
- 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 500g ground beef
- 3/4 cup long bean, cut on the bias, 1cm length
- I medium-size onion, cut into small dices
- 1.5 cup basil leaves
- 1 tsp cornstarch (make a slurry with 2 tbsp of water)
- 1 egg
- Grind ingredients A with the mortar and pestle.
- Heat some oil in a wok. Add the grind garlic and chili to the oil and stir fry until aromatic.
- Add the minced beef to the garlic and chili. Keep stir-frying until the meat starts to cook and releases its juice. Then, remove it from the wok.
- Add some oil to the wok to stir-frying the long beans and onion for a minute or two until they turn soft.
- Return the beef to the wok and combine with other ingredients.
- Add the seasonings (Ingredients B).
- Pour the cornstarch slurry into the wok and give it a few quick stirs.
- Add the basil leaves. Mix and turn off the heat.
- Fry an egg with 4 tbsp of oil until the edges turn golden and with blisters.
- Serve the basil beef with steamed rice or noodles, top with the egg, and garnish with more fresh basil leaves and chopped red chilies.
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Lee Kum Kee Premium Light Soy Sauce - 150ml (5.27 fl oz)
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Squid Fish Sauce 725ml
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1722Total Fat: 99gSaturated Fat: 33gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 43gCholesterol: 412mgSodium: 5580mgCarbohydrates: 80gFiber: 9gSugar: 15gProtein: 126g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 6/19/2021