Thai basil beef – pad gra prow – is one of the really great stir fried dishes from Southeast Asia. Garlic. Chili. Thai basil. Beef. A bit salty. The slightest hint of sweet. In wonderful balance. And it comes together in no time flat.
This recipe is inspired by Hot Sour Sweet Salty by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It’s my go to for guidance on southeast asian food. If you can get your hands on a copy just do it. Think later. It’s really good.
There’s a lot of convoluted recipes for Thai basil beef out there. Not sure why. Some need to clutter this dish for some reason. But I won’t do it. No oyster sauce here. Or red bell pepper. Or lime. Forget the stock. Just the basics. Clean. Simple. Pure. Like the guy with the street cart in Bangkok is doing I like to think.
Couple things to consider for this dish. The mortar and pestle really does make a difference. Crushing the chili releases juices. Those juices have flavour. I really don’t like using a mortar and pestle. It’s a pain. Only do when it really counts. I use it here.
Choice of beef is important. Any beef you would serve as a steak works here. New York striploin. sirloin, even flank. All safe bets.
Other than that there is not much to this dish. Get your wok nice and hot. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Make sure your rice is ready before you start cooking thai basil beef. Easy. Really easy. And so tasty.
- 10-12 oz good quality beef - sirloin, striploin or flank, sliced thinly across the grain
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 5 cloves garlic - crushed
- 3 red finger hot chilies - minced
- 1 red finger hot chili - julienned
- 0-2 thai red chilies - 0 isn't hot, 2 is pretty hot
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- a good handful of thai basil
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Combine the beef, soy and black pepper and refrigerate anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours.
- Combine minced chilies and crushed garlic in a mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse paste. This isn't essential and it's a bit of a pain but it does help up the flavour.
- Add the fish sauce and sugar to the chili garlic mixture and keep close to the stove.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.
- Add one Tbsp oil and add half the beef. Stir fry until no red colour remains, about 1 minute. Remove the beef. If there's any liquid in the pan stir it around until it dries up.
- Add the second Tbsp of oil and stir fry the remaining beef. Remove the beef and dry out the pan as you did above if needed.
- Return the beef to the wok or skillet and add the chili/garlic/fish sauce/sugar mixture. Stir fry over high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the thai basil and cook until wilted.
- Serve with jasmine rice.
Put the beef in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. This firms up the beef and makes it easier to slice thinly.
If using sirloin or striploin, try to get a small roast. It is almost impossible to slice a steak across the grain.
This recipe scales well as long as you only stir fry 5-6 oz of beef at a time.