I’ve been to Thailand on a few occasions and have completely fallen in love with the place. Thai Spicy Basil Beef is a quintessential Thai dish, that you should try at least once. Unless you’re 100% vegan or vegetarian of course.
Thailand is the one destination that we always long to go back to no matter how many times I’ve been there. To me, the perfect Thai holiday combines sipping an overly strong bucket of Sang Som in Koh San road, while sitting in the sweltering heat surrounded by the smell of an overheated dumpster and drain water (for the full experience), balanced with the tranquillity of a beautiful beach adventure. These are the things that holiday photos can’t show you, but those who have been there will know all too well what I mean.
The cities have an indescribable buzz in the air and the beaches are generally overrun with influencers and tourists who are trying to get the perfect Instagram photo. But the local people are friendly, there are still quiet beaches if you know where to look, the massages are a cure for any travel back-pain and the food is exquisitely spicy.
Thai spicy basil beef is one of my favourite easy and quick to make Thai dishes and can be found in most eateries throughout Thailand, but as with most local dishes, it can be quite spicy so be careful. If you make this at home it’s easier to control the heat, I personally don’t like a lot of spice when at home so have left the chilly out on occasion.
This is a beef heavy dish, so if you’re trying to follow a more sustainable and plant-based diet like we are, use this as your treat recipe.
Thai Holy Basil vs Italian Basil
This dish is traditionally made with Thai Holy Basil.
Thai Holy Basil can be found in some Chinese supermarkets, however, if you can’t find it nearby don’t worry. You can substitute Italian basil for the Thai Holy Basil, just add a bit of pepper to taste as Holy Basil is quite peppery. It won’t be exactly the same, but it’s still delicious.
How to Make Thai Spicy Basil Beef
Making Thai Spicy Basil Beef is so quick and easy, it’s can spice up your menu and quickly become a mid-week favourite. With a basic few ingredients and around 30 mins, you’ll whip up a delicious meal in no time.
1. Prepare the Spices and Garlic
Finely chop the chillies and garlic, you can even use a pestle and mortar to smash it together if you’re going for a more authentic experience. Garlic and chilli is the basis for most Thai dishes, but as you’re making your own recipe you can adjust the heat to your liking.
If you can’t find Thai Chilies you can also use birdseye and red chillies, feel free to get creative and experiment. This dish should be very spicy so don’t be shy, but of course, consider your audience.
When it comes to the garlic you can again add more if you choose. We’ve in the past added up to 7 or 8 cloves, it depends if you need to be in the office the next day to a degree. But if you’re working from home then you can go for the full whack.
2. Mix the Seasonings
Pad Gra Prow use three important Thai seasonings, oyster sauce, sauce and fish sauce. If you’re using these three sauces together then you don’t need to add salt as there is plenty of flavours to go around. If you would like it to be saltier then you can add more fish sauce, although we wouldn’t recommend that as you can easily add too much salty flavour.
You can use light soy sauce, but we like using dark as it darkens the meat a little bit more. Add a sprinkle of sugar to balance the flavours.
3. Use Ground Beef or Meat Free Alternative
The quickest option for this recipe is to buy pre-ground beef. If you don’t have minced beef then you could potentially use stir-fry beef strips, but we’d recommend using minced as it’s a bit more authentic.
If you’re going vegetarian for this dish the best route would be to use vegetarian mince as it will give you the best texture and closest flavour. We don’t normally recommend meat replacement products as it’s generally highly processed, but if you’re eating it on occasion then this recipe is a good way to go. For a veggie option don’t forget to swap the oyster sauce with vegetarian oyster sauce.
4. Stir Fry the Onions and Beef
Fry the onions in a bit of oil until they soften. Then you can add the garlic and chilli mixture and fry for a few minutes until the aroma starts to rise up – don’t burn the garlic. Next, add the beef and brow it slightly, but don’t wait too long as you don’t want the mince to overcook before the beans are ready. Add the beans and chopped bell pepper to the wok and fry everything together until the beans and pepper have softened. This should take a few minutes.
5. Season and Serve
Once the beans are nice and tender but still have a tiny bit of crunch you can add the seasoning. Let it bubble up for a few minutes and remove the pan from the heat altogether. As a last step add the Basil and stir it into the beef mixture. Let it rest for a few minutes until the basil has wilted.
Then serve with rice.
6. Add a Fried Egg (Optional)
Pad Gra Prow is often served with a fried egg on top. Make sure you fry the egg, sunny side up in a reasonable amount of oil pre-heated hot oil so that the sides crisp up. Break the egg in the heated oil, then wait, don’t turn, until the sides, crips up and the yolk is still slightly runny.
Thai Spicy Basil Beef (Pad Gra Prow)
- 2 tbsp good quality vegetable oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 organic onion, chopped
- 2-3 Thai chillies (optional)
- 1 green or red pepper sliced
- 500 g high welfare, pasture-raised, organic grass-fed beef mince
- 1 cup organic french beans, chopped
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 bunch fresh basil chopped use holy basil or Thai basil if you can find it
- Grind the chillies into a paste if you are using them, add them according to your personal heat threshold or leave out completely.
- Add the oil, chilly, garlic and onion to the wok, fry on medium heat until the onions soften.
- Once the onions have softened, add the beef mince and toss until it starts to brown. Then add the chopped beans and pepper to the wok.
- Just before it's ready to serve add the soy, oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer for a few minutes until everything is combined then add the basil and stir until wilted. Serve with rice.
Pad kra pao is a popular Thai dish that balances salty and sweet with a good lashing of spice. The basil adds a unique twist to the dish, which is often served with a fried egg.
No, they are not exactly the same. But you can substitute them if you don’t have Thai basil. Italian basil is a bit milder and more peppery, where Thai basil is more aniseedy and spicey and have sturdier leaves. Technically these two plants aren’t two peas in a pod, they are two completely different species of plant. Thai basil can be difficult to find in the Western world, which is why it’s often substituted for regular Italian basil.
The closest substitute in our opinion is hoisin sauce, but you can also use more soy with an extra bit of sugar to balance the salt.
A wok is not an essential tool, although it gives you the right balance of cooking surface for Asian recipes. If you have a big frying pan, then you can use that instead, just be mindful that your surface area that can burn is a bit bigger.