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thai stir-fried beef with chilli and holy basil served with purple rice


Summer for me means herbs…lots and lots of herbs, herbs by the armful!  I use herbs all through the year of course, but in winter this means maybe a bay leaf,  perhaps a sprig of thyme, a small handful of parsley stalks in chicken stock, or a couple of sprigs of oregano in pasta sauce.


In summer, and even though it’s November I think we can make it official after we’ve had a 39C day already, I don’t use sprigs of herbs, I use handfuls, bunches even!  In fact I’ve used about four large bunches just since Saturday…  Handfuls of mint in cool cucumber yoghurt sauce, handfuls of basil, mint and parsley in herbed ricotta, more mint, basil and coriander in kohlrabi, apple and cabbage salad, and a whole bunch of basil in this Thai stir fry.

fry chilli paste and beef

The original recipe, from the fabulous David Thompson, had six chillies, four of them birds-eye chillies, so this is toned down quite a bit!  On the other hand, the kids eat it 🙂  Feel free to add a few birds-eye chillies if you desire.   The holy basil is a lovely touch, but I find it is only available in mid summer/autumn, so we use normal sweet basil the rest of the time. Both are pictured below – the holy basil has smaller leaves that are a less vibrant green.


holy basil in Thai stir-fried beef

add basil off the heat

I serve this with a lovely crunchy salad on the side, usually of shredded kohlrabi, apple and cabbage topped with crushed peanuts.

Thai beef with holy basil and crunchy salad

A fried egg is apparently a traditional (and delicious) addition.

beef with chilli and basil topped with a fried egg

Thai stir-fried beef with chilli and holy basil

Adapted from a recipe (neua pat bai grapao) in David Thomson’s Thai Food 

  • 400g beef mince
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 long red chillies
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 120ml chicken stock or water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbs light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs dark soy sauce
  • 1 small bunch holy basil (or Thai basil or normal sweet basil if not available)
  • jasmine rice, fish sauce, lime wedges and fried eggs (optional) to serve

Combine peeled garlic, chillies (remove seeds or not depending on your tolerance!) and salt in a small food processor, and process until a paste.  Mix stock, sugar and soy sauces in a small bowl.

Heat oil in a large frying pan, add paste, and fry over high heat for a minute.  Add beef and fry for another five minutes, breaking up clumps,  until beef is cooked and starting to brown.  Add liquid and cook for another couple of minutes until thoroughly mixed and the liquid is reduced (see last photo).  Turn off the heat and toss through the basil.

Serve immediately over jasmine rice with fish sauce and lime juice to taste.

Serves 4