Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thai Beef with Chiles...

I don't have a ton of experience cooking ethnic cuisine, though we are trying to incorporate it a bit more, which means I can't claim just how authentic recipes are when they fall into that realm. I do enjoy the process of trying them, if for no other reason than it pushes us and expands what we are willing to try, especially during the times we travel and are eating at restaurants. It gives us a small idea of what to expect at least!

Just like this Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil Over Coconut Rice we had for dinner tonight - I wouldn't know for certain if it was more of a technique or if the combination of ingredients is what made this recipe be labeled "Thai". It could also be overzealous labeling to make it sound fancy or complicated too... hee hee!

While the coconut rice follows the beef in the recipe title, we needed to get working on that before we started on the protein. You know how much of a fan I am of using the pasta method to cook rice (especially brown), however as this recipe calls for using coconut milk, cut with water, we went with the regular absorption method. There isn't anything to be scared about using this way to cook the rice though - the key I've found is to keep the temperature low enough that the rice has time to cook, yet not too high that the bottom dries out and burns. While the original recipe calls for cooking the aromatic jasmine rice on the heat for 25 minutes, I find we get better results, as we did tonight, by leaving the pot over the heat for 20 minutes, then turning the heat off and letting it sit, covered, for an extra ten minutes to gently steam the rice through.

A few red jalapeños, seeded and sliced into sticks, along with chopped garlic went into our trusty heated cast-iron skillet that was lined with just enough oil to cover the bottom. Just a few seconds later, their pungent aromas climbed up to my nose, letting me know it was time to slide in our protein of choice this evening, ground sirloin - however, think about using ground lamb, turkey or pork instead to look at this with a new light. Once you scatter the meat in the pan, try to resist diving right in with a spatula to break up the meat into crumbles. Since the skillet is pretty hot, give the meat a chance to actually begin to caramelize and gain that brown color, rather than smashing the juices out trying to get it into smaller pieces and end up with stewed meat with little developed flavor.

A combo of soy, fish sauce and a dash of sugar is then stirred into the mix to not only season the meat, but add some liquid to pull up any of those sought-after browned bits that stuck to the pan. We reserved a few of those jalapeño sticks and stirred them in at the end, along with a fistful of torn fresh basil. Scooped over a bed of the coconut rice, don't forget to add a wedge of lime on the side for each guest to squeeze a little tart note on top just before eating.

I wouldn't say Jeff was jumping for joy when he saw me bring out the can of coconut milk for this dish - it's not that he dislikes coconut, but for him, especially with the milk, he feels it can often overwhelm. Using it with the floral rice though seemed to strike a delicate balance and he quite enjoyed the fluffy combo! Neither of us found the juicy beef mixture overly spicy, but the flavor from the chiles was noticed and nice - however, I think we could have gotten away with leaving the seeds with one of the chiles to jack in a little extra bite!


  1. We love those flavors and I know that we would like this dish. I can see it with other cuts of beef also. Yummy!

  2. I love Thai food - and you live in the land of Southeast Asian restaurants/groceries! You need to explore all that the Cities have to offer on this front - so delicious. I learned to love Thai food first in Madison, WI, and then in St. Paul while living there. This is the first recipe I ever made on my own - very simple and VERY delicious!


    Recipe courtesy Foo Swasdee

    2 servings


    * 3 tablespoons canola oil
    * 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
    * 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped Thai chile pepper
    * 8 ounces ground chicken breast
    * 1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
    * 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
    * 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
    * 1/2 tablespoon sugar
    * 1/2 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (optional)
    * 1/3 cup chicken stock
    * 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper (optional)
    * 1/2 cup Thai holy basil (Ga-Prao)
    * Salt
    * Steamed jasmine rice


    Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok at high heat. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook until it is golden brown. Add the Thai chile pepper and stir well.

    Add the ground chicken and cook it just halfway done. Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, sweet soy sauce, and chicken stock. Mix well.

    When all the ingredients are cooked, add the red bell pepper and the Thai holy basil. Mix well and season to taste with salt. Serve over steamed jasmine rice.

  3. I've been following your site for a while and I love the recipes. I've often wondered though, especially when you post Asian-type recipes like this...why don't you use a rice cooker? Growing up in a South-East Asian country where we eat rice A LOT, it sure made my life easier! =D

  4. For some reason I can't stomach fish sauce - but there are a lot of recipes like this one that I believe would turn out fine without it. I never thought about leaving the ground meat alone to let it caramelize - I've always smashed it to smithereens. I'll give your way a try since I like some crispy bits. This sounds great, Joe!

  5. Helene - Let us know if you give it a try and what you think.

    Josie - Thanks for the recipe! We haven't ventured much, but this was a good start!

    Yvette - We don't eat rice all that often, so I haven't justified the expense. I don't mind just using a pot of liquid and the stove!

    Cyndi - Hope you get to try it out!