Thai Basil Beef


This post has been a few months in the making. I planned to post this in November, but to cut a very long story short – writer’s block.

During my last visit to Malaysia, we stumbled upon the wonderful Boat Noodle at Heritage Lane, Damansara where there were beautiful little bowls of noodle soup in sweet and spicy soups. One of the dishes that caught my eye was the Thai Basil Chicken – minced chicken cooked in a spicy and very fragrant sauce served with rice. I have decided to make it with beef (because it is easier to find minced beef than minced chicken here in Greece – not impossible, but it’s easier.)

Thai Holy Basil is different than normal basil that you can find in Europe. There are many varieties, and my mother-in-law has one growing in her pot at home that is quite similar – small leaves and very strong. You can use any type of basil that you find, preferably the Thai version if available. I have used some dried Thai basil that I brought back with me from Malaysia, and also a small handful of fresh basil that I bought from the supermarket.

The chillies are the important ingredient here – for the heat ‘kick’ you should use Bird’s Eye chillies. Different chillies do have a different ‘piquant’ flavour to it – I use a normal red chilli and also 2 small green chilli peppers that add the bell pepper flavour without the heat. To lessen the burning sensation, you can also scrape off the seeds from the chillies, and discard them. By only using the flesh, you will add the flavours of the chillies without the excessive heat. Be daring, be brave, but know what your limits are!

Ingredients: (serves 2)

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsps of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of lime juice (I used kalamansi limes here, but you can use normal limes)
  • 1 large red or green chilli, chopped
  • 1 red or green bird’s eye chilli, chopped
  • a small handful of coriander, chopped fine (optional)

For the beef:

  • 3-6 chillies, chopped fine (read above about the types of chillies)thaibeefbasil05
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsps of vegetable oil, plus a bit more extra to fry the egg
  • 200g of minced beef
  • 1/2 tbsp of gula melaka palm sugar (alternatively, use dark brown sugar)thaibeefbasil06
  • 2 tbsps of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce
  • a big handful of fresh Thai (or holy) basil. Alternatively, you can use normal basil too.thaibeefbasil04
  • optional: 1 tsp of dried Thai basil leaves.thaibeefbasil03
  • 1 tsp of white pepper

To serve with:

  • steamed rice (I added a few lime leaves when I cooked the rice, to make it more fragrant)rice_cook
  • 2 eggs (to fry, bull’s-eye style)



  1. Prepare the sauce: In a bowl, mix the lime juice, soy sauce, chopped chillies and the coriander (if using). Mix well, and set aside.
  2. For the beef: In a hot frying pan (or a wok), add the oil and heat the oil.
  3. Fry the minced beef until it starts to slightly take colour.mincebeef01
  4. Add the chopped garlic and cook until the meat has started to fully take the ‘cooked meat’ colour. There will still be meat juices.mincebeef02
  5. Before it starts to dry out, this is when you add the chillies and sugar.thaibeefbasil07
  6. When the meat has started to turn crispy at the edges (starts to dry and fry crisp), add the fresh and dried basil, soy sauce and fish sauce.thaibeefbasil08
  7. Cook until the meat has a dry texture. Taste, and season with white pepper, and/or salt, to taste.
  8. Serve on a plate with a portion of steamed rice and a fried egg by the side. Don’t forget the sauce! You can spoon that on the meat, just before eating.thaibeefbasil09

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