My Thai basil plant has gone rogue. It won’t stop sprouting new leaves every day and—as was to be expected—regular pruning has only made it more hardy and prolific. It sounds like I’m whingeing about it, and I kinda am, but that’s only because I can’t think up enough ways to cook with it; it’s outpacing me at every turn.

Along with a similarly sturdy holy basil plant growing alongside, every pruning session yields enough to last at least 20 meals. They’ll keep for a bit though if you store them right – wrapped tightly in paper towels and kept refrigerated in ziplock bags. This speedy chicken and holy basil stir-fry was also one such attempt at using up a glut of holy basil.

Unlike its milder Italian counterpart, both the Holy basil and the Thai variant can really pack a flavour punch. Thai flavourings like fish sauce, soy, and oyster sauce work exceptionally well with the aniseed hit of Thai basil. That’s precisely the flavour profile we’re going for here.

First fry off some aromats—coarsely pounded garlic and green chillies—in oil. Add beef and a bit of sugar. Sugar helps with caramelizing the beef. A Thai dressing/sauce always benefits from a pinch of sugar for balance, so adding it at this stage instead of mixing it into the sauce is a neat trick for extra caramelization. It does double duty this way. The meat will first let out a lot of moisture before eventually browning. Once deeply browned, throw in red peppers and onions. Cook them all down and allow the veg to soften.

Meanwhile whisk together the seasonings: oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy, black pepper, corn flour and water. Pour the sauce into the pan and cook until it thickens and coats the beef in a sticky, glossy glaze. Wilt a big handful of Thai basil leaves in the residual heat of the pan.

This is a great make ahead meal, and can be kept refrigerated for a few days or frozen for up to a month.

My dream combo: steamed rice, runny fried egg(s) and steamed green beans/broccoli. Boom.

BEEF & THAI BASIL STIR-FRY

Servings: 3 people

Ingredients

  • 500 grams minced beef
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons corn flour
  • ¼ cup water

Instructions

  • Pound the chillies and garlic together in a mortar and pestle. You want a coarse paste. Finely chop if you don't have a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
  • Whisk together all the ingredients that go into making the sauce. Set aside.
  • Add oil to a large wide pan. Sauté the coarsely pounded chilli-garlic paste until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and sugar to the pan and cook until browned. (The beef will first release a lot of its moisture before it starts to brown.)
  • Add the onions and peppers to the beef and cook until they soften, about 7 mins. Pour in the sauce and toss to coat. Cook until the sauce thickens enough to just coat the beef in a sticky, glossy glaze. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Stir in the basil leaves and toss until just wilted, about 30 seconds.
  • Serve with steamed rice, a runny egg, and steamed green beans/broccoli alongside.

Notes

Use Holy basil if you can’t find Thai basil. Italian basil will give you a different flavour but it’ll still work too.

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