Chile-Basil Beef

The first Thai meal I have ever eaten. I don’t know if it is even very authentic Thai, but they have a variation at most places. It was about 3 years ago at a place called Silk in Bermuda. I had just started my job, and some co-workers wanted to take me to lunch. “Do you like Thai?” she asked. “Uh… sure?” I said, half wanting to fit in at my new job, and half curious to try a new type of food. When we got there, I wasn’t sure about the menu. Lots of curry, and this was before I even liked Indian food so just the word made me nervous. Beef Chile Basil… I can do that, I like basil and like a little heat in my food. I casually ignored the 3 little chile pepper signs next to the menu item. I was yet to be introduced to the world of southeast Asian spice, the hottest dish at any italian, mexican or even wing place had never phased me. 10 Minutes later I was in the bathroom blowing my nose and checking if the sweat was cutting through my work cloths. I had just met these people, this was almost a first impression with my co-workers. They would never want to go out to lunch with me again! Red faced and profusely sweating, a smart man would stop and take half of the meal home, but here is the thing, it was so damn good! I couldnt stop eating it. The sweet-spicy mixed so well with the basil and beef. This quickly became my favorite restaurant on the island, and though I have moved on to bigger and better Thai dishes, I still have a soft spot for delicious beef chile basil.  Oh yea, and my co-workers still liked me after.

Just like this was a beginner Thai meal for me at silk, it should be a beginner Thai meal for you to cook at home! This version is much less spicy. Also, it uses crushed pepper flakes (that everyone has at home) instead of the dried chiles that are a little harder to find. The only exotic ingredients are Thai basil and a tiny bit of fish sauce, but if you cheat with regular basil and soy sauce, I wont tell anyone.

The paste ingredients. Doesn’t that look like butter? haha. Please do not put butter in this.

Slicing the beef against the grain.

Everything ready to go. Ugh, now the bamboo shoots look like cheese. Good thing there is a recipe below, cause people would be making something gross if they looked at the pictures wrong.

This is an unusual step. You need to fry the basil before everything else. This makes the oil taste like basil. It also makes the basil crisp.

Basil Chips!

There is a lot of splatter cooking the basil.

Then pretty much everything goes into the pan.

This was after the bamboo and a little bit of coconut milk.

This was super good. The fried basil was a nice topping. Taste was just like I remembered!

Now the bamboo is reminding me of pasta. Specifically the last meal I made on these same plates. Weird how stuff all looked like other things today.

Cut beef against the grain into small strips. 1 pound of chuck. Add to the beef: 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, pinch salt. Mix together and set aside

In a dry pan, quickly toast 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and 1 teaspoon of crushed chile flakes until fragrant. Put into a blender or food processor (or mortar and pestle) with 1 shallot, 5 cloves of garlic, and about a 3 inch rectangle of ginger. I usually chop the ginger into little squares to avoid it becoming stringy, you could also use a microplane on it if you wanted. Set the paste aside

Take every possible leaf off the thai basil stems and set them aside

Chop some bamboo shoots and peppers and onions and also…set aside

In a pan with hot oil, fry half the leaves in batches until the leaves are crisp. Remove from pan and guess what? Set aside

Add the beef, peppers, onions and paste and cook until beef is fully cooked. Add the bamboo and about 1/4 can of coconut milk and a teaspoon of chile powder to redden it. simmer about 10 minutes on low. Add the other half of the basil, stir and remove from heat. Serve with jasmine rice and topped with the crispy fried basil.

This has a bit of a kick, but nothing too crazy. If you want to feel like I felt at the restaurant that day, just add a few fresh Thai chiles or even jalapeños to the paste… and don’t remove the seeds!

Ready to graduate to non-beginner Thai? Browse my Thai section here.


  1. This looks like it could easily be made vegetarian, tofu for beef and soy sauce or veggie fish sauce for the regular fish sauce. I’m becoming obsessed with thai food; you’re definitely helping. Yum!

  2. im making this recipe tonight for some friends. i dont have a food processor or even a blender (poor college student) so i just chopped it all very very fine. all my prep work is done and ill start cooking as soon as guests arrive.
    i stumbled on your website and love it all. i look forward to trying more and more of your recipes. keep it up man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.