This post was born from yet another underwhelming trip to a local Thai restaurant. I know I sound snobby saying that but it’s just that we compare every Thai restaurant that we go to with a hole in the wall gem that we used to frequent when we lived in Arlington. Going to yet another mediocre Thai place made us reminisce about a particular dish that Nathan used to always get at the Thai place in Arlington: Thai Beef Basil. It’s a fairly basic dish…thinly sliced beef sauteed with onion, bell peppers and tons of basil (in my opinion the freshness of the basil MAKES this dish!) I don’t know how it’s taken us so long to recreate at home because it is easy, super flavorful, and uses basic ingredients (except for the Thai peppers that I had to go to three stores to find.) About those peppers…treat them (especially the seeds) with respect! Nathan ate one whole and it left him moaning, hiccuping and burping for 30 minutes while I pretended to sympathize and snickered behind his back. To keep the spice level down we took out the seeds in all but one of the peppers that we used in this recipe which made the flavor spicy enough without being overwhelming. We like our sauces to be bold and full bodied so get ready for lots of flavor! If you’re intimidated by the idea of cooking Thai food at home this is a good dish to start with!
The Thai beef basil is on the spicy side so I wanted a sweet-ish wine to balance all the heat in the dish. The problem is that I really don’t like sweet wines so it’s hard for me to judge them ‘objectively’ as a successful or unsuccessful pairing. That being said, when I tried the beef and wine together it was an awesome contrast and the sweet and tart body of the wine stood up to the bold savory flavors really well. Even though the wine was a bit sweet for me I did enjoy the fruity acidity that helped to keep the sweetness from being cloying or overpowering. Also, I thought it was funny that the winemaker calls himself ‘Dr. Loosen.’
I was looking for a Thai beer to go with our meal tonight but for some reason our go-to store which has a great beer selection is super skimpy on Asian beers. If you’ve had Thai beers before you’ll notice that even their ‘dark’ beers are very light with lots of malt and little hop flavor. This type of beer is great with Thai cuisine (duh) because the maltiness of the beer washes down the spiciness and rich flavors of Thai cuisine extremely well. So, all that being said, I was looking for an equivalent beer from another region and picked this Dunkel. Dunkels are a type of beer with originated in Germany and are characterized by their smooth malt flavor but are otherwise lagers with a light body. Exactly like what I was talking about with the Thai beers right? The Dunkel did exactly what I wanted it to do by neutralizing the spicy Thai chilies and rich soy based sauce.
Thai Beef Basil for Two
For the Stir Fry:
3/4 lb. beef, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. canola oil
3 thai chili pepper, finely chopped, seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, cut into strips
½ large red bell pepper, cut into strips
½ large green bell pepper, cut into strips
For the sauce:
2 Tbs. fish sauce
5 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. water
1 Thai chili pepper, whole
To make the sauce:
1. Combine sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from heat.
To make the stir fry:
1. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a wok (or skillet) over med-high heat and add garlic and chilies. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the beef. Stir-fry until the beef is no longer in pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.
2. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the wok or skillet. Add the onion and stir-fry for 1 minute until the onions. Add the bell peppers and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the beef and sauce and heat through. Add the basil leaves and remove the wok from the heat and stir everything to mix well.
4. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.