Thai Chili Beef with Garlic and Thai Basil

Browsing the web searching through really horrible listicles for various ethnic spicy foods, I happened upon some Thai street food amalgam put together on serious eats. I’ve adapted it a bit to my tastes so if you’re really into chili’s like I am, don’t hold back!

I went on a bit of an adventure to find the right ingredients for this dish and the type of chili (Birds Eye or Thai Chilis) is pretty important to the flavor as is the fish sauce. I read a good article about fish sauce and lo and behold! They had Red Boat fish sauce and it made a difference in the dish for sure. I’m a convert. You can find it on Amazon if you don’t have an asian or farmers market handy.


Thai Chili Beef with Garlic and Thai Basil

Prep Time 30 minutes • Total Time 1 hours
Difficulty Level:


1 recipe serves 3 hungry folks

Combine beef, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, and white sugar in a bowl. Toss to combine and set in refrigerator to marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.

Fry your shallots (optional)
Slice a shallot bulb into rounds about 1/8 inch thick and make rings. shake some fish sauce over the rings and toss to coat. Dredge the shallot rings in some corn starch and fry in the wok in batches with an inch or so of oil in the bottom until golden. Remove to a paper towel to drain.

Roughly chop the Thai chilies and garlic and place inside a stone mortar with the sugar. Grind with pestle until a mostly smooth or chunkyish paste has formed. Add remaining fish sauce and soy sauce and mash in a mortar to form a sauce. Set aside. I do it this way because it tastes better… use a food processor if you must. 

Finely slice the garlic and chilies for the wok and combine with the sliced shallots in a small bowl for the wok later on.

When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook, without moving the beef (you can move the wok), until well seared, about 1 minute. The sugar will help the beef brown quickly just don’t move it around too much to start. Continue cooking, while stirring and tossing, until beef is lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl or plate. Wipe out the wok and repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and remaining beef, transferring beef to the same bowl. Wipe out wok again.

Reheat wok and another dash of oil over high heat and add the sliced garlic, chili, and shallots you set aside earlier. Cook, tossing and stirring constantly about 1 minute. Add the beef and toss with the aromatics, 1 more minute.

Add sauce mixture to wok and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until completely reduced. (The beef should look moist, but there should be little liquid in the bottom of the wok.) Immediately add all the basil and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and and optional Thai chili or red pepper flakes. Transfer to a serving platter. Top with fried shallots. Serve immediately with rice.




  • - For the topping -
  • 1 Shallot
  • a few shakes fish sauce
  • corn starch
  • vegetable oil
  • -Beef Marinade-
  • 1 tsp soy
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 lb flap meat (fajita de res) cut along the grain
  • - For the sauce -
  • 6 birds eye thai chilis
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp soy
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • - For the wok -
  • 2 tbsp veggie oil
  • 2 medium shallots thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves for garlic thinly sliced
  • 4-6 thinly sliced Thai chilis
  • 2 cups packed fresh Thai Basil Leaves
  • Cooked rice for serving