What I didn’t know at the time, however, was that it would take not one, not two, but THREE trips to various grocery stores in our area to find one of the key ingredients—fish sauce. Fish sauce is a staple in a lot of Asian cuisine (especially Thai and Vietnamese from what I can tell). It’s basically fermented fish (anchovies I think), sugar, and water. I was really surprised that they did not have it at my usual grocery store on Monday when I did this week’s shopping, especially considering they have a pretty large selection of international ingredients and Asian condiments in particular. So I sent Jason by the Whole Food yesterday on his way to get his hair cut after work to see if perhaps they might have it in stock---they did not. So I set out to yet another grocery store after work today to try and hunt down this illusive ingredient. Fortunately the third time proved to be the charm as good ol’ Giant had not one, not two, but THREE brands of fish sauce to choose from.
(I was pretty happy about that because I am fairly certain that I broke my toe earlier today when I stubbed it on the leg of the coffee table by mistake. And hobbling through the parking lot of one grocery store was about all I had in me...)
Overall I would say this dish was a success, although I am not going to lie—the fish sauce did smell a little funky. Jason asked me to put it on the “make again” list (this list, by the way, only exists in his head). I thought it was good too but may up the chile and basil quotient next time around for a little more zing. But overall I'd say it's pretty darn yummy.
Today's mise en place--red chiles, garlic (from one enormous elephant garlic clove), basil
Thai Beef with Red Chiles and Basil over Coconut Rice
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com
1 ¼ cups jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk (I used light coconut milk in order to make it a little more healthy)
2 TBL plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 TBL plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 TBL vegetable oil
3 normal sized garlic cloves or ½ one elephant garlic clove, chopped
2-3 long hot peppers or red jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
1 ¼ pounds ground beef sirloin
1 cup fresh basil coarsely chopped
1.In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, ¾ cup of water and ½ teaspoon coarse salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook (covered) until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
2.Meanwhile combine fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl—set aside. When the rice is almost done, heat cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add oil. Then add garlic and half the chiles, stirring constantly for 15-30 seconds until fragrant. Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden or silicon spoon/spatula, until meat is completely browned (about 4-5 minutes). Note: I found there to be a significant amount of fat in the bottom of the pan which I drained off at this point although the original recipe did not say anything about this—you can drain or not drain as you would like.
3.Add soy mixture and cook for 30 seconds or so. Add basil and remaining chiles and stir to combine. Serve beef over coconut rice.