Home · Recipes · Main Dishes Spicy Basil Two Ways Author: Maryanne CabreraPublished: Apr 5, 2013Updated: Aug 29, 2022 View Recipe2 ReviewsThis post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy. Make this popular spicy basil dish two ways by using tofu or sliced beef. It is a quick dinner to put together. Prep ahead of time and keep everything ready in the fridge. It takes less time to cook this dish than it does to order and pick up take out from your favorite Thai place! I love Thai food. I’m obsessed with this one Thai restaurant in my neighborhood called Wat Dong Moon Lek. It is hands down my favorite Thai restaurant in LA. I dine there too frequently and order take out way too often. Interested in learning more about Thai cuisine, I began experimenting with Thai bird chilies, Thai basil, and fish sauce. Equipped with these three ingredients, you are able to make a plethora of Thai inspired dishes! This recipe post shares two versions of the same dish. Both use the same ingredients, with the exception of the protein. Spicy Thai Basil Beef The herb photographed above is Thai basil, also called Asian basil or anise basil. It has shiny pointy green leaves with purple stems. Another variety called holy basil, has narrower leaves and is duller in color. Thai basil can be found at Asian markets and is relatively inexpensive. I bought mine from 99 Ranch Market. If you cannot find Thai basil, do not substitute with the European variety. The flavors are quite different. Thai basil can be used fresh, cooked, and also tastes amazing deep-fried. Thai basil imparts a fresh and spicy flavor. Holy basil is very similar but only releases their flavors when cooked. Herbs 101What you need to know about basilWhen purchasing basil (or any herbs in general), look for the freshest-looking sprigs. Make sure they are free of blemishes. Store fresh herbs in a plastic bag in the fridge. Do not wash herbs until are you ready to use them! Thai Chilies Thai chilies, also know as Bird’s Eye chilies or Bird’s chilies, are pictured above. They come in green, orange, or red. The latter colors usually mean they are more mature. These are often used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. If you cannot find Thai chilies, you can substitute serrano chiles. It will provide similar heat but not much fragrance. Fish Sauce There is so much to say about fish sauce. I grew up surrounded by all the different varieties: stinky ones , sweet ones, salty ones. There is a type of fish sauce for every food and dish you can think of! Fish sauce adds a certain umami, savory flavor that is hard to imitate. Fish sauce is essential when cooking Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino cuisines. Brands and variety of fish sauces are plenty. The color of fish sauce varies from light to dark. Fish sauce is often used as a seasoning, but it is also made into dipping sauces when combined with sugar, chilies, and garlic. Fish sauce can last indefinitely. If you don’t plan on using fish sauce often, I suggest storing it in the fridge. Otherwise, if you use it all the time, its okay to leave it out on the counter away from sunlight. How to choose Fish Sauce Be careful when purchasing fish sauce as many Asian countries have their own types: Filipino fish sauce is very different with a saltier and much heavier flavor. Thai fish sauce, with Tiparos being the most popular brand, is very dark in color and has a strong, pungent smell. I prefer to use the lighter Vietnamese style fish sauces. Viet Huong’s Three Crabs is my favorite, followed closely by Flying Lion. I tested this recipe using all three fish sauces mentioned. In my opinion, Three Crabs tasted the best. Feel free to explore and try out your own brands. Another word of advice- be careful when transporting fish sauce! Trust me, you DO NOT want it to spill in your car. After opening the bottle, store standing upright in a dry, cool area of the kitchen. For longer storage, keep in the refrigerator. When a dish tastes like its missing something, a splash of fish sauce is often the solution. Spicy Basil Tofu Yield: serves 4 Servings: 4 Print Recipe Pin Recipe Rate Recipe Ingredients2 Tablespoons peanut oil5 cloves garlic, minced12 oz firm tofu, drained, cut into small cubes4 Thai chilies, chopped1 small onion, sliced, about 1/3 cup1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves1 Tablespoon oyster sauce2 Tablespoons fish sauce1 Tablespoon granulated sugar1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper Instructions Heat large skillet or wok over high heat. Add peanut oil. Once oil is hot, add garlic and chilies. Cook for 30-40 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add cubed tofu and cook until warm, about 2 minutes.Add sliced onions and whole basil leaves. Toss to combine. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Add sauce mixture to skillet. Toss combine. Continue to cook until onions are translucent and basil has wilted. Remove from heat and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve with Jasmine rice. Author: Maryanne Cabrera Did you make this recipe?Show us on Instagram! Tag @littleepicurean and hashtag #littleepicurean. Spicy Basil Beef Yield: serves 4 Servings: 4 Print Recipe Pin Recipe Rate Recipe Ingredients2 Tablespoons peanut oil5 cloves garlic, minced1/2 pound sliced beef tenderloin4 Thai chilies, chopped1 small onion, sliced, about 1/3 cup1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves1 Tablespoon oyster sauce2 Tablespoon fish sauce1 Tablespoon granulated sugar1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to tastesliced green onions, to garnish Instructions Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add peanut oil. Once oil is hot, add garlic and chilies. Cook for 30-40 seconds until garlic is fragrant. Add sliced beef and cook for 45 seconds or so until beef starts to brown.Add sliced onions and whole basil leaves. In a small bowl, mix together oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper. Add sauce mixture to skillet and toss to combine. Continue to cook until onions are translucent, basil is wilted, and beef is cooked. Remove from heat and garnish with sliced green onions and fresh Thai basil. Serve with Jasmine rice. Author: Maryanne Cabrera Did you make this recipe?Show us on Instagram! Tag @littleepicurean and hashtag #littleepicurean.