I don’t know why I thought we would have a mild, pleasant fall. After all, it was one of the coldest, wettest summers ever, so why should I expect the sun and warmth of late September to last? And of course it did not, the temperatures dropping all of a sudden to below freezing all of last week. Which meant everyone raided their gardens to get the last of summer’s bounty that was still holding on but which would not survive a hard freeze. I got to my basil too late, but a co-worker of John’s brought him a collection of bell peppers–green, red and yellow–and an eggplant.
In the meantime, I had received Katie Chin’s Everyday Thai Cooking: Quick & Easy Family Style Recipes from the Lisa Ekus Group, which is handling its promotion this fall. At first I was not sure what to think. I have spent so long learning to become the kind of Thai cook that does not take shortcuts and who tackles complex curries, that I was not sure if a book about making Thai food quickly was for me. But then I realized: this is not a book about taking shortcuts. Instead, this is a book about the kinds of delicious Thai meals that can be made quickly. And for me, primarily, this meant it was an outstanding source for stir fries. I have at least 4 or 5 bookmarked, and if the success of the first one is anything to go by, I will be making them all plus more.
This was a huge hit with everyone in the family. Even Sammy, who claims to hate steak! (I did not mention it was beef and she never asked–she was too busy ogling the mushrooms!) The seasoning stayed true to the recipe, except, see comment above, I only had windowsill basil to work with, so the basil was cut in half. And I took out the chile pepper because of my kids (John liked this dish with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce). What I stir fried, though, had a lot more veggies than called for by the recipe. First, because that is healthier. Second, because my kids will eat anything with mushrooms enthusiastically. And last, because I had all those peppers and the eggplant, and I did not want them to go to waste. The mushrooms and eggplant especially have a lot of water, so I recommend stir frying them first, separately, just like you will the beef. This will keep it all from steaming. The extra veggies also mean more oil is used, but I consider that a worthwhile tradeoff to get more veggies in the meal. Also, the recipe below is cut in half from what I made, since I had all that produce to use up (which lasted us 2 nights).
One of the secret ingredients in this dish (which is why I knew it was going to be fabulous before I even made it) is nam prik pao. Nam prik pao is a Thai chili paste (jam) that automatically improves everything it touches. I used to avoid recipes calling for it because of the added work of making it, but then I learned from Leela over at She Simmers that commercially prepared is quite acceptable. Now I use it all the time. And so should you!
- 1 8-10 oz package of sliced mushrooms (I used crimini but shitake would be even better)
- 1 small Asian eggplant (or half of an Italian eggplant), thinly sliced
- 2 pinches of salt, divided
- 1 lb boneless sirloin or top round beef, thinly sliced against the grain
- ½ t cornstarch
- ¼ t ground white pepper
- 1 t plus 4 T high heat vegetable oil, divided
- 1 t soy sauce (I used Chinese dark superior)
- 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
- ½ small onion, finely sliced
- 2 bell peppers of different colors, thinly sliced
- 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 T fish sauce
- 1 T nam prik pao
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, sliced very thinly (optional-I used)
- 2 t brown sugar
- ¾ cup (I used less, about a handful) basil leaves (Thai or Italian)
- Whisk together the cornstarch, ground white pepper, 1 teaspoon of oil and soy sauce. Pour over the sliced beef in either a bowl or plastic bag; use a spatula or your hands to work the marinade into the meat. Seal and place in the fridge while you prep everything else.
- Prepare all of your ingredients before beginning, including measuring out the various liquids and seasonings. Have everything ready near the stove before beginning. Take the beef out of the fridge and let it sit near the stove as well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large wok over high heat. When it is hot, add the mushrooms with a small pinch of salt. Toss, stir frying, until they are golden brown and have released much of their water. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add another tablespoon of oil, and when it is hot repeat with the eggplant, including the small pinch of salt (the recipe is seasoned with soy sauce and fish sauce, but those small pinches of salt will help draw water out of the vegetables). When the eggplant is golden, transfer it to the bowl with the mushrooms.
- Add another tablespoon of oil. When it is hot, add the marinated beef. Toss, stir frying, for about 3 minutes, or until it is browned on the outside. Transfer to a separate bowl.
- Pour some water into the hot wok and then pour it off. Use a paper towel to carefully wipe out the inside of the wok. Return it to the stove and heat again on high heat with the remaining tablespoon of oil.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Then add the onion and continue to cook, stirring, until it is turning golden and fragrant. Add the sliced bell peppers and toss, stir frying, for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and eggplant back into the dish and toss.
- Add the beef back into the dish. Then add the lime juice, fish sauce, nam prik pao, kaffir lime leaves and brown sugar. Toss until the nam prik pao has melted and the sauce has melded, about 2-3 minutes. The beef should cook through in this time also. When the beef has cooked through, turn off the heat and add the basil leaves. Toss and serve over Jasmine rice immediately.
As always, affiliate links were used in this post. Also as always, they were only used where I would be linking to an item anyway. Also, I did receive a copy of Everyday Thai Cooking for free for the purpose of reviewing it; all opinions are my own.