Thai Stir Fried Vermicelli with Ground Beef, Pepper and Basil is Thai style weeknight convenience food, and absolutely delicious. A copy of Thailand: The Cookbook was sent to me by the publishers for the purpose of an honest review. Affiliate links have been used to link to items discussed in this post.
Apparently I have been all about the stir fried noodles this month, starting with the noodles in the peanut butter sauce. They just seem so easy. A friend of mine told me when she had comparable surgery that she was cranky for a long time–well that definitely describes me. Cranky. Ergo, easy is good.
We took a little beach vacation to the South Shore of Lake Michigan this past week–and it managed to mimic my summer as a whole. Not truly terrible, full of good moments, but also not at all what we expected or planned for. It was so cold and windy the first day that we went into Chicago. The second day, it finally warmed up in the afternoon and the girls had a lovely time at the beach. It was not hot enough for the adults to get in the water. And then the last day? 59 F at 10 am. Alas. No beach that day either. C’est la vie.
We did however have the most amazing BBQ. I feel compelled, since this is a food blog, to give a shout out to Smokey’s Southern Barbeque. It is in the tiniest of little buildings on Rte. 20 in Chesterton, Indiana, near Historic Furnessville and the Indiana Dunes State Park. The menu is tiny–don’t go if you don’t like barbeque–but everything we had was amazing. The ribs were so perfectly caramelized I nearly swooned with each bite. I loved their cole slaw–and I don’t even like cole slaw! As a matter of fact my kids, who feel the same, ended up ordering their own because they kept eating mine! I think our table was dead silent and still for the only time on our little vacation while we all just munched. Warning: they only take cash but it is totally worth a trip to the ATM!
But I digress, because this post is supposed to be about Thai food. Right before I found out I was having surgery, I begged Phaidon for a review copy of the absolutely gorgeous and somewhat encyclopedic Thailand: The Cookbook by Jean-Pierre Gabriel. I feel awful that it took me so long to use it–I was ecstatic when it arrived and immediately began reading it (it is beautifully photographed and interesting reading). Then, well, surgery. And if you are familiar with Phaidon cookbooks you know they can be a little daunting even when they are wonderful. So it sat by my bedside and I would occasionally pull it out and read more recipes I had no energy to prepare.
So a more coherent review: The book is huge, covering all of the regions of Thailand, but organized by type of dish (pastes, soups and snacks, stir fries, noodles, rice, curries, dessert, etc). With over 500 recipes you might not expect it to have many photos, but it does, over 200, and not just of food but also of life in Thailand. And the pictures are gorgeous. The recipes cover a wide range of ingredients, from dishes like this stir fry that adapt easily to a Western kitchen to, for example, Omelet with Red Ant Eggs. You will find unusual dishes that you immediately bookmark for your next trip to the Asian grocery (several dishes I am interested in require Chinese celery greens, for example, and I am also very excited to make the egg salad with a fish sauce and lime juice dressing) and you will find dishes that might just be interesting to read about, like the aforementioned dish requiring red ant eggs. If you are at all interested in SouthEast Asian cuisine this book is a must own!
This dish comes from a back section of the book called “Guest Chefs,” where Gabriel lists some recipes from chefs preparing Thai food around the world. “Spaghetti with Pork, Chile, and Basil” is from Saiphin Moore, a Thai ex pat in London whose restaurant’s success led to several more, all called Rosa’s Thai Cafe. I adapted the dish–it goes without saying that adapting to your own circumstances and grocery availability might be necessary when dealing with an authentic Thai cookbook. It is how you adapt that matters: if you make poor substitutions for crucial aromatics, for example, your result may not be true to the spirit of the original Thai dish. But if you recognize, for example, that minced (ground) pork is a common Thai ingredient but harder to find here in the States than the ubiquitous ground beef–just use the ground beef. Or ground turkey. Which is exactly what I did. I also used angel hair instead of spaghetti, as we prefer vermicelli and angel hair to spaghetti. And last, I used bell pepper in place of chile pepper. This substitution might horrify some, but Alex has no heat tolerance, so it is either that or not make the dish. The key is do not just leave the pepper out, find a pepper with a heat level you can tolerate and use it instead.
The other adaptation I made was to separately stir fry vegetables and add them to the dish, in order to keep this a one dish meal. If you prefer to serve with a salad, just leave the veggies out and reduce the sauce by about 1/3.
- 2 T fish sauce
- 3/4 t Chinese light soy sauce
- 3/4 t Chinese dark soy sauce
- 2 t agave syrup or sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil divided
- 4 T minced hot chile peppers--or to make the dish mild use 1/3 cup minced red bell pepper, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 1 medium-large onion, sliced into medium-thick wedges
- 1 zucchini, seeded if thick and cut into long, thin slices
- 1 yellow summer squash, seeded if thick and sliced into long, thin slices
- 1 sweet bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
- 1 lb ground beef (or pork or turkey)
- 1 lb vermicelli or angel hair noodles, cooked and rinsed with cold water
- 2/3 cup chopped Thai basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 3 makrut lime leaves, center stem removed and finely minced
Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
Whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauces and sugar or agave syrup. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick pan on high heat. Add half of the minced garlic and pepper. Stir, watching carefully because garlic burns quickly. It will become very fragrant--when this happens, 1-2 minutes, add the onion wedges and begin tossing in the oil.
Toss the onions until they are just starting to cook at the edges, about 3 minutes, and add the summer squash slices. Continue tossing for another 2-3 minutes.
Then add the bell pepper strips. Toss until all the veggies are cooked--they should be tender crisp, not caramelized or soft.
Add about 1/3 of the sauce and toss the veggies in it. After cooking them for about 1 minute, add them to a large bowl with room for the meat and noodles.
Wipe your pan out and add the rest of the vegetable oil.
Place the pan on high heat and add the remaining garlic and minced pepper. Once again cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the ground beef and immediately begin stirring and breaking the meat up. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until browned. Add the remainder of the sauce--at this point taste and make sure you do not want more fish sauce, soy sauce or sugar.
Add the cooked noodles and toss into the ground beef.
Then add the basil leaves and kaffir lime leaves. Toss until everything is heated through and evenly mixed.
Dump this mixture into the stir fried veggies and mix it all together--do not try to cook it all together or it will end up steaming.
Serve with extra basil leaves for garnish. Also you might serve with chile pepper flakes or sambal oelek if you made the dish mild but have those who prefer heat in your dinner party.