Thai Basil Beef Bowls with Coconut-Ginger Rice and Peanut Sauce

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The traditional Thai name for this dish is Pad Gra Prow. It’s a recipe that we fell in love with during both of our visits to Thailand, but especially during the month that we spent there for one of George’s summer internships during business school.

While he worked, I would explore Bangkok, ticking off every restaurant on the different Anthony Bourdain and other travel sites lists that I could find. When he got off work, he’d meet me in some far corner of the city to try a new variation on coconut sticky rice, or a new curry we’d never heard of, or of course, Pad Gra Prow.

I don’t believe they ever used ground beef, but they mince their beef so finely with big giant knives that it was practically ground. The beef and the Thai basil are the stars of this dish, with supporting roles by the soy sauce, sriracha, etc. that flavor the beef. Thai basil tastes like the basil you know, but with a licorice-y accent. It can be tricky to find, so don’t worry about using normal basil instead, it’ll still be fantastic, just different!

Pad Gra Prow does not come served over coconut rice, and is definitely not drizzled with peanut sauce, but those are two Thai or Thai-influenced recipes that I adore, and I’ve melded the three together over the years. Pad Gra Prow is FABULOUS and perfect in every way on it’s own, served over plain white rice as is done in Thailand, but this is a variation that I hope is respectful to the original dish.

I’ve provided a long list of optional toppings, but I highly, highly suggest using nectarines like I did, if they’re in season. They added the most fantastic sweetness, with just a hint of tartness. If they’re not in season, try to find mango or pineapple. I really like the sweet pop in here.

Thai Basil Beef Bowls with Coconut-Ginger Rice and Peanut Sauce

Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 chef’s knife
  • 1 large skillet
  • 1 large bowl

Ingredients

Coconut-Ginger Rice 

  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp coconut (or granulated) sugar
  • 1 -inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Thai Basil Beef

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil 
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 -inch 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 pound ground beef (90/10%)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 1 tbsp Asian fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup minced Thai basil leaves (it’s hard to find so use regular basil or cilantro if you can’t find it!)
  • Optional (you need at least 2!): chopped nectarines, diced cucumber, coconut crunch, shredded carrot, thinly sliced avocado, thinly sliced bell pepper, fresh cilantro, fresh mint leaves, toasted peanuts or cashews, toasted coconut, toasted sesame seeds, chopped mango, lime wedges

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 to 2 tbsp sriracha or sambal oelek

Substitutions:

  • Rice Talk: Be sure to stir the rice often, the coconut rice gets really thick and will scorch easily if you don’t! Also, be sure it’s over the lowest heat possible for the creamiest, most perfect rice possible. Want to cook it in an InstantPot? Use 1 1/2 cups rice, 1 can coconut milk, but only 1/2 cup water. Cook for 5 minutes, then allow the pressure to natural release for 10 minutes. I love cooking rice in the IP!
  • Jasmine Rice —> Any kind of rice will work, just adjust the portion of liquid to rice and cooking time as needed. Brown rice will need more liquid and more time!
  • Coconut milk—> Coconut cream will also work, or omit and cook with all water if you just can’t find coconut milk.
  • Coconut sugar—> Brown sugar, white sugar, or omit!
  • Ginger—> ground ginger, or omit.
  • Sesame oil—> any cooking oil, but add 1 tablespoon tahini to the beef when you add the soy sauce etc. if you have it for some sesame flavor.
  • Yellow onion—> 1 bunch of thinly sliced scallions, or pretty much any other medium onion. Two shallots.
  • Ground beef—> any ground meat works! I’ve made this on Zoom classes using turkey, chicken, and pork. Pork is my second favorite, but chicken is great when you want something lean.
  • Soy sauce—> tamari, coconut aminos, shoyu…
  • Rice vinegar—> apple cider vinegar or lime juice.
  • Honey—> brown sugar, agave, maple syrup, white sugar…
  • Sriracha—> 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
  • Fish sauce—> this is so crucial to the flavor! Please try it! Or swap in soy sauce.
  • Thai basil—> regular basil or cilantro.
  • Peanut butter—> any nut or seed butter. I love making this sauce with almond butter and sunflower butter.

Instructions

  • Start with the coconut rice! Add the 1 1/2 cups rice, 1 can of coconut milk, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar, a 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 16 to 18 minutes until rice is tender. Stir several times to make sure the coconut milk doesn’t scorch. Remove from heat and let sit until you’re ready to eat, at least 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Want to use an InstantPot? See directions below!
  • While the rice is cooking, cook the beef and mix up the peanut sauce.
  • Warm 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 diced medium yellow onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add a 2-inch piece of ginger, grated, and 3 grated garlic cloves and cook for another 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Add 1 pound ground meat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking it apart with a spoon into as small of pieces as possible. There will be a lot of liquid in the skillet as the meat releases its moisture. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until all liquid has evaporated. Resist the urge to pour off the fat, this is the flavor!
  • Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce! In a large bowl, stir together 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha until smooth. Add 1 to 2 tablespoon warm water to make it a drizzle-able consistency. Set aside.
  • Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon sriracha, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce to the meat and stir until much of it has been absorbed, about 1 minute. There will still be some sauce in the bottom of the skillet, that’s a good thing! We want our bowls saucy.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the basil.
  • Build your rice bowl with peanut sauce and desired toppings!
Author: Caroline Chambers

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