Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)

Thai beef with Siam queen basil and scallion cooked in a cast-iron wok over hot coals on a charcoal grill. Intense heat is needed to achieve a great sear on the beef, while keeping the vegetables crisp.

This is a legendary Thai dish which quickly became one of my favorites after having it served at two local Asian restaurants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; May’s Egg Rolls and Plia’s Kitchen. At May’s they use a super-secret killer spice which I never could figure out… it’s Vietnamese, brutally hot and the owner will not share the recipe with me. 🙂

I grow fresh Thai queen basil and peppers every summer in my garden and am always bummed at the end of harvest season when they aren’t available.  The steak is marinated with Laoganma black bean chili paste, which is a staple in my kitchen. It adds such a great, subtle flavor to my stir fry recipes.

Control the heat with the ground Thai chili powder – you can also add hot Thai green chilies if preferred. A note on the garlic – you’ll see that I add it directly to the beef marinade instead of frying it separately in the wok. I’ve learned it doesn’t scorch this way, and it adds a complex depth of flavor to the beef. Enjoy!


4 tbs. canola or peanut oil, divided
12 oz. flank steak, thin-sliced at a bias against the grain
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh Thai queen or holy basil leaves, stems removed
3 scallion, roots trimmed and sliced at a bias in 1″ pieces (use both white and green parts)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the Beef Marinade~
6 cloves peeled garlic, minced
1 tbs. Mongolian chili oil
2 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili paste

Combine For the Sauce~
1 tbs. Thai fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground hot red Thai chili powder, to taste

1/4 cup reserved beef stock (use up to 1/4 cup based on preference)

Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions  (1.5 cups rice and 3 cups water with 2 tbs. salted butter.)
Bring water and butter to boil and simmer rice over very low heat, tightly covered for 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Cooking Tools: heavy cast-iron or steel wok, heat-resistant silicone oven mitts, Asian wok shovel and spider strainer, serving bowl for transferring the beef.



Prepare the steak marinade:  Slice the flank steak thinly at a bias against the grain. Place in a ziplock storage bag with the minced garlic, Laoganma black bean chili paste and the Mongolian chili oil. Squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the spices. Chill in your fridge for at least one hour.

Prep all of your other ingredients so you have them ready and close at hand. Thai cooking is very fast, with just a few minutes of actual time in the wok over a hot outdoor grill.

When ready, prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal in a mound for a medium hot fire. Light and let it come up to temperature for 15-20 minutes. While the grill is heating up, remove the steak from the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Dust with the cornstarch and turn with a spatula so the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Place the wok directly over the center of the hot coals on a grilling grate. Allow it to come up to temperature and smoke, about three minutes. The wok will be ready when a drop of cold water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tbs. canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef, spread and distribute evenly in the wok. Allow to sear for 2 minutes before turning. Continue to sear for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a serving bowl and set aside.

Next, add the remaining 2 tbs. of canola oil, the bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry until just crisp-tender. Add the beef back to the wok and then add the sauce ingredients except for the beef stock. Stir constantly until reduced by half. Quickly add the basil leaves and scallion. Stir until just wilted, about a minute, and add a bit of the beef stock until the desired consistency is achieved for the sauce. Quickly stir to incorporate.

Carefully remove the wok from the grill, using silicone mitts, and set on a heavy, heat-resistant trivet. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

A note on the flank steak: I’ve used this special cut of steak for all of my stir-fry recipes with great results. If you cut it at a bias against the grain of the meat, it will never dry out and always be fall-apart tender. I buy a full cut that is vacuum-packed and divide it in half the long way. I’ll then vacuum-seal the remaining half and freeze it for later use. If you prep the steak when partially frozen, it cuts much more evenly. Just ensure you let it warm to room temperature before wok-searing.

Serves 2-4

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Indian Chicken Tikka Masala

This is a best-of modification of three online recipes I’ve tested. Chicken Tikka Masala is heavily British-influenced – it is not a recipe culturally-tied to native India.
Enjoy – this is one of my favorites; I love it paired with grilled asparagus.


For the marinade~

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbs. lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin (from toasted seed)
1 tbs. garam masala spice
1/2 tbs. ground coriander
1/2 tbs. ground turmeric
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 tbs. peeled and grated fresh ginger root
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Pinch of salt, to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the sauce~

2 tbs. butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large onion, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1.5 tbs. garam masala spice
2 tsp. ground cumin, from toasted seed
2 tbs. ground mild paprika
Pinch of salt, to taste
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro – washed and stemmed

Basmati rice – cooked per package directions


In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and mix well with a spatula. Score the chicken with a sharp paring knife in 1/2″ increments. Place the marinade in a Zip-Lok® bag with the chicken and coat evenly. Place in fridge for 24 hours.

The next day, preheat a grill with enough charcoal for a  medium-hot fire. Scrap off the excess marinade from the chicken and place in the center of the grate with coals leveled and cover – grilling at least 5 minutes per side, or until charred but juicy. Remove and let cool on a platter.

In a large, heavy wok, heat 2 tbs. butter until melted and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until golden and fragrant – about ten minutes. Add the dry Indian spices, the tomato sauce, and the crushed plum tomatoes. Cook until slightly reduced (about 15-20 minutes). Cube the chicken and add to the wok. Slowly add the heavy cream, stirring constantly. Reduce until thick, (about 10 minutes). When ready to serve, add the chopped cilantro and spoon over cooked Basmati rice with your choice of a vegetable for a side dish.

Serves 4.

Beef with Broccoli Stir-Fry

This is a fantastic, healthy and quick meal to prepare. Make sure that your wok is preheated until it’s blistering hot – ensuring that the flavors are seared quickly. In a pinch you can use snow peas or even asparagus.

Most indoor ranges cannot put out enough heat for a proper stir-fry. I use my cast-iron Lodge wok on my 22″ outdoor Weber charcoal grill. It works great and eliminates the need for an expensive, high-BTU output propane burner.


1 pound beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1/8″ strips, against the grain
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. hot chili sambal paste
3 cloves mashed garlic

2 large heads broccoli, washed and trimmed
2 fresh large scallion, trimmed and cut into thirds, then julienned
1 red bell pepper, cored and thin sliced
2 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and julienned
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs. soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbs. corn starch
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1-inch long pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. sesame oil

2 cups cooked white rice
2 tbs. peanut oil


Prepare the beef marinade by trimming the beef and placing it in a ziplock storage bag. Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tsp. hot chili sambal paste and three cloves mashed garlic. Stir well to incorporate and add to the bag. Seal, shake it well and let sit in your fridge for at least two hours.

Prepare the vegetables and place in a bowl so you have them ready to go.
Mix the two tbs. corn starch and 1/4 cup cold water in a small dish and set aside.
Mix two tbs. soy sauce and the beef broth and set aside.
Mince the ginger and three cloves garlic and combine in a small serving dish

Everything should be brought up to room temperature before being placed in the wok. Ensure that your vegetables are patted dry. Wet vegetables will create soggy food.

Prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal for a very hot fire, using direct heat. The mound of charcoal should touch the bottom of the top rack when placed on the grill. Lightly wipe down the surface of the cast-iron wok with peanut oil and place on the grill when the coals are nearly white-hot. The wok will be hot enough when a drop of water vaporizes instantly.

Have a covered serving dish, two silicone spatulas, a meat tongs, oven mitts and a Chinese-style spider-strainer ready. This meal will be done in under four minutes. Have all other ingredients at the ready. Combine the corn starch mixture and the beef broth and stir one last time to incorporate.

OK, are you ready? Add the two tbs. peanut oil to the wok and swirl quickly to coat the surface. Immediately add the ginger/garlic and quickly stir-fry for about thirty seconds until just aromatic. Immediately add the beef using a tongs (marinade should be drained off.) Quickly stir-fry until no longer pink, but not thoroughly cooked. Remove the meat with a spider-strainer and set aside in the covered serving dish.

Add the vegetables and stir fry for about two minutes until just crisp-tender. This part is critical. If you cook them too long, they will be overdone and soggy when the beef is recombined in the next step.

Add the beef back to the wok, combine and add the sauce mixture. Heat until it thickens, about thirty seconds to one minute. Add the sesame oil and combine.

Remove the wok from the grill and transfer the stir-fry to a covered serving dish. Serve with steamed rice.

Stir-Fry Vegetables with Ginger and Garlic

This is a simple stir-fry recipe that can be used with any fresh vegetables that you have on hand. Just make sure to cut them in small, even pieces. The seasoning is light and flavorful. If you prefer it spicy, add a couple of crushed chilies to the wok oil before frying.

A properly-heated wok is a must with this recipe to ensure that the veggies don’t get soggy. My electric flat-top stove doesn’t generate enough heat so I use my cast-iron Lodge wok on a 22″ Weber grill over real wood charcoal until it’s blistering hot.


2 handfuls fresh string beans – washed, ends snipped and cut into 2″ pieces
2 carrots, peeled and thin sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2″ strips
1 head broccoli, washed thoroughly and trimmed
2 scallions (green stalk onions), washed, split and quartered with roots removed.
1″ chunk of ginger, about the diameter of a quarter, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. pure sesame oil

2 tbs. peanut oil for frying


Prepare all vegetables and seasoning before cooking. This recipe cooks fast – it will be done in four minutes once it hits the wok.

Trim all vegetables and pat dry. Let warm up to room temperature before placing in the wok.

Combine the minced garlic, ginger, 2 tbs. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a small mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat until it smokes. Add the 2 tbs. peanut oil and swirl to coat the sides of the wok. When it just starts to smoke test the temperature by adding a drop of water to the side of the wok. It should sizzle and evaporate almost instantly.

Add the ginger and garlic mixture to the wok and quickly stir fry using a wok ladle or two silicone spatulas to avoid scorching until just aromatic. On a very hot wok this should take no more than 30 seconds. Immediately add the vegetables and stir to coat well. Let sit for a minute. Stir briefly, let sit for an additional minute to sear. Stir well to incorporate and remove when just crisp-tender – about four minutes total.

Serve with steamed white rice and your choice of a dinner selection.

Serves 2-4.

Chinese Lemon Chicken

Here’s a great Chinese recipe that surpasses any takeout meal. Using a wok effectively with controlled high heat takes a bit of practice – but the results are fantastic. Take care not to stir the chicken too much when frying, or the batter will flake off.


2 lbs. boneless-skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1” cubes)

For the Marinade:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt

For the Batter:
2 large eggs
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch white pepper

1 quart vegetable oil (for deep frying)

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbs. cornstarch
¾ teaspoon salt
3 slices of lemon (rind and seeds removed)

2 tbs. peanut oil


Place the cut chicken breast pieces into a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To make the batter – beat 2 large eggs with ¼ cup of cornstarch, a pinch of white pepper and baking powder.  Thoroughly coat the chicken with the batter.

Heat a deep fryer or wok to 350 degrees with one quart of vegetable oil. Deep-fry the chicken in batches until fully cooked and golden brown. Caution: Adding cold food to hot oil will cause the oil to splatter! Let the chicken warm up before adding to the deep fryer or wok. Drain the chicken on paper towels in a covered baking dish to keep it hot.

Prepare the lemon sauce – combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Mix until well combined and add 3 slices of lemon to the sauce mixture.

Heat two tablespoons of peanut oil in your wok until it ripples and add the chicken back into the wok. Stir-fry until just crisp and heated through. Stir in the lemon sauce mixture. Mix well until the sauce becomes clear and reduced, about one to two minutes.  Remove immediately.

Serve with steamed white rice and broccoli.

Note: for a thicker, crispier coating, dip the chicken pieces in corn starch or flour after removing from the marinade. Then dip in beaten egg. Coat the pieces in corn starch or flour again. Then coat in the batter and fry as instructed.

Serves 4.

Green Curry Thai Chicken with Rice

Thai Green Curry Chicken with Rice recipe

Thai food is some of the hottest cuisine you will ever experience. There is a small restaurant in Green Bay called Nukeo’s which serves some of the best Thai food around. They also know how to make it HOT, and when I say hot, I mean a blistering, equatorial, heart-stopping blackout hellacious burn. Fairweather foodies will need to turn elsewhere for a meal. This recipe is a quick, authentic rendition of my favorite item at Nukeo’s.

Traditionally made with green curry paste and garam masala.


2 tbs. peanut oil
2 split chicken breasts
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 can coconut milk
2 tbs. green curry paste (available at most Asian markets)
1 tbs. Balti seasoning
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thin sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and thin sliced
1 clove mashed garlic
1 crushed dried red pepper (hot Thai, pequin or cayenne)
1 small bunch washed and chopped sweet basil leaves (about five)
1/4 cup washed cilantro leaves
1 tbs. soy sauce – optional, to taste  (I prefer Kikkoman)
Juice from 1/4 fresh lime

2 cups cooked white rice


Using two deep, heavy skillets (preferrable cast-iron), or a wok, flash-fry the chicken breasts on medium-high in two tbs. peanut oil, turning once until no longer pink.  Drain off fat and reserve on cutting board for five minutes. Slice into 1/8″ strips, transfer to one of the skillets and reduce heat to medium.

Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, curry paste, balti seasoning. Stir well and add the coconut milk, pineapple juice, green peppers, dry chili and garlic. Bring to a rolling boil and add the basil, lime and cilantro.  Simmer for ten minutes until reduced. Careful with the soy sauce; the curry paste and Balti seasoning have a lot of salt.

Serve spooned on hot cooked white rice.

Serves 4.

Thai Green Curry Chicken, wok-seared recipe

Thai Green Curry Chicken with coconut milk, balti seasoning recipe