Late last week I was on the hunt for some Thai basil; which is very different from the sweet basil you typically pick up from your local grocery store or that you grow in your garden. Thai basil has a very unique flavor and look; it’s leaves are a bit more narrow and thin and the stems are purple.
The taste of Thai basil can be described as peppery and has a hint of licorice flavor (it helps to give that distinct flavor that you might often notice when you eat Thai food!) You can use sweet basil in Thai dishes and the end result will still be delicious but if you are able to get your hands on some Thai basil for this dish or other Thai inspired meals, I highly recommend it.
So, back to my basil hunt. I was searching through the fresh herbs at one of our local health food store and all I could find was the typical sweet basil but there was none to be found. As I relented and grabbed a bunch of sweet basil, a friend of mine walked up to say hello! I lamented to her that I could not find any Thai basil and yup, you guessed it – she told me proudly that she had some Thai basil growing right in her own garden!!! Score!! I followed my friend to her house where she generously snipped off a huge bunch of Thai basil; and this was the beginning of what was soon to be a delicious meal for my family. Thank you Yvonne for the awesome Thai basil!!
For those of you who are struggling to find Thai basil, see if your town has a local Asian market. Since that fateful day I have found some fresh Thai basil here in Chico at our local Asian market and it seems to be the only place that carries it. I have yet to make it to our farmers market to check, but I have a feeling I would be able to find it from one of the vendors there as well. Either way, it’s worth hunting for but if you can’t find it, do not skip out on making this dish, just simply use sweet basil instead – you’ll still have a yummy meal; I promise.
Thai Basil Beef Lettuce Wraps
2 pounds ground beef
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches Thai basil leaves or sweet basil leaves (reserve half a bunch for garnish)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tablespoons coconut aminos
2 teaspoons fish sauce (I used Red Boat Fish Sauce)
1-2 teaspoon hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha – use more or less depending on your desired level of heat)
Juice from 1 a lime
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Several butter lettuce or other large green leaf lettuce leaves for the wraps
More Thai basil leaves and chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
1. In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the bell peppers and onions and saute until tender.
2. Remove the bell peppers and onions from the pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan, brown the ground beef.
4. While the ground beef is cooking, whisk together the coconut aminos, fish sauce, lime juice, hot chili sauce, sesame oil and garlic.
5. Add the bell peppers and onions back to the pan with the ground beef, pour in the sauce, add the Thai basil leaves, and stir just until the basil leaves are wilted.
6. Turn off the heat and you are ready to serve!
7. Fill lettuce leaves with big scoops of the meat mixture topped with chopped cilantro and more basil leaves for garnish. Top with more hot chili sauce if you want it spicier.
As always, enjoy!