Before I begin the recipe of Thai Beef with Mushrooms, a special thank you to B who got me a packet of Thai Shrimp Paste from Bangkok. I often am glad that my friends bring me things which I absolutely love (like S’s sister got me some delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), and a few days ago, one brought me some lovely Kapi, Thai Shrimp Paste. Now, Thai Shrimp Paste has a little history here – I absolutely hated its smell when I first sniffed, but, over the years, it sort of grew on me, to the point when I made my Goalando Chicken Curry with a bit of it in there.
However, for making Thai Beef with Mushrooms, I have to say, the Shrimp paste adds a glorious dimension, but again, its not absolutely necessary. Oh no, its there as a background, but you can skip it, and add a bit more Nam Pla, that is, Fish Sauce, and you’ll be good to go. Remember, this dish needs a bit of preparation, and a particular cut of meat, so make sure you have both. If using other cuts of beef, make sure the cut is lean, and doesn’t have fat.
I use the tenderloin for this Beef recipe, and, I have to say, don’t make a lot at a go, because the dish thrives on high heat, and too much meat = not enough browning, and that results in them being slightly icky, which is not good eats at all! This recipe can be made with other things as well. I have made it using chicken, mutton, pork, prawns, firm tofu, different kinds of vegetables, and with all-mushrooms, and the results are good. In case of vegetables, I would suggest skipping the marination and rather parboiling them till they are cooked but retains a bit of crunch. Use the marination sauce as a stir-fry sauce in that case. In case of mutton or pork, dont use fatty pieces. Use the lean bits.
Start by cutting about 300 gm. tenderloin into 3/4th to 1-inch cubes. You can also slice them, but I prefer cubes, because that’s tastier. Mix together 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar (I used brown but you can use white too), and a squeeze of lemon juice or 1 teaspoon white vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Marinate the meat in this concoction for at least 2 hours.
Heat oil in a large, heavy pan or wok, over high heat, and add a teaspoon of minced garlic. As soon as the garlic starts to colour, throw in the beef and stir fry continuously, until it is seared, about 5-6 minutes.
Add 4-5 green chillies, slit, 4-5 sliced mushrooms (I sliced 4 medium mushrooms into thick slices and added), and stir over high heat till the mushrooms are well-cooked. At this point, add a tablespoon of chopped basil leaves. Stir fry till the basil is wilted.
At this point, add 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste. Of course, you can add more, but, if you are a novice I suggest sticking to 1/2 teaspoon, rather than more. You can always build up, and add more, but I prefer adding less, since many cannot take its smell. Stir fry till the shrimp is incorporated, then check salt and sugar, adjust, and finish with a squeeze of lime and some more basil leaves, chopped (I added 1 teaspoon more).
Serve this over hot, steamed rice, cooked noodles, or eat solo. I prefer it with rice – the beef is rather wonderful with it. If you like, you can make this into a gravy, by adding some cornflour mixed with water at the end, and making it thick. You can also make this into a stir-fry with noodles, by throwing in the noodles, and stirring them in at the end, before serving with some crushed roasted peanuts on top. You can also add some coconut milk to the concoction, and it gives this a delicious coconutty flavour which is addictive.