Last week at the Farmers Market I purchased some beautiful deep purple, super fragrant basil which the farmer told me was Opal Basil. Isn’t it lovely?
I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of my favorite dishes, Basil Beef, which is a great way to show off the flavor of a very fragrant basil such as Thai Basil, Holy Basil, etc. The next day, I was at Whole Foods and I spotted a lovely looking Buffalo (Bison) steak. I really enjoy buffalo because it has a nice clean “beefy” taste but it is a lot leaner, lower in calories and higher in iron. (Read more about buffalo meat here.) So I decided to make Basil Buffalo instead!
As with many of my dishes, I won’t provide an exact recipe here, because I never really make the same thing twice and my measurements are not exact. But I will provide the ingredients and an outline that you can follow.
THAI-INSPIRED BASIL BUFFALO
For the Buffalo:
2-3 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
2-3 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Ground White Pepper about 1/2 – 1 tsp, to taste
Fresh Basil, chopped (about 1/2 bunch – reserve the rest of the bunch to add in later) – Note: Italian (Sweet) Basil does not work well for this dish because it does not have as strong of a flavor and does not hold up as well to the high heat of a stir fry
1 Buffalo Steak (or a lean Beef steak), about 1/2 lb
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (or other neutral flavored oil that will stand up to high heat)
1-2 Thai or Serrano Chiles, minced (depending on the level of heat that you want)
2-3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
Fresh Basil, chopped (the rest of the bunch that you did not put with the meat)
2 large or 4 small Japanese Eggplant, cut into chunks (Optional)
Fresh Chile Paste (Such as Sambal Oelek) about 1-2 tsp, to taste (Optional)
Fish Sauce & Ground White Pepper to taste
Lime wedge, to garnish
1-2 Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish.
Large wok or other relatively thin, large saute pan (I say thin because you want the pan to heat up quickly and stay very hot for the quick cooking method of stir frying)
1. Slice buffalo very thinly, against the grain, and combine in a small bowl with oyster sauce, fish sauce, chopped basil, and ground white pepper. Mix to combine the ingredients, and make sure the meat is generously coated with the sauce – add more of the sauces if necessary. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes. (Note: I find the marinating step is well worth it because it really makes the meat more flavorful and makes the flavors in the dish really “pop”. Don’t skip it unless you absolutely must save the extra minute or so it takes to combine the ingredients – while it’s marinating you can do the rest of your prep which you would have had to do anyway! If you don’t marinate the meat, you will need to add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and white pepper when you add the meat to the pan in the next step, and then add all the basil at once in the next step.)
2. While the meat is marinating, prepare the remaining ingredients. Place your wok over medium-high heat until “screamingly” hot. Turn heat down to medium and add oil to pan (be careful of splatters, since pan will be very hot). Add meat (including the sauce & basil from the marinade) and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add chiles and garlic, continuing to stir. Cook for another minute. Add eggplant chunks (if using) and remaining basil. Stir and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through and eggplant is cooked but not mushy. This won’t take long, about 5 minutes or so. It depends how hot your pan is.
3. Taste for seasoning. Add fish sauce and white pepper to taste, if necessary. At this point you can add a touch of chile paste, if using. I like it because it adds a slight vinegary tang as well as the spice, which helps balance out the dish.
4. Serve! I like to toss in some cooked wide rice noodles at the last minute and make it into a noodle dish (this time I used some beautiful yellow Turmeric rice noodles which I had in my cupboard). You can also serve it with rice or whatever you desire! To get some more veggies, I served some dark leafy greens (sauteed with coconut water, a touch of oyster sauce, and shredded dried coconut) along side. Garnish with 1 or 2 lime wedges, which you can squirt over top of the dish to taste, to add a little acid to balance out the saltiness and spice. Sprinkle green onion bits over, for a little bit of fresh, bright flavor.
Please excuse the blurry photo of the finished dish!!
Have you ever eaten Buffalo meat before? How did you have it? Did you enjoy it? If you’ve never tried it, I hope you will be inspired to do so – it’s super tasty and good for you!