Ground Pork with Chiles and Holy Basil

A friend stopped by a few days ago with a wonderful housewarming/wedding gift – a goodie bag full of Thai pantry staples. This was truly a gift from heaven since I was pondering what I’d make for dinner that night and I was dreading going to the grocery store because it was cold, I’m a weather wimp and well, pajamas. I was too comfortable to move. She also brought me this fabulous recipe. Score! thai grocery staples

I love the flavor profile of Thai food – salty, sour, spicy all perfectly balanced. This quick and easy recipe from Nancie McDermott’s cookbook, 300 Best Stir-Fry Recipes fits the bill and I was able to have this meal on the table in about 15 minutes. It took longer to cook the rice. I ate this with rice but it would also be delicious as lettuce wraps. I loved this recipe! Seriously! I made it 2 nights in a row and for me that’s saying something.

This recipe calls for fish sauce which is a staple in Thai cooking. If you’ve never cooked with fish sauce it may sound strange but rather than bringing a fishy flavor to food it brings an earthy saltiness. It’s a condiment that I smell and think, I don’t know about this but then a shot of it into a pan of sautéing Brussels sprouts makes me realize I can’t get that salty, savory flavor from anything else.

My usual brand.

If you don’t have fish sauce Nancie recommends substituting an equal amount of broth and adding 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt to taste but if you can pick up some fish sauce, do. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll use it to punch up dishes. The dish also calls for holy basil which is a much more flavorful basil from India. It can be hard to find unless you head to an Indian or Asian market so you can substitute mint or any type of basil instead but if you can get the real thing you’ll love it. Holy basil is a scraggly looking plant that is much more fragile than regular basil. Try to buy only what you need because it has about a 2 day shelf life.


This recipe can be made with any ground meat. I made it the first night with pork and the next with turkey. Hands down I thought the pork was better. It was far more flavorful. If you use poultry add a bit more oil since it has very little fat.

Ground Pork with Chiles and Holy Basil     Serves 4 light eaters.
From 300 Best Stir Fry Recipes by Nancie McDermott, Amazon

I doubled the recipe for my family of 3 hearty eaters.

ground pork with chilis and holy basil

*** This recipe only makes a single batch. ***

8 oz. ground pork
2 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. chicken stock
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 tsp salt or to taste *** I don’t add the salt because I find the soy sauce is salty enough without adding more. Definitely taste the sauce before adding salt as it might be just right already.
1 tsp minced hot green chiles or crushed hot pepper flakes
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 coarsely chopped onion
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped garlic
1 c. fresh holy basil or mint leaves

  1. In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, salt and hot pepper flakes and stir well. Set aside.
  2. Heat a wok or a large deep skillet over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat pan. Add onion and garlic and toss well, until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  3. Add ground pork and using your spatula or a large spoon break up the meat, spreading out to cook evenly. Cook, tossing occasionally, until almost all the meat has changed color, about 1 minute.
  4. Add fish sauce mixture, pouring in around sides of pan. Cook, tossing often, about 2-3 minutes more until the pork is cooked through and the sauce is smooth and thin.
  5. Add the basil and toss well. Serve hot or warm over rice or noodles. I also love lightening this dish up and rather than rice making it into lettuce wraps with Boston lettuce. alettucewrap

Because there’s no such thing as too hot I garnished my serving with 2 kinds of chili sauce. One had crispy soybeans and the added crunch was great. Look at all that chili oil – are you sweating?Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce


This chili sauce is HOT but not just for heat’s sake. It’s incredibly flavorful and the soybean crunch makes this a terrific addition to kick up heat and texture. You can find it at your local Asian market or online at Amazon. Sriracha sauce adds additional kick.

Recommended Wine: A Dry Riesling

A spicy meal calls for a wine that can play well with heat. A dry Riesling is the perfect partner to this dish. Often when folks think of Riesling they think sweet but Rieslings range from dry (not sweet) to sweet so there’s a Riesling for every palate. The citrusy, green apple flavor of Riesling counteracts the spice and the dryness serves as a great counterpoint to the richness of the pork. You can really taste the flavors of the meat because the Riesling resets your palate each time you sip.

300 quick and easy recipes, yes please. Pick up a copy of this great cookbook from Amazon. 

Nancie McDermott also has a fantastic blog that I love, Nancie’s Table, with recipes that range from the savory to the sweet. She’s known not only for her fabulous Thai and stir fry recipes but also for her cakes and pies. Check out her site for more kitchen inspiration.

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