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Nue Gra Pao: Stir Fried Beef With Mint Recipe

(Serves 4 to 6)

This is a rich, hearty dish with plenty of typical Thai flavors.  Any
kind of beef may be used, but flank steak works particularly well
because it is easy to cut it across the grain, which helps keep the meat
from falling apart during stir-frying and produces a tender result.  Be
sure to serve plenty of rice, because it helps moderate the hot chilies
without detracting from the flavor.  You may reduce the number of
chilies by up to one half, but traditionally this dish should have a
rich, hot chili flavor.

1 pound   flank steak
14        (2 ounces) finely chopped Serrano chilies
1/4 cup   (2 ounces) finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup   (2 ounces) finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup + 2 tblsp vegetable oil
3 tblsp   fish sauce
1 tblsp   granulated sugar
1/2 cup   water (more if needed in Step 5)
1/2 cup   loosely packed mint or basil leaves
Green lettuce leaves

1.  Slice the beef across the grain into strips 1/4 inch thick and 2 to
3 inches long.  Set aside.

2.  Pound or grind the chilies, garlic, and onion to a coarse paste in a
mortar or blender.  If you use a blender you may need to add the oil to
aid in grinding.

3.  Heat a wok, add the oil, and swirl it over the surface of the pan.
(Do not add more oil if you have ground the chilies, onion, and garlic
in oil.) Add the paste from Step 2 and stir-fry until it is light

4.  Add the beef and stir-fry until it is a uniform tan color, but do
not overcook it.

5.  Add the fish sauce, sugar, water, and mint (or basil) leaves.  More
water may be added if the sauce is too dry.  There should be about 1/2
to 3/4 cup sauce, depending on how much water you added.

Ahead of time note: The dish may be prepared a day in advance to this
point.  To do so, proceed through Step 5, omitting the mint or basil
leaves.  When you are ready to serve, heat the mixture and add the
leaves.  If the meat has absorbed the liquid, add just enough warm water
to bring it back to the original consistency.

6.  Arrange a single layer of lettuce leaves in a serving bowl and put
the beef mixture over them.  Serve the beef immediately or keep it warm
while preparing other dishes.

7.  Serve with rice.

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