Green Curry Beef Skewers with Fried Basil Oil


Although green curry paste goes well with all types of meat, it brings out the best in red meat. I use beef here, but just as often I use boneless lamb from the leg. The basil oil is a finishing touch that perfumes the dish with the scent of Thai basil and provides richness. I call for quite a lot of curry paste here, but feel free to adjust the amount to suit your taste. Those who want it really hot may want to add more, but keep in mind that you will be introducing more salt to the dish, too, as commercial curry pastes tend to be salty. Look for a brand imported from Thailand, such as Mae Ploy or Nittaya. Lightly misting the basil leaves with water before you drop them in the hot oil will create crispy leaves that are vibrantly green—almost like stained glass—as opposed to dark brownish green.Reprinted with permission from Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill: Classic Recipes for Seafood and Meats Cooked Over Charcoal by Leela Punyaratabandhu. Copyright ©2020 Photographs copyright ©2020 by David Loftus. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Green Curry Beef Skewers Recipe
Photo: David Loftus
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
9 hrs
Serves 8 (Serving size: 3 skewers)


  • 4 pounds boneless rib-eye steak, beef tenderloin, or boneless leg of lamb, cut against the grain into bite-size pieces

  • 1 cup Thai green curry paste

  • 1/2  cup packed grated palm sugar or granulated coconut sugar, or 1⁄3 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh Thai or common basil leaves

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • Pinkie-size piece fresh turmeric root, halved lengthwise (optional)

  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, curry paste, sugar, and fish sauce and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up overnight. Soak twenty-four 6-inch bamboo skewers in water to cover for 1 to 2 hours.

  2. Cook a couple of pieces of beef in a small grillproof frying pan over medium heat or in a microwave, then taste them and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce and sugar if needed, keeping in mind that the accompanying rice will be bland. The meat should taste salty and then a little sweet.

  3. Divide the beef into twenty-four equal portions. Thread each portion onto a skewer. Put the basil leaves in a small bowl and lightly mist them with water. Line a small plate with a paper towel. Place the bowl of basil, the towel-lined plate, and a small saucepan with a heatproof handle near the grill. Keep the leaves lightly misted. The moisture helps the leaves turn a bright, beautiful jewel-like green when they are fried. (Don’t overdo it, though, as the moisture can also cause splattering.)

  4. Prepare a medium-high fire (400° to 450°F) in a charcoal grill using the two-zone method. Place the skewers on the hot side of the grill and cook with the lid off until you get some charring on the outside, 5 to 7 minutes. Move the skewers to the hold side of the grill, cover, and cook with the vents half-opened until no pink is visible in the beef, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  5. About 5 minutes before the meat is done, in the reserved frying pan, combine the oil and turmeric (if using) and place it on the hot side of the grill. When the turmeric sizzles and the oil is turning yellow and is hot, drop 1 cup of the basil leaves into the oil and stand back. Within seconds the basil leaves will be crisp. Using a mesh skimmer, transfer them to the towel-lined plate and remove the pan from the grill.

  6. To serve, transfer the skewers to a large platter. Drizzle some of the turmeric-and basil-infused oil over the beef. Top with the fried basil leaves and the remaining 1⁄2 cup fresh leaves. Serve immediately with the rice.

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