This is a thrifty yet excellent dinner for all those times you need to scratch your Spicy Asian Food itch, fast! Seared beef mince gets tossed through a fiery Firecracker Sauce, all served over rice or noodles, a bit like a spicy beef version of the much-loved Vietnamese Caramelised Pork Mince.
“I need a spicy Asian food fix!” It’s a well-known wail regularly heard from me, especially during intensive periods of non-Asian food cooking work, like during the making of the cookbook. Lovers of Asian food will understand exactly what I mean. It’s a recurring taste craving that, when left unsatisfied for too long, rears its head like a waking beast.
The satisfaction the beast seeks is particular. It’s chilli-laced, big-flavoured Asian food. I’m talking the likes of Thai Drunken Noodles. Chilli Garlic Prawns. Dan Dan Noodles. Laksa. Anything bold-tasting with wallop of tongue-tickling spicy heat. Nothing else will do!
The latest and quite possibly the fastest-to-make addition to my spicy Asian repertoire that fits the bill is this Firecracker Beef, aptly named because it’s a literal flavour explosion! Think spicy, deeply savoury leaning a little sweet, all given some legs with a touch of vinegar.
It’s as tasty as they come and very, very fast to make!
What you need for Firecracker Beef
Here’s what you need to make Firecracker sauce.
Sriracha – A Thai chilli sauce sold everywhere these days (Asian aisle and/or sauce aisle of supermarkets). This is the main source of spiciness in this recipe. It also adds flavour as sriracha is made with more than just chilli, including garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar.
Chilli flakes (red pepper flakes) – The second source of spiciness in the dish, this adds a more earthy chilli taste in addition to the tangy, fresh chilli taste of the sriracha. To reduce the spiciness, dial the chilli flakes back first before reducing sriracha. Sriracha adds more flavour into the dish than chilli flakes, so it’s more essential.
Beef mince (ground beef) – Any fat percentage is fine: lean or standard. The fattier it is, the better the beef will caramelise.
Other proteins – Ground chicken, pork or turkey all work well with Firecracker sauce!
Sugar – Firecracker sauce’s flavour profile is spicy and sweet, so this is the sweet. It also helps the beef caramelise which adds even more flavour to the overall dish.
Rice vinegar – This provides the sharpness in the dish to offset the sweet and savoury. I use rice vinegar in keeping with the Asian spirit of this dish but apple cider vinegar can be substituted in a pinch.
Light soy – The primary source of salt for this recipe. All-purpose soy sauce can also be used, but not dark soy sauce because the flavour and colour is too intense. More on different types of soy sauces and how to substitute here!
Garlic – Fresh garlic is an essential aromatic flavour base that appears in 99% of my savoury recipes. You’d be hard pressed to find a dinner recipe without garlic!
How to make Firecracker Beef
You’re 15 minutes away from happily hoovering this down! Ready, set, GO!
Firecracker sauce – Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Cook beef – Using a large non-stick pan over high heat, cook the beef until you can no longer see raw meat. Then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for another 1 minute until the garlic bits are golden.
Sauce it – Add the Firecracker sauce and cook for a good 5 to 7 minutes on high heat until the sauce reduces and the beef starts to caramelise. Caramelisation is the key to making a wickedly good Firecracker anything, so don’t shortcut this step!
Moisten it up – After the beef is caramelised, you’ll notice that it looks a bit dried out. This is because all the sauce has reduced, caramelised and stuck to the beef (= flavour!) To rectify this, we just add a slosh of water to juice up the beef a bit and give it a more saucy finish. Give it a quick stir and it’s done!
How to serve Firecracker Beef
My default is to serve over white rice with some raw vegetables (cucumber, carrot and radish pictured). I love the crunchy-textured, cooling and refreshing contrast they have against all that big flavour in the tender beef. For garnishes, sprinkle with green onion, sesame seeds and a squirt of extra sriracha if you’re feeling it’s an extra-spicy kinda evening.
To eat, just mix the beef through the rice and devour with a spoon. Because the beef is generously flavoured, I don’t even feel the need for dressing over the vegetables. If you wanted something quick though, try my Asian Sesame Dressing.
For something different….
It’s also great with soba noodles or vermicelli noodles (an excellent no-cook-just-soak option). Or make Asian-inspired Sloppy Joes or tacos:
Stuff warm buttered rolls or tortillas with this Firecracker Beef along with a simple slaw or salad leaves
Quesadillas – Firecracker beef, cheese and any other add-ins you fancy!
Finish with a squirt of sriracha and for extra indulgence, some kewpie mayonnaise.
I haven’t made any of these before but now I want to try them, immediately!! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
- 1½ tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, peanut)
- 500g / 1 lb beef mince / ground beef (Note 1)
- 2 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 1 tsp chilli flakes / red pepper flakes (adjust to your taste)
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce , light or all-purpose (Note 2)
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar (Note 3)
- 4 tbsp sriracha sauce (Note 4)
- 4 tbsp brown sugar (tightly packed)
To serve (optional!):
- Rice, soba or vermicelli noodles
- 1 green onion , finely sliced
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- Diced cucumber, julienned carrot, finely sliced red radish
- Extra sriracha sauce , if you dare!
- Sauce: Mix Firecracker sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Cook beef: Heat oil in a large frypan over high heat. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until you can no longer see raw meat (2½ minutes). Add garlic and chilli flakes and cook for 1 minute.
- Caramelise beef: Add Firecracker sauce ingredients, stir to coat the beef. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring only every minute or so initially, then more towards the end, until the sauce reduces and you can see the beef caramelising. Caramelise well for good flavour!
- Water: Add the water and cook for 1 minute (the water makes the beef saucier!)
- Serve over rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds, green onion and a squirt of extra sriracha if you're feeling brave! Add a pile of vegetables of choice on the side. Dive in!
1. Other proteins – This recipe will work well with pork, chicken and turkey mince. Crumbled tofu – reduce sugar by 1 tbsp. 2. Soy sauce – Use light or all-purpose soy. Don’t use dark soy sauce, the flavour will be too intense. More on different types of soy sauce here. 3. Rice vinegar – Substitute with apple cider vinegar. 4. Sriracha – A Thai chilli sauce found everywhere these days. Adds more than just spiciness, it adds flavour too as it’s flavoured with garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt. 5. Storage – Leftover cooked beef will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, or freezer for 3 months. When reheating, add a splash of water to juice it up! 6. Nutrition per serving, beef only (ie not rice or vegetables).
Life of Dozer
Cheating on Dozer in Melbourne at a book signing on the weekend. A surprising number of people brought their dogs in!!!
Then re-united 12 hours later. ❤️
I spent so much time answering questions about him at the book signings it made me miss him like crazy!! But the logistics of taking him to Melbourne was just too hard. Next book we’ll make it happen! He was in high demand, that’s for sure. 😂