Thai food is one of the world’s great cuisines. I discovered this a teenager growing up in Australia when the irresistible aromas coming from a newly opened restaurant lured me in, while the combination of spice, salt, sweet, and sour that is characteristic of Thai food hooked me completely.
This recipe, an adaptation of one of Thailand’s most famous dishes, Pad Krapow, has a depth of flavor that belies its simplicity. The entire process, from chopping the ingredients to serving, takes no more than 30 minutes. Some of the more exotic ingredients may be hard to find at your local mega-market but if you live in a town with a sizable Asian population, you will most likely be able to find a specialty Asian grocer that stocks everything you need (and much, much more).
Thai Chicken and Basil
- 1 lb of boneless chicken breast or thighs, chopped finely
- 1 cup of Thai basil leaves (or better yet, holy basil if you can find it)
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 of a medium-sized onion, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon of red or green Thai pepper, finely chopped (~ two peppers)
- 1 teaspoon of pad prik khing paste (or red curry paste)
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon of kecap manis (a sweet, thick soy sauce) *
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (or palm sugar)
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup of water
*Note: If kecap manis is unavailable add an extra teaspoon of dark soy and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar.
Important: Prepare and assemble all ingredients and place them somewhere within easy reach of the cook top where you will be working. Once the cooking starts it goes very quickly and needs almost constant attention.
- Heat a medium-sized wok, or a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat until very hot.
- Add oil to pan and immediately add onions and garlic. Stir fry until aromatic ~10 to 15 seconds making sure not to let the garlic scorch.
- Add the chicken to the wok and stir to mix the onions, garlic and chicken together.
- Stir fry until the chicken just begins to lightly brown about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the pad prik khing or red curry paste and stir fry for a few seconds to coat the meat.
- Add the Thai chili, soy sauce, kecap manis, sugar, and the fish sauce to the wok. Let cook for 1 minute, stirring every few seconds.
- Add the water to the wok and cook for another minute, stirring mixture occasionally.
- Add basil leaves then stir to mix the basil into the mixture. Continue to cook the mixture until basil is just wilted then remove from heat ~ 15 seconds. Serve.
Steamed jasmine rice is a perfect partner for this dish. If you are looking a for a light meal or are counting carbs, place 1 or 2 tablespoons of the Thai Chicken and Basil into lettuce leaves (soft lettuces like butter or bibb work best), and eat like a little green taco.