If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Thailand, you’ll know that one of the most wonderful things about it is the food. This particular dish, alongside pad see ew (to be continued…), is an absolute favourite. Alongside spaghetti oilo e aglio and this roasted salmon, thai basil chicken is a staple in our household and gets made at least once a fortnight.
Many people think that Asian food always includes a huge range of annoying and hard to come by (delicious) ingredients and a lot of the time that’s true. Take the shrimp paste in my nasi goreng, for example. A bit weird, you may think, but wouldn’t you know – Waitrose do it. Thai basil chicken, however, is full of things you probably have in your larder already. Oyster sauce, even, has become a well known stir fry sauce that you’ll find in most supermarkets, if you can’t find a whole bottle of it, grab one of those little individual sachets – go thrifty on the dish.
On top of that, it takes 25 minutes to make. That is how long the rice takes. If the rice was done already it would only take about 5 minutes to make. One of the benefits of making Thai street food at home is that you’re never going to have to worry about slow cooking for hours and a million different steps. This is a wham bam eat on the street kind of dish.
Holy basil is actually the correct basil to use with this dish but I’ve found that Thai basil works beautifully, and better for me. I actually prefer Thai basil, as I find Holy basil a little bitter and with too much of an aniseed taste for my liking. For lack of Thai basil, that adds an extra tanginess to the dish, your regular old sweet basil works too. I may get yelled at for that but if you’ve got no choice, it does the job – deliciously too. You may want to add a bit extra to your handful if you’re using sweet basil as it does disappear in the dish a little more.
Thai Basil Chicken (Pad kra pao gai / ผัดกระเพราไก่)
Timings: 25 minutes
Kitchen stuff: Wok or large frying pan, some prep bowls
Quantities: Serves 3-4
1 egg per person
vegetable oil for frying
450g chicken (or 1 chicken breast per person)
2 large red chilies (or 8 small Thai chilies if you’re brave)
1 bulb of garlic (about 10 cloves)
3 tsp oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee Panda Oyster Sauce is my fave)
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 large bunch of Thai basil (or regular basil)
1 cup (200g) uncooked Basmati rice
1. RICE: Rinse your rice two or three times. Choose a small/medium pan where the rice comes up to the first knuckle on your index finger. Add cold water until it reaches your second knuckle, about double the amount of rice. Put the rice on high heat for 10-12 minutes until all the water has just been absorbed from the pan and there are holes in the top of the rice.
Prep your chicken whilst the rice is cooking.
Then turn the heat down very low, cover the rice with a lid and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes. Rice will now be at maximum fluff levels, none of this soggy nonsense.
2. FRY YOUR EGG: Heat 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil in your wok/frying pan until very hot. Crack in your egg and fry, sizzling, until the white has cooked through and the yolk is still runny. Whilst the egg is cooking, spoon some of the hot oil onto the white to cause bubbles and crispy pockets. Repeat in the hot oil, adding more if necessary, for the remaining eggs.
3. CHICKEN PREP: Whilst the rice is cooking, cut your chicken breast into bite size pieces. Make these quite small as you want them to cook quickly and stay tender. Move to a little prep bowl.
Peel and finely chop your garlic cloves and red chili together so they start releasing their oils and the red of the chili starts staining the garlic. Move to a little prep bowl. If you have a large pestle and mortar and the patience, you can crush the garlic and chili together.
In a separate cup, mix your oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and sugar together.
Pick the basil leaves off their stalk. Keep a couple of leaves to the side to look pretty.
4. COOK: Whilst the rice is standing, cook your Thai basil chicken: heat 2 tablespoons oil in your wok or frying pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add your chili and garlic.
Cook the garlic and chili for just a minute or so stirring regularly, but don’t let the garlic burn and turn bitter. Then add your chicken pieces. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly, until the chicken is just cooked through. Check the largest piece of chicken by cutting it open, if this is cooked through, move to the next step.
Add your oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar mix to the chicken and stir it all together for 30 seconds to a minute. Turn off the heat and add your basil leaves. Stir them in and serve immediately on your fluffy rice with a crispy egg on top.