Chicken Basil

[LEFT]My favorite. A dish with a Thai touch that is delicious and that it is very easy to make. It does not matter if you cannot find Thai basil, the regular one will do. You can use dried basil but it will be better if you can find fresh basil. The fish sauce will be easy to find in any Asian store, even in some regular supermarkets. I use lemon grass from a tube; fresh lemon grass is difficult to find. I use ginger but, of course, if you can find Thai galangal, it will be great. First, I will give you the plain recipe. There are some interesting variations, though.


2 chicken breasts
½ onion
1 green pepper
½ red pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon grass
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Some vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 chopped seeded red chilli
1 tablespoon basil

First, we will prepare the onion and the peppers. We will cut them in not too small pieces. Then, we will do the same with the chicken. We will heat some oil in a wok and put onions and peppers first. When they are a bit done, but not much, we will put the chicken, the red chilli, the garlic and the ginger in the wok. We will cook it for two minutes and then we will add the fish sauce, the salt, the sugar and the lemon grass, stirring continuously until the chicken is golden brown. And the last touch is the basil. We will add it after turning off the fire, mixing it evenly with the chicken and vegetables. Serve hot and enjoy. As I said before, you can also use some variations. You can drop some sesame oil, just a few drops. Or a spoonful of peanuts. It will give the dish a different touch.[/LEFT]

Spicy Basil Chicken

This recipe is for one of the favorite dishes of the Thai people. They will make Basil Anything – substitute the chicken with pork, beef, squid, shrimp, seafood, . . . anything you like.

* Thai Holy Basil

2-3 Tbs. peanut oil for stir-frying
* 10-12 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 2-3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with 1/2 cup sliced onion) – optional
* 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped, or cut into small bite-size pieces
* 12-20 Thai chillies, cut into very thin rounds; or substitute 4-6 Serrano, Jalapeno or Fresno peppers, cut into large slivers with seeds
* 2 small kaffir lime leaves , very finely slivered (optional)
* 2-3 tsp. black soy sauce (the semi-sweet kind), or to taste
* 2 Tbs. fish sauce , or to taste
* 1 cup fresh Thai holy basil, or Thai sweet basil leaves and flower buds; or use 1/4 cup dried holy basil, soaked to soften plus 1/2 to 1 cup fresh Thai sweet basil
* Dash of ground white pepper

Prepare the ingredients as instructed. Leave the fresh basil leaves whole; the flower buds may also be used. The dried holy basil will soften when soaked in tap water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Pull off and discard the hard stems. Drain.

Heat a wok until its surface is smoking hot. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok surface. Wait a few seconds for the oil to heat, then stir in the garlic, followed a few seconds later with the shallots or onion. Stir another 15 to 20 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until most of the chicken has changed color on the outside and is no longer pink.

Toss in the chillies, slivered kaffir lime leaves (if using), and softened dried holy basil (if using). Sprinkle black soy sauce over the mixture and stir-fry for another 15 to 20 seconds. Season to taste with fish sauce, then stir in the fresh basil. Toss well. Stir-fry another 1/2 to 1 minute, or until the basil is wilted and the chicken cooked through. Sprinkle with white pepper. Stir and transfer to a serving dish, or spoon directly over individual plates of plain steamed rice.

Serves 6 to 8 with other dishes in a shared family-style meal.

Notes and Pointers

This is a good and easy stir-fried dish and one of the favorites among Thai people. It is served over rice as a one-dish meal – for breakfast or for lunch, often topped with a crispy fried egg. Of course, it also appears frequently as one of the courses in a shared family-style meal.

If you are not able to find fresh holy basil, this recipe can be substituted with any fresh basil. I have also tried it with a mixture of fresh Thai sweet basil and fresh mint leaves with good results.

The smaller the chicken is cut, the greater the surface area to coat with the flavors of the aromatic herbs and sauces, and the more flavorful the stir-fry will be. In Thailand, this dish is often made with chopped pork, especially in fast-food, curry-rice shops , where an enormous variety of dishes are prepared ahead of time and served over steaming white rice to order.

One of our particular favorites is to make it with ground pork and lots of Thai chillies. For pork, make sure you use holy basil , as it goes especially well with pork.

Try the above recipe also with fresh seafood (in this case, no need to chop) – shrimps, scallops, mussels, clams, crab and firm-flesh fish, such as fresh halibut and salmon.