Thai chicken with basil
Stir fried basil chicken, or pad kra pao gai in Thai, is one of the most popular dishes in all of Thailand.
It’s easy to make, widely available, and nearly always tastes good. When local Thais arrive at a restaurant and don’t have a clue what to order, basil chicken is a dish that can be ordered effortlessly and without any contemplation.
I often compare a plate (or take-away foam box) of Thai basil chicken to the hamburger and fries combo of the West – a meal that’s easy to eat and always satisfies the stomach (though Thailand’s version might be a bit healthier).
The dish begins with a flaming hot wok that’s coated with oil before adding diced chicken, shredded garlic, and crushed chili peppers. After frying for a few seconds, a splash of fish sauce, salt, sugar, and a dash of dark soy sauce are all added. Finally when the meat is fully cooked through, and just moments from being finished, the cook grabs a handful of Thai holy basil and mixes it into the dish.
The basil really only needs to be cooked for a few seconds and it’s even alright to turn off the heat and just let the hot chicken quickly sear the basil. Overcook the herb and the signature flavor is lost.
The piping hot basil chicken is then scooped over a bed of fresh rice. An egg fried in lots of oil until crisp on the edges and with a runny yolk is placed right next to the main dish to make it complete.
A spoonful of rice with a little chicken, a piece of egg, and the all-important holy basil, is a bite of true Thai style comfort.
Pad kra pao is not only delicious, but as one of the top Bangkok $1 dishes, it’s a steal of a meal!