This leafy green herb (above) is the wondrous Thai basil….and it’s supremely difficult to find. In fact, I know of only one place in New York that carries it — my favorite grocery store, Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco St. It’s quite different than regular sweet basil (you know, the type of thing you might use in Italian recipes), so don’t be tempted to use that as a substitute. Thai basil has a surprising minty characteristic…perfect to complement the heat of spicy Asian dishes.
One of my favorite dishes to order at Thai restaurants is chicken with Thai basil sauce, typically called pad gra pow. Somehow I had never tried to make this at home, perhaps because of the aforementioned difficulty in getting one’s hand on Thai basil. Here’s the recipe I followed the other night.
Chicken with Thai Basil Sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (adjust for saltiness)
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp lime
1 lb chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 tbsp oil
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 red chile peppers, sliced
1/3 cup wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 can bamboo shoots
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, shredded
Combine the first five ingredients — oyster, soy and fish sauces, plus lime and sugar — in a mixing bowl. Use about two tablespoons of this sauce mixture to marinate the chicken in separate dish; cover the chicken while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Heat oil in wok and add garlic and chile peppers; stir until fragrant. Deglaze the wok with wine and add chicken. Stir-fry for several minutes until chicken is just about cooked through. Add the bell pepper, plus the rest of the sauce mixture and chicken stock. Stir-fry about two minutes, until pepper has softened. Reduce heat to simmer and add the scallions and bamboo shoots. Remove from heat, and fold in the basil. Serve over rice. Yum!