Thai Basil Chicken is one of those dishes that fits squarely in the category of best-bang-for-your-buck. Not only is it a cheap dish to make, it’s incredibly satisfying, and takes almost no time to make. I dunno about you, but for me, cheap, delicious and easy is the holy trinity of the perfect dish.
Savory, spicy, and redolent of garlic and basil, it’s not like the chicken really needs any help, but what really sets this dish off for me is the fried egg on top. Sunny-side-up and yolk still runny, the egg adds just a touch of velvety richness to this humble weeknight meal. On a pile of hot jasmine rice, this basil chicken is heaven on a plate.
The key to getting perfect little pebbles of moist chicken that are just lightly kissed with caramelized sauce is to use a very hot pan, preferably a wok. Woks work so well for stir fried dishes like this basil chicken because they have so much surface area relative to the amount of food you put in it. Provided you have enough fire under the wok, this means the pan stays very hot allowing you to quickly cook the chicken without drying it out. Unfortunately, most home stoves (including my own) don’t put out enough BTUs to take advantage of a wok’s full surface area.
For those of you who don’t have a commercial gas burner at home, I’ve found that a cast iron skillet produces the desired results. While it doesn’t have the same surface area as a wok, it does retain heat very well, so as long as you preheat it, it will stay hot even after you’ve added the chicken.
I used Thai Basil (horapa) this time, but Gai Pad Krapow is supposed to be made with Holy Basil (kra phao). If you can’t find either type of basil near you, you could theoretically use ordinary fresh basil, but the flavor will be different. Thai basil has a stronger clove-like flavor that is quite distinct from the more anise-like flavor of Mediterranean basil.
Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)
1 Tbs vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1-5 thai “bird” chilies minced with seeds
1/2 small onion sliced
1/2 lbs ground chicken thigh meat
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
pinch of white pepper
3 sprigs of Thai Holy Basil, stems removed
Heat a small frying pan over medium heat until hot. Add a splash of oil and crack two eggs into the pan and fry until the white part is set, but the yolk is still soft. Transfer the eggs to a plate to keep them from overcooking.
Heat a wok or a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add the oil, garlic and chilies and stir fry until until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the onions and continue stir frying until the onions have wilted. Add the ground chicken and fry until the chicken is cooked.
Season with the fish sauce, sugar and white pepper. If your pan was hot enough you should not have any liquid at the bottom of the pan, but if you do, continue cooking until the liquid is gone. Add the basil and toss a couple of time until the leaves are wilted and bright green.
Serve the basil chicken with jasmine rice and an egg on top of each plate.