This dish is the main reason we grow Thai basil in our herb garden. We’ve grown many kinds of basil over the years and seem to have settled into a routine of Genovese, Lemon (Sweet Dani or similar), and Thai (Sweet Thai or Queen of Siam) basil because they cover the spectrum of our uses. The Sweet Thai variety we grew this year produces plants with purple stems and gorgeous purple flowers. Like most basils, the flowers are also edible and add a punch of anise flavor to Asian dishes. Our basils will last a few more weeks, then it will be time for the final harvest of the season and a marathon session making pesto (basic and sun-dried) and basil ice cubes.
The peppers, basil, and garlic all came from our garden. You might wonder why the peppers are dark in this photo but green in the finished dish. These dark peppers are called Purple Beauty, and as you can see they ripen a deep purple, almost black. The inside remains green and when cooked the skin looses its lush color and turns back to green. The substance that causes that deep purple color, anthocyanin, is a powerful antioxidant that is also water soluble, hence the change in color when cooked. None of our red peppers were ripe when we made this dish recently, so we used the Purple Beauty, but they definitely provide greater health benefits when eaten raw.
When making this dish for people who enjoy some heat, go for the full amount of hot peppers. This meal has to feed all the eaters in our home, including the little guys, so I hold off on the hot chiles, just adding a few slices with some seeds to the wok. Michael sets his mouth on fire by adding a whole sliced chile (or two) with the seeds to his bowl.
I’ve adjusted the method for making this dish by starting with a cold wok and adding the garlic and chiles to the cold oil. This allows the flavor to release as the oil heats and prevents the garlic and chiles from burning. Thanks to Jaden for sharing this technique!
This is my contribution to Grow Your Own, the blogging event that celebrates dishes we create from foods we’ve grown, raised, foraged, or hunted ourselves. Dido of Mowgli Chic is our host for this round, so be sure to visit her blog for more information about submitting your post. If you are new to the event, you can read more about the rules for participating at the Grow Your Own page.
Thai Basil Chicken (Kai Kraphao)
- 10 ounces chicken breast, boneless and skinless
- 1/2 medium bell pepper green or red, cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 5 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 6 fresh hot chiles roughly chopped (adjust to your heat tolerance)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 20 whole leaves fresh Thai basil
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- steamed brown jasmine rice
- Slice the chicken breast into thin strips, 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick by 2 inches (5 cm) long and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. To achieve very thin slices, put the chicken breasts into the freezer for about 20 minutes to harden slightly, then slice. Set aside.
- Pour oil into the cold wok and add the garlic and chiles. Cook over high heat until the aromas start to release. Add the sliced chicken and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add the fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce and stir-fry for another minute. Add the oyster sauce and 2 tablespoons of water and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the peppers and 16 of the basil leaves and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the peppers start to soften.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of cold water, add to the wok, and stir-fry for 1 minute, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining basil leaves and serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice.