Basil Chicken – Thai Style
This is, hands down, my favorite thing to eat at a Thai Restaurant.
It’s a mixture of chicken and vegetables with a dark and rich spicy sauce, infused with the delicious flavor of basil.
I have played with this recipe and got it very close to the way I like it in restaurants, and I will give you instructions on how to make it with Asian ingredients, but also give you subsitutions, for those of you who don’t have the benefit of a local Asian market like we do here in Oklahoma City. This dish is fairly healthy, except for a little sugar in the sauce and full of vegetables that will make your taste buds zing.
When cooking Asian dishes, especially stir-fries of any type, it’s important to have your Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas], or your prepped ingredients in bowls or dishes on hand because everything goes so quickly. You won’t want to be chopping vegetables or chicken while something is burning in your wok.
So let’s do some prepping shall we?
You’ll need one large red bell pepper. Cut it in half lengthwise, then pull out the stem and seeds with your fingers. Cut each half in half again, and then make thin slices of each piece.
Also, and this is not for the faint-of-heart, slice up a hot pepper. Typically I’d use these.
Thai red chillies. IF, you can find these, just slice them very thinly across to make tiny rings. Use one to three of these, depending on how hot you like things. I’d use one.
But since I know these aren’t widely available, you can substitute a jalapeno. Slice the end off, slice it in half, take a spoon and scoop out the seeds and ribs, and slice it super thin. If you don’t like things hot, just omit the peppers.
Get a package of mushrooms already sliced if you can. I am using cremini mushrooms, or baby portobellos. Mine were a little large, so I just sliced through them once.
Also, slice up one-half of a large onion. Again, slice it as thinly as possible.
Let’s all pause in awe of Vidalia onions. I think they should be available year-round. But I guess, then they wouldn’t be special.
Also take 2 large chicken breasts and slice them into thin pieces.
Arrange all of your prepped veggies and chicken in bowls or a platter near your wok.
Let’s move on to the sauce.
This sauce is what makes the dish. It is rich, and garlicy with a hint of saltiness, a touch of sweetness, and a little kick of heat that hits the back of your throat, which is precisely what a good Thai sauce should do. And after you add in the basil?
Start with 1/3 cup of oyster sauce. I use this brand and you can get it at Wal-Mart in the Asian section.
Measure out 1/3 of a cup of oyster sauce and 1/3 of a cup of light soy sauce and dump it into a bowl. Add in 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Then, add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. You can also find this at Wal-Mart in the Asian section. Fish sauce is the salt that Asians use in cooking. It’s not anything freaky. Just trust me.
Squeeze in (or mince up) another clove of garlic.
Lastly, and this is purely optional, add in some red pepper flakes. I used 1/2 teaspoon. You could just add a pinch. Then, whisk your sauce all up.
Now you’re ready to go! Again, have everything, your veggies, chicken and sauce right next to your wok or pan.
If you have a wok, use it, but if not, a large fry pan will work. Just get it really hot! Cooler pans won’t produce the effect you want in stir-frying.
Start by pouring a bit of oil into your pan. I am using very little (maybe a tablespoon) as I’m using a non-stick wok.
Add in 2 cloves of squeezed or minced garlic. Let this flavor the oil for a minute. Then add your chicken.
Stir this around quickly. Two large or bamboo spoons work great as you can really toss stuff with them.
When the chicken is beginning to brown (2 or so minutes), add in the rest of your veggies.
It helps in your wok to push the chicken up the sides of the pan (where it’s cooler). This allows more hot surface area for your veggies to cook.
Stir fry this all around for about 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables reach your desired tenderness. I prefer mine with a bit of a snap to them. Then pour your sauce over top.
Toss things up a bit and let them cook 30 seconds or so.
Then add your basil. I am using Thai basil from my local Asian market.
I am also growing some in my garden.
Home Depot actually had these plants for sale and I was super excited. Thai basil has a distinctive flavor to it, almost like a combination of regular basil and mint. Some think it has an anise flavor. I just know I love it.
You can use regular basil, as I know this will be hard to find.
Tear the leaves off the stem and toss them into the wok or pan just before serving, and stir it all in really well. The basil will add a distinctive flavor to the sauce and cover the entire dish in loveliness.
Serve this up with some jasmine rice or just eat it without. The sauce is really delicious drizzled over the rice tho.
It’s spicy. It’s sweet. It’s salty.
And best of all, it’s healthy!
What else could you ask for?
P.S. If you’re very observant, you’ll notice my cheater chopsticks in the photos above. I’m all about admitting when I can’t master something so I just put them in the picture.
- 1 T. canola or vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 large chicken breasts. sliced think
- 1 red bell pepper, slice thin
- 2-3 red Thai chilies, or 1 jalepeno, sliced thin
- 1 package Cremini mushrooms, sliced
- ½ large onion,sliced thin
- ⅓ c. oyster sauce
- ⅓ c. soy sauce
- 2 T. fish sauce
- 2-3 T. brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ t. red pepper flakes
- 12-20 leaves Thai or regular basil
- Have all chicken and vegetable ingredients prepped and by very hot wok. Mix sauce ingredients together and have next to wok also. Add one tablespoon of canola oil to wok and let get hot. Add in garlic for 30 seconds then add chicken. Stir until chicken browns (2-3 minutes), then add other veggies. Stir an additional 2-3 minutes and then add sauce. Stir fry 30 seconds and add basil. Stir fry 30 seconds and remove to platter or bowls.