I am a huge fan of anything spicy, but one of my favorite spicy cuisines is Thai food. I love the beautiful colors, layers of textures, and fragrant ingredients. Aromatic ingredients like curry, lemongrass, galangal, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce all lead to a wonderful balance of flavors in their dishes. Every bite of Thai food is an explosion of salty, sweet, spicy, sour and umami flavors. It’s the kind of food I crave I want something bold and spicy!
I first learned how to cook Thai food from a Thai chef when I was in college. She was staying in Los Angeles on a temporary worker visa. I met her on a Mammoth ski trip, but instead of bringing ski clothes, she brought a large cooler full of Thai ingredients! There were sauces, spices, herbs, produce, protein, and homemade stock. She taught me how to make five different dishes that weekend, and everything she made was absolutely delicious. I was so excited during my cooking lessons, I didn’t even take notes! But amazingly all her instructions sank right into my brain and got stored in my long term memory (though I eventually transferred the recipes to paper).
Here is one of the five recipes she shared with me, which is known as Pad Kra Pao Kai in Thai restaurants. It is made with ground chicken and Thai basil and is easy to prepare, but it does require a few ingredients from the Asian market. Her recipe calls for 3-5 chilies, but only I added one in this recipe so my kids won’t burn their tongue. You if like it extra spicy you can add a couple more. Enjoy!
Ground Chicken with Thai Basil
Serving Size: 4
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 heaping tablespoons of chopped garlic (about 5 cloves)
12 ounces of organic ground chicken
1 Thai Bird’s Eye Chili, thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
1/2 cup of red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/2 cup of bamboo shoots, sliced in strips (fresh or canned)*
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (Three Crabs or Red Boat brand)
2-3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of organic sugar
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1/2 cup of chicken stock, cold
1 teaspoon of organic corn starch (Rapunzel brand)
1 1/2 cups of Thai basil leaves
1. Heat a wok on high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, sauté for 10 seconds. Then add the ground chicken all at once. Cook for about three minutes.
2. Add the Thai chili (if using) and red bell peppers and cook for 1 more minute.
3. Add the bamboo shoots and stir fry for 1 more minute.
4. Add the fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and the sweet paprika. Stir to combine. Taste to see if you need the additional tablespoon of oyster sauce.
5. Add the cornstarch to the chicken stock and stir to create a slurry. Add the mixture to the chicken and stir to combine. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.
6. Stir in the Thai basil.
7. Remove from heat. Serve with rice and one egg, sunny side up.
*Sometimes you can find the fresh bamboo shoots in the produce section. The canned version comes sliced in strips. If you’re using the one from the can, make sure you blanch the bamboo shoots. Boil in water for one minute then shock in ice water. Drain and set aside until ready to use.