My first experience with Thai basil was at a now defunct Asian fusion restaurant off of independence boulevard in Charlotte. My boss took me one evening and recommended the Thai basil fish. It was amazing (so sad the restaurant is gone) and I was planting Thai basil in the garden the next year. This is by far my favorite Asian dish as it is packed with flavor and heat. The fact that it can be ready in no time is a plus as well.
After years of growing Thai basil I began to see the phrase 'holy Thai basil' in recipes. "What", I said, "I though the delicious flavor of my basil WAS holy!" But alas, I was wrong. There are actually two versions of the tasty herb. About 3 years ago I finally found the plants for sale at our local farmers market. Celtic Frost is a local grower with tons of unique plants and herbs for both culinary and medicinal uses.
I grow the both every year now; actually they are re-seeding themselves quite well. Mid summer the basil feasts begin as I use the herbs in both this dish and making fresh pesto to freeze for winter.
What's the difference you ask? Since I'm not a herbalist by any means... here is some information from Wikipedia.
Here is Kerry out harvesting the basil for tonight's meal. It takes a lot so we have several plants to harvest from so we don't take too much. All the flavors in Thai basil dishes are bold so even though it seems like 2 cups per person would be too much it's a perfect compliment in my book. Plus, it's kinda like spinach... you start with a giant bowl, but once it cooks a bit you're left with almost nothing.
"Stay Calm and Keep Cooking" when it comes to the 12 cloves of garlic and the whole chili's with seeds. Once you douse them in super hot oil they mellow. Don't get me wrong, this dish is beyond just spicy and into the hot range, but it's a hot that maintains the flavor instead of blowing it out of the water. If you consider yourself a wimp when it comes to heat, I would halve the peppers to start with.
As I mentioned this recipe is a quick one... once all your ingredients are ready. It moves so fast that this is one of the few recipes where I make sure I have ALL of my ingredients prepared and ready to go.
Picking all the basil leaves off the stems is the longest chore, so I give that one to Kerry (sorry Honey!) You need two cups
Slice your onions. I choose strips for this dish. Cut off the ends of the onion. Set the onion on one of the cut ends and cut it in half. Then cut strips working around each half-moon of the onion.
For the garlic and peppers, I simply through them all into either the small cup on my food processor or use my small food grinder to do a fine chop or dice.
If you don't have a electric method, simply chop them up and mash them in a mortar and pestle.
Chop the chicken thighs into bit sized pieces. The smaller you make them the quicker they will cook in the skillet or wok.
I love the authentic feel of a fried egg with this dish. Plus, if you can handle runny yolks, the smooth richness of the yolk really combines well with the spicy vibrant flavors of Thai Basil Chicken.
I cook two eggs sunny side up and then set them aside to add once the dish is finished.
Next I measure out my sauces. I have one container for the oyster sauce, light soy sauce and 1 Tbsp of the dark soy sauce. In another container I combine the leftover 1 Tbsp of dark soy sauce, the 2 Tbsp of water and the corn starch.
Now we are getting ready to cook. As I said, this is one recipe where I like all the ingredients laid out and ready to go. This dish cooks fast and at high heat... no time for letting it sit for a second while you go and grab something.
I use a large wok for this, but you could just as easily use a large skillet. I will spell out the steps, but I also filmed a video of the preparation so you can see how it goes.
Heat the oil in a wok or large heavy saucepan. You want the oil very hot, but not past it's smoke point.
As soon as you see the first signs of smoke on the oil, add your garlic and pepper mix and fry, stirring vigorously, for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is just showing signs of browning.
Add the onions and stir fry until they are beginning to get translucent at the edges..
Make a well in the middle and add the chicken to the center of the pan and press it down getting as much of the chicken as possible in contact with the pan This will push the onions to the sides which is fine. let the chicken cook for a minute or two and then stir fry it with the onions until the outsides of all the chicken pieces are cooked.
Add the soy and oyster sauces, stirring quickly to coat all the ingredients in the pan. You want to make sure the sauces do not burn sticking to the pan.
Add the water, soy sauce, corn starch mixture. Again stir rapidly as the sauce will thicken quickly.
As soon as the sauce is incorporated add all the basil at once and stir to combine. Keep stirring until all the basil leaves are wilted and dark green.