Thai basil (or Asian basil) has a stronger flavor than our familiar sweet basil. It’s native to Southeast Asia, has subtle a licorice flavor and is more stable under high heat than sweet basil. Thai basil has smaller, narrow leaves, beautiful dark purple stems and an almost pinkish-purple flower. Thai basil can easily be found at Asian markets throughout the US. Grown in the US you can often find it under the name 'Queen of Siam'.
I have a friend in Southern NH who grows herbs for a living. She grows several basil varieties and sells to restaurants in MA, ME and NH. When I am lucky enough to see her she brings me a bunch of her Thai basil. I then whip up this Thai Basil Fried Rice recipe. It’s a quick dish to prepare and gives off a lovely aroma. You can use regular ‘sweet basil’ as a substitute in this recipe, if you must, but the flavor profile will not be the same as if you were to use the Asian version.
Chef Steffani Adaska
2 Tablespoons of canola oil or peanut oil
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 red Thai bird chili, seeded and minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin, then cut into ½” strips
½ cup julienned red bell pepper,
½ cup julienned white onions
½ cup Chinese long beans*, cleaned, cut into 1” pieces
1 cup Thai basil leaves*
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon thick dark soy sauce*
2 teaspoons (regular) soy sauce
4 cups pre-cooked jasmine rice, cooled to room temperature
Heat a wok until very hot (if you don’t have a wok, use heavy bottomed sauté pan). Add oil and heat 30 seconds. Add garlic and chili and stir-fry until the garlic is golden brown.
Add chicken pieces and stir fry until it is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, depending on how thick chicken is. Add long beans and red bell peppers, quickly followed by both soy sauces and oyster sauce.
Once the long beans are almost done, add onion and stir-fry for 30-45 seconds until they are translucent, but slightly firm.
Finally, add the rice and mix together with all of the other ingredients. Once the sauces have been mixed thoroughly with the rice, add the Thai basil and turn off the heat. Give everything one more toss and place on a serving platter.
Serve with nam pla prik (recipe below)
Nam Pla Prik
2 tablespoons Fish sauce*
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
3-6 red Thai bird chilis, sliced or crushed (amount of chili used depends on size of the chilis and how spicy you like it)
· Mix all ingredients in a small ceramic dish.
Chef’s Note: Chinese Long Beans, Thai Basil, Fish sauce and Thick Dark Soy Sauce can be found at Asian markets throughout the US. Nam Pla Prik is a classic Thai condiment found on a Thai table. It is spooned onto everything from fried rice to noodle soups. Tightly sealed and refrigerated, it keeps up to 2 weeks.