This is the dish I cook when I want to impress. It’s also what I cook for my husband when I
(need something from him) want to cheer him up. It’s got a lot going for it – tons of umami, a hit of spice, a touch of sweetness, and heaps and heaps of basil.
It’s a very bastardized version of pad ka prao, or Thai holy basil chicken. Aside from the fact that I use regular sweet basil in place of holy basil, this recipe is very inauthentic in a few key ways: I use red chili flakes in place of fresh thai chilies, I brown the onion paste quite a bit more than is considered acceptable, and I throw in quite a lot of garlic. But where this recipe lacks authenticity, it wins with huge punches of flavor. I dare you not to fall in love.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 12 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoons red chili flakes (or to taste)
- 1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (more if needed)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1½ cups basil leaves, packed
- Place the onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. Alternatively, pound together using a mortar and pestel to make a coarse paste.
- In a wok or large skillet, heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the paste to it and fry until till browned.
- In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and oyster sauce and set aside.
- Add the chicken to the skillet and break it up with a spatula into small pieces.
- Add the sauce and and chili flakes and stir well to incorporate.
- Once the meat is cooked through, check the amount of liquid in the skillet. If it’s too dry, add a little bit of water.
- Add the basil leaves to the mixture and give it it a quick stir before turning off the heat (you don't want to heat the basil for too long to preserve its fresh flavor).
(Thanks to my brother-in-law, Manuk, who made sure he took tons of great pictures of the food before we demolished it!)