Thai Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapao) is deliciously spicy and aromatic chicken served atop light lettuce wedges or wraps.
This is an old favorite of mine, which is ever so simple to prepare. It is kind of a love child recipe based on different Thai basil chicken recipes I have used and enjoyed, along with that of Kasma-Loha Unchit’s recipe, and a recipe for Thai chili sauce which I have been using for a long time.
This requires a few specialized ingredients, but these can be substituted easily if they are unavailable in your area.
Thai basil is preferred, but you can get by using sweet basil if that’s all you can get. These two herbs are actually different, but the sweet basil can make do.
Thai lime leaves are also preferred, but you can substitute lime zest- the fragrance will not be quite the same but it will be ok. I would avoid adding lime juice for this as it will unbalance the amount of sour in the flavors.
For the Thai chilies I like the red ones, but late in the year I often only find green. Those are ok, if not quite as hot as the red ones. If further still you can’t get Thai chilies, you might substitute with fresh jalapenos, but I would probably go with something like sambal oelek chili paste or sriracha chili sauce if I needed. This is because there is more to peppers than just the heat- they do actually have a certain kind of flavor. On that note, I would avoid using habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, even though they are hot, because the flavor is all wrong.
The other thing is the dark sweet soy sauce which you might be able to approximate by adding molasses or brown sugar to a low-sodium soy sauce. It isn’t quite as salty as regular soy sauce, and the dark is also a little bit thicker.
You can serve this on squares of iceberg lettuce and Boston lettuce is also a good choice. You don’t really need to roll them into a wrap but eat them on the lettuce kind of like a tostada. The iceberg is firmer and easier to pick up and the Boston is easier to fold (like a taco) so the choice is really yours.
Thai Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Krapow)
- 2 tbsp. peanut oil or coconut oil
- 2 tbsp. chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey
- 5 Thai chillies, thinly sliced
- 2 Thai lime leaves, finely minced
- 1 tbsp. dark sweet soy sauce or ketjap manis
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 cup Thai basil
- sliced cucumber
- iceberg lettuce leaves or boston lettuce leaves
Ingredients for Thai chili sauce (nam prik):
- 5-6 Thai chili peppers, sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or garlic paste
- 1 3/4 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Cook ground chicken, onion, garlic, sliced chilis and minced Thai lime leaves in oil until cooked through and crumbled.
- Stir in fish sauce, dark soy sauce and Thai basil; remove from heat.
- Stir together ingredients for nam prik sauce.
- Serve chicken on lettuce leaves along with slices of cucumber which you can dip into the nam prik sauce.
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