Thai Hubby’s favorite mornings as a kiddo were when he’d wake up to the sound of his Yaa (grandma) bok bok-ing garlic and chiles to make Pad Krapaw Gai, Spicy Thai Basil Chicken.
The irresistible smell of garlic and Thai chilies was the one thing that would rouse him from his sweet dream of finally getting to level 12 on the game he’d played the night before at his town’s Internet cafe.
Thai Hubby was an adorable, skinny Thai kiddo with beautiful caramel colored skin, jet black thick hair, almond dark eyes, and cute ears that stuck straight off his head. He was always either riding his rattly bike around the dirt roads Sukhothai, Thailand or playing with his friends at the local Internet cafe, aka his oasis, the one place in town with A/C where he could escape all day from the 110 degree heat.
After waking up, he’d turn off the plugged-in fan that lazily spun all night, almost as if the fan knew its work barely had a chance in the fight against 100 percent humidity. Then he’d roll up his sleeping mat and stack it neatly in the corner next to his grandma’s that she’d already put away an hour before.
He’d poke his round, tan face out of his bedroom and peek at Yaa in the kitchen, which looks nothing like your kitchen. It was outdoor on a cool concrete slab covered with a makeshift plastic roof laid over wooden beams.
She had a gas burner on the ground with a worn, carbon steel wok where she cooked most meals. Glass bottles of Thai soy sauces, fish sauce, oyster sauce and cooking oil sat within close reach of her wok, and nearby sloshed a bucketful of water to wash the dirty spatulas and knives.
Thai Hubby’s Yaa in her updated kitchen in their newer house. Now she doesn’t have to squat to cook!
When she was done bok-boking the garlic and chiles, she added some oil to the wok and once it started to dance with delight she threw in the garlic and chiles, coughing as the powerful scent of the chiles wafted to her nose. Then went the ground meat, fish sauce, black soy sauce, sugar, green long beans, and at the very end, holy basil.
She would put it on a white plastic plate edged with pink flowers, and my Thai Hubby would take the steaming Pad Krapaw Gai (Spicy Thai Basil Chicken) into the house while she fried one over-medium egg for each of them.
Thai Hubby and Yaa would sit on a straw mat on the living room floor and eat their breakfast with a fork and spoon, but they wouldn’t talk, since Thais don’t chat too much while eating.
Instead, Thai Hubby would revel in his breakfast while wiping the sleep from his eyes, and never dream that one day his American wife would make him Spicy Thai Basil Chicken in the mountains of North Carolina at their log cabin home.
If you ask a group of Thais what their favorite food is and was since they were a kid, Stir-Fried Thai Spicy Basil, or Pad Krapaw, will be one of their top favs! It sort of reminds me of Americans’ infatuation with grilled cheese—the dish that represents a simple childhood pleasure, but as an adult it’s easy to make and satisfies that nostalgic hunger for comfort food.
And if you can get your hands on it, use Holy Basil, which is what goes in authentic Pad Krapaw! Um, what’s the difference between Holy Basil and Thai basil? Check it out here!
And don’t forget, my favorite place to hang out online is Instagram, so send me a DM with any questions or to show off your Pad Krapaw!Print
Wanna know the fav Thai dish of most Thais? Spicy Thai Basil Chicken! And no wonder! It’s quick, flavor-packed Thai comfort food that always hits the spot!
- 1 tbsp. cooking oil
- 5 garlic cloves smashed
- 2–15 Thai fresh chilies (depending on your spice tolerance)
- 1.5 pounds of ground chicken (or beef or pork or turkey)
- 1/2 cup green beans chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (optional)
- 2 tbsp. of fish sauce (to taste, more if you like more salt, less if ya don’t)
- 1 tsp. of black soy sauce
- 1 tsp. of sugar
- 1 cup of holy basil leaves and flowers (use sweet basil if you must)
1. Smash the garlic and chilies in your mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, you can mince them.
2. Pick off the leaves and flowers from the basil.
3. Heat the oil in your wok or large pan. Once it’s sizzling and dancing, toss in the garlic and chilies, and stir-fry. Remove it from the heat while stir-frying if it’s starting to burn. Be prepared for the coughing and burning lungs to set in, especially if you like it spicy. Just remind yourself the pain is worth it.
4. Add the meat to the pan and cook until no longer pink. If you are adding the green beans, add them half-way through cooking the meat and stir-fry until they are crisp tender.
5. Add sugar and sauces a bit at a time, to make sure you get the flavor you prefer.
6. Add some water if you think it’s dry. Turn off the heat, and toss in the basil, and stir just until it wilts.
7. Serve with jasmine rice, and if you really want it Thai-style, fry one crispy over easy egg for each person, and put it on top of their serving.
Thai Hubby grew up eating it with green long beans, which Thais say is the country-style way of making it, and a fav way to make it, but not all Spicy Thai Basil Chicken is made that way.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Thai
- Method: Stir-Fry
- Cuisine: Thai
- Serving Size: 3-4