Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spicy Thai Chicken with Basil (Gai Kra Prow)

As much as I love Thai food, and as much as I love to cook, it sometimes strikes me as odd that my experiences eating this delicious cuisine have been largely limited to the restaurant setting. But it seems that every time I have tried to recreate my favorite Thai dishes at home, it always tastes like something is missing. Besides that, I once inadvertently added so much green curry paste to a dish that I had to choke down small bites of it while tears streamed down my face. I think I emptied about half a box of Kleenex, and needless to say, that experience cooled me off from Thai cooking for a while!

But sometimes I can't help but wish that I could make these things at home. My favorite Thai dish to order at my most frequent haunt is Gai Kra Prow (or Gai Kra Pow, the English spelling varies): A chicken stir-fry with Thai basil and vegetables. The specific version I adore involves slices of chicken breast, bell peppers, onions, and straw mushrooms (which I knew I would have to leave out if I ever had the guts to make it at home because of Paul's allergy).

None of the recipes I found online for this dish exactly resembled the version I'm obsessed with. Many called for ground meat or left out the whole vegetable thing. So I put my thinking cap on and pieced together several different recipes, coming up with the first Thai dish I have made that came out close to perfect. Of course I have to share. I took a shortcut by using Vietnamese Chili Garlic sauce in lieu of fresh Thai chilis, which I didn't find in the stores at this time. I also used some sweet soy sauce I picked up in an Asian grocery store.

What do all of these ingredients together equate? A fantastic balance of sweet, savory, salty, and spicy flavors.

1 lb. chicken breast, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 T. chili garlic sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 both red and green bell pepper, cut into cubes
1/2 a yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 T. sweet soy sauce
1 T. oyster sauce
1 T. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
2 T. water

2 handfuls Thai basil

Whisk together sauce ingredients. Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat. Add in garlic, chili garlic sauce, and chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Add in the bell pepper and onion; cook another 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add sauce and stir fry another minute. Throw in the basil leaves and stir fry until they are wilted. Serve over jasmine rice.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Stacy, Like you, I rely on favorite Thai restaurants to get my fix of green curries or Pla Lard Prik---I have never been able to successfully recreate the flavors at home. So glad that you have shared your success--the recipe looks great (fish sauce, I'm sure, is key.)

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  2. Kra Prow is a very traditional Thai dish, eaten all over Thailand, so there is not one definitive recipe. I was shown this one by my lovely old Thai landlady when I lived in Koh Phi Phi.

    Firstly chilli sauce is not a good substitute for fresh birds eye (Thai) chillis. If you can't get hold of them use a habenero instead, or else use a standard mild chili and add some chili flakes to increase the heat!

    Mix the sauce ingredients together (use 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp palm sugar, thinly sliced chilis and 3-4 crushed and diced cloves of garlic) and add the sliced chicken to marinate. Leave for 10 minutes or so and then add the chicken with a little of the marinade to a hot wok with a tbsp of nut oil. Once the chicken is cooked remove from the wok and add back to the marinade (trust me on this!)
    Add a little water to deglaze the wok and then your veg (anything you like!). After a couple of minutes put the cooked chicken back in along with all the marinade and cook for a minute or two. Turn off the heat and then add the Thai basil and stir until it wilts. Serve with Jasmine rice and some Prik Nam Pla (sliced birds eye chili in fish sauce) on the side for extra spiciness.

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