The Holy Thai Food made with Thai Holy Basil – I reckon this is one of the favorite dishes made and eaten in Thailand. With pleasure and pride, I can say I have made it over one hundred times at home, taught Thai cooking class students to make it more than three hundred times (and it was very popular) and eaten it hundreds of times in restaurants. The combination of the fatty pork, the bite of the chilies and garlic with the salty and savory oyster sauce, plus a fried egg, is a short road to a happy mouth.
THAI RECIPE: THAI MINCED PORK STIR FRIED WITH HOLY BASIL, CHILI, GARLIC & OYSTER SAUCE
Thai Name: Phad Bai Grapow Muu Sap (literally: Stir Fried Spicy Basil with Minced Pork)
This is a favorite “anytime of the day” dish that gives a spicy punch. It uses fresh chilies for spice as well as the spicy Thai “Holy basil” known as bai grapow. The key technique is to add the spicy basil at the end of the cooking process to retain its flavor, aroma and color.
I learned this recipe from Mister Diim at the Sailomjoy Restaurant in Chiang Mai and ate it over 45 times at his restaurant ( I was attending Thai language school near the restaurant and this dish helped fortify me for my daily inquisition by the stern Professor Malee)!
- 1 cup / 250 grams minced pork (a blend of 80% pork meat and 20% fat gives the best flavor)
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili, stem removed and smashed to expose the seeds (preferably the small but potent Thai bird’s eye chili)
- ½ cup spicy holy basil leaves (if you cannot find the holy basil variety, try substituting sweet basil or Italian basil)
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml of white cane sugar (optional if the chili heat is excessive to your taste)
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml chicken stock or water (optional – I have this on hand if the contents in the wok look too dry)
Holy Basil – What is it?
Holy Basil has matte color leaves that are light green with a jagged edge. It is called “holy” basil as it has religious significance in some Hindu ceremonies. The leaf has a spicy, anise-like flavor and distinctive aroma. To preserve its flavor and aroma, the basil is added to any stir fry after the food has been cooked and the heat is turned off under the cooking pan.
Tiny Thai Garlic: Sometimes, you might see tiny garlic cloves in your Thai food. Most Thai chefs prefer to use the small garlic cloves we called “Thai garlic” since the tiny, gossamer peel imparts a lovely aroma to the dish. If you do not have access to these small garlic cloves, the larger “Chinese” or “European” garlic can be used. Either way, addition of some of the peel from the garlic is preferred to impart aroma. You can alert your guests that the inclusion of the peel in the cooked dish is traditional; your guests can pick out the peel or deftly move the peel to the side of their plate if they don’t want to chomp on it. Alternatively, you can remove it yourself after cooking the dish and before serving.
Thai chefs will pound the small “Thai” garlic and chilies in a mortar until they are roughly ground together, then scrape out the mixture and add it to the hot oil in the wok.
1. Turn on the heat under a wok to medium and let the pan heat for about 30 seconds. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl in the pan to out the inside.
2. Add the smashed garlic and chili to the hot wok and stir fry for 15 seconds until the garlic starts to brown slightly.
3. Add the pork and mix the pork and garlic & chili, stir frying about 30 seconds. Add the oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir fry until well mixed and the pork is cooked all the way through. Once you are satisfied that the pork is cooked, taste to determine if the mixture is a balance of spicy, sweet from the oyster sauce and salty from the fish sauce and oyster sauce. You can add a little sugar to temper the chili heat, to your taste.
4. Turn off the heat under the pan, dump in the basil leaves and stir well to combine.
Note: We add the basil leaves at the end of the cooking process to retain their flavor and color.
Variation: One traditional presentation is to add a fried egg on the side.
Variation: Some chefs use a prepared, bottled Mushroom sauce instead oyster sauce to impart a savory flavor.
The dish is served with boiled jasmine rice.
Serves two persons as part of a multi-dish Thai meal