STIRFRIED PORK WITH SPICY HOLY BASIL, CHILLIE AND GARLIC
Thai Name: Phad Bai Grapow Muu Sap (literally: Stirfried Spicy Holy Basil with Minced Pork)
You can see a video on how to make this dish on www.YouTube.com under the cheftummycooks page. It features a discussion of the cooking technique and the unique Thai ingredients that give this dish its flavor and aroma.
This is a favorite “anytime of the day” dish that gives a spicy punch. The original recipe calls for a paste made from spicy Thai bird’s eye chillies and tiny Thai garlic. A unique type of basil known as”holy basil” or bai grapow is added at the end of the cooking process to give flavor, aroma and color.
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 the recipe from Mister Diim at the Sailomjoy Restaurant in Chiang Mai. I ate it over 45 times ( I was attending Thai language school near the restaurant and this dish helped fortify me for my daily inquisition by the stern Professor Malee at the language )!
A NOTE ABOUT INGREDIENTS
Thai food depends unique ingredients used to give this type of traditional dish a spicy and aromatic note – in this case it is the Thai bird’s eye chillies, the tiny Thai garlic and the holy basil. If these are not available in your area, you can use other types of spicy chillies, the larger Western garlic and sweet basil – the dish still tastes great.
Metric System Users: Some Thai recipes use small quantities of ingredients that are difficult to measure if the cook doesn’t have an accurate measuring scale in the kitchen. So, we use measuring spoons to approximate the quantity of ingredients in the recipe. Remember that 1 Imperial teaspoon is the same as the amount in a 5 ml measuring spoon and 1 Imperial tablespoon is the same amount in a 15 ml measuring spoon. Thai cooking should be a balance between the spicy, salty, sweet and sour flavors in the ingredients. This type of volume (versus weight in grams or ounces) measuring gives the cook in a home kitchen enough accuracy in measuring the ingredients (especially since most home cooks do not own a digital scale with the precision to measure small gram units). Most cooks will change these traditional recipes to suit their own taste as they experiment and create Thai food at home.
- 1.5 cups / 400 grams minced pork. I recommend a mixture of 20% fat with 80% meat – the fat helps convey the flavor of the pork. Some butchers or stores call this ratio for fat to meat “20% lean”.
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml garlic, roughly chopped or pounded in a mortar
- 1 tablespoon chillie / 15 ml (preferably the small but potent bird’s eye chillie), stem removed and pounded in a mortar - I used three medium bird’s eye chillies
- 1 cup holy basil leaves (these have a serrated edge and a matte finish so look different than the sweet basil used in Western cooking that has a smooth leaf edge and shiny leaf)
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml water or chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon / 30 ml oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml of white cane sugar (optional if the chillie heat is excessive to your taste, the addition of sugar will lessen the spice)
A Note to the Chef About Garlic
Most Thai chefs prefer to use the small garlic cloves 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.
Thai chefs will pound the small “Thai” garlic and chillies in a mortar until they are roughly ground together, then scrape out the mixture and add it to the hot oil in the wok.
- measuring cup for the pork and basil leaves
- measuring spoons for the oyster sauce, water / chicken stock and fish sauce
- mortar & pestle for pounding the chillies and garlic
- spoon for scaping the inside of the mortar
- ladle for stirfrying
- serving bowl
- spoon and fork for eating
COOKING METHOD: STEP BY STEP
- Smash the chillies and the garlic in a mortar to make a rough paste. The goal is to have the spice in the seeds of the chillie evenly dispersed in the final dish. As you pound, you can use a spoon to scrape the bits of chillie and garlic into the center and continue to pound until you get a rough paste.
- If you do not have a mortar, you could chop the chillies and garlic and mix together before cooking. In the video I made posted on www.Youtube.com, I did not have a mortar in the kitchen where I was filming. So, I put the chillies and garlic in a bag and whacked them with a hammer. The result is the same – when we face obstacles in the kitchen we must adapt and overcome.
- Turn on the heat under a wok to medium high and let the pan heat for about 30 seconds.
- Add the vegetable oil and swirl in the wok to coat the inside. Let the oil warm up about 30 seconds.
- Add the smashed garlic and chillie to the hot wok and stirfry for 30 seconds until the garlic starts to brown slightly.
- Add the pork and mix the pork and garlic & chillie in the pan to evenly distribute the garlic and chillie through the pork. Continue stirfrying, making sure to frequently flip the pork so it all comes in contact with the hot wok surface. Cook the pork until it turns from pink to a uniform white color. Depending on your stove and the thickness of your wok, this may take 3 to 5 minutes.
- When the pork is nearly cooked, add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and water/chicken stock and stirfry until well mixed and the pork is cooked all the way through.
- Turn off the heat under the pan, dump in the holy basil leaves and stir well to combine. Adding the basil leaf at the end will wilt the leaves and help them retain their color, flavor and aroma.
- Once you are satisfied that the pork is cooked, taste to determine if the mixture is a balance of spicy from the chillies and holy basil, sweet from the oyster sauce and salty from the fish sauce and oyster sauce. You can add a little sugar to temper the chillie heat, to your taste.
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 steamed jasmine rice.
Serves two persons as part of a multi-dish Thai meal