My Thai Love Affair

Thai cooking class: shrimp curry (top right), green papaya salad (bottom right), tofu pad thai (left)

I think I’m currently having a love affair with Thai food.  The salty funk of the fish sauce, the zing of the bird’s eye chilies, the sweetness of the Thai basil, the ease with which I’ve made these first recipes, and how healthy I feel eating all of it!

I’ve been enjoying dining at Thai restaurants for many years now, progressively trying more foods and higher spice levels.  Recently though, I had the opportunity to take a cooking class featuring common Thai dishes like pad thai, spring rolls, and green papaya salad.  Once I realized how easy it was, and how available many of the ingredients are at my local grocery store, with a side trip to the local international (primarily Thai/Asian) food mart, I found an easy recipe for Thai basil chicken online.  I’ve also eaten something similar at my local Thai restaurant called Mother-in-Law Chicken.

Thai cooking class: the class (top), lime coconut sorbet (bottom right), a little taste of everything (bottom left)

If you want a quick, easy, and really flavorful dinner, look no farther!  Most ingredients are available at a regular grocery store (or can be easily substituted), you can adjust the spiciness level to your liking (I personally like it really spicy), it cooks up really quickly (depending on how quick your prep game is, this can be done in 15-20 minutes), and is amazing as leftovers!

The recipe below is my version of the original Thai basil chicken recipe I found.  I have been serving it with a little rice, although I’m thinking about serving it with large cut steamed cabbage in the future as I’ve found that I really liked that when I last had the Mother-in-Law chicken at my local Thai restaurant, it was served with a side of steamed vegetables.  I can see this being great in lettuce wraps also.

Feel free to play around with the level of spiciness and level of fishy funk.  This recipe calls for both fish sauce and oyster sauce and I’ve found they both have a fishy taste.  If that is a bit much on the fishy funky side for you, I might substitute hoisin or stir fry sauce for the oyster sauce as these won’t have the fishy taste but still have the thickness of the oyster sauce.  I would decrease the sugar a bit though if using Hoisin. Another substitution would be to keep the oyster sauce since it’s a milder fishy taste and substitute more soy sauce/coconut aminos* for the fish sauce.  Don’t have Thai basil at your grocery?  You can easily sub regular basil although it will have a slightly different taste; Thai basil is a bit sweeter.  Don’t have Thai chilies?  Sub any other fresh chili you have access to, although the heat and taste profile will be different.  In a pinch red chili flakes would work too.

Coconut aminos – low sodium alternative to soy sauce

Below is the recipe I used, along with my notes.  Please share your experience with making Thai dishes, would love to know what ended up being successful for you!

*A note on coconut aminos – you should be able to find this at the regular grocery store and is a GREAT low sodium, no soy, substitute for soy sauce. It’s lower sodium than even low sodium soy sauce or tamari; the brand I use has only 90 mg/tsp sodium, compare that with 192 mg/tsp of a popular low sodium soy sauce.

Thai Basil Chicken

Easy, quick, and flavorful!

Inspired By: Host the Toast

Ingredients

2 Tbsp oyster sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos

2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp sugar

1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil (needs to be able to withstand high heat)

8 oz green beans

1 lb ground chicken

3 shallots sliced or diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 minced Thai chilies, or to taste (3 ended up being ~Hot on the spice level)

1 cup Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped (can substitute regular basil although it will have a slightly different flavor)

Directions

1.     Whisk the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar until well combined.  Set aside

2.     Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat.

3.     Add ground chicken and stir fry until starting to cook/brown, about 2-3 minutes.

4.     Add green beans and stir fry 1-2 minutes.

5.     Add shallots, garlic, and Thai chilies and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.

6.     Add prepared sauce and continue to cook until the sauce begins to glaze the meat, about 1-2 minutes.

7.     Add the Thai basil leaves and cook until wilted, the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

8.     Serve with rice, lettuce, or steamed vegetables and enjoy!

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