Of all the versions of the Thai dish Pad Kaprao (something stir-fried with Basil), my favorite is Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao. It’s one of the dishes I cook the most for myself (and Kasma) at home. People often think of Thai food as being a lot of work: well, this dish is relatively easy, especially considering how very delicious it is.
As mentioned in my blog on Basil Salmon, almost anything can be pad kaprao – stir-fried (pad) with holy basil (kaprao). You can make it with shrimp, chicken, fish, duck, squid – almost anything you can think of.
Ground pork seems to blend particularly well with the ingredients of the dish – the holy basil, fish sauce, garlic, black soy sauce and chillies. Often in Thailand you find this as a one-dish meal basil pork served with a Thai-style fried egg (fried in lots of oil until it’s crispy on the edges) served directly over rice.
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I first took Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series in 1992. I had never cooked Thai food before or used a wok. One of the recipes in the second (of 4) classes in the series is Basil Chicken. When Kasma was cooking it and explaining what she was doing, it seemed so very easy. The first time I cooked it for myself at home, though, things sure happened fast! After I had cooked it a half-dozen times or so, it felt just as leisurely and easy a process as Kasma had made it look. (See my article on Learning to Cook Thai.)
The way I cook the dish is a variaton on Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Kaprao) recipe. Her recipe calls for three ingredients that I leave out: shallots, kaffir lime leaves (optional) and white pepper, though I’ll sometimes put in the pepper.
It’s really very simple to cook:
- Heat oil (I prefer lard) in a wok until it smokes.
- Add chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds, add in the Thai chillies (in thin rounds)
- After a short time, add in the ground pork
- When the pork has partially browned, season with black-soy sauce & fish sauce, to taste
- When the pork is nearly done, add in the holy basil and cook until wilted
You can check Kasma’s Basil Chicken recipe to get an idea of quantities.
This is one dish that I like very, very hot. She calls for 12-20 Thai chillies (prik kee noo) in thin rounds for a pound of meat: I’ll add up to 25 so that the dish will sizzle in the mouth. I’ll also add more holy basil leaves – I don’t always measure, I usually add an entire bunch. It’s hard to imagine this dish with too much holy basil.
I suggest you give it a try. For me, it’s one of those dishes that I get to craving and just have to make. Do serve over rice – they really compliment each other. And do make sure you use holy basil rather than Thai basil – it makes a big difference n this dish.
Check out Kasma’s Thai recipes for more delicious dishes.
Written by Michael Babcock, January 2012.