Krapow Gai (Thai Basil Chicken)
My favorite Thai restaurant recently got a new delivery guy, and I apparently did something very, very wrong to him in a previous life. Whenever I place a lunch order, 30 minutes later there is always a phone call: “I forgot my ID” [to get into the building], or “I’m downstairs” [when he is still five city blocks away]. And he’s just generally mean. Did you ever see Better Off Dead? He is the newspaper boy reincarnated as a Thai restaurant delivery man, except worse because I’ve prepaid his tip via Seamless.
I realize I’m whining here and there are far bigger issues in the world than this. But, I do have a serious problem: I’ve become addicted to Krapow Gai. I so love the way this restaurant prepares this dish that I have spent months and months trying to reproduce it myself in a sad attempt to avoid encounters with the man who apparently thinks I’m his arch-enemy. This, dear reader, is the result.
I’ve never been to Thailand so I claim no authenticity here—in fact I’m sure it’s a bit off since most recipes I’ve tracked down do not have green beans, which I sneak in so that we’ve got some green veggies in the meal. (N.B. Obviously this is a difference from the recipe I’m trying to emulate; my restaurant does add a few slices of bell pepper into their version.) Whatever—fish sauce plus fried eggs equals umami deliciousness and Willa and Phoebe eat bowlfuls of this, green beans and all. I’m not kidding: they had leftovers for second breakfast the other day. And I occasionally get to bring in leftovers to work too. Who’s laughing now, delivery guy?
- 2-1/2 cups cooked Jasmine rice (1 cup dry rice)
- 1-1/2 Tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
- 1 small onion, small dice
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2-4 Thai chilies, or 1 Serrano chili, or 1/2 jalapeño, minced
- 1-1/2 pounds skinless/boneless chicken thighs, roughly chopped in food processor
- 2-1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 3/4" pieces
- 1 c. (around 1 oz.) packed Thai basil (regular sweet basil works okay too), chopped
- 1 Tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
- 4 eggs
- Cook the rice according to package instructions.
- While the rice is cooking, heat the oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan (or wok or skillet) until it just starts to smoke.
- Quickly add the onion, garlic, and chili peppers and stir. After a minute or so add the chopped chicken and continue stirring.
- When the chicken is mostly broken up and is no longer visibly raw, add the fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and green beans. Continue stirring and allow the mix to come back up to high heat, cooking for a few additional minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through.
- Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Once mixed you can cover and set aside.
- In a large non stick pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over high heat. Crack your four eggs into a shallow bowl, then gently slide them into the pan. Officially, you're trying to make an over easy egg that at the same time has browned and crispy edges. In real life, your stove (and mine) is probably not capable of pulling that off very well, so just a regular over-easy egg will do.
- Serve the chicken over the cooked rice, with the egg on top.
- Prior to chopping the chicken in the food processor, dry the pieces with paper towels. Dry chicken will cook faster and make the dish less soupy. Using the food processor, pulse 10 to 15 times until the chicken is evenly chopped. You don't want it to be finely ground but you do want pretty small pieces. Think of how much you might chop the chicken by hand before you'd finally say "screw it".
- With this amount of chicken, you probably don't have a pan big enough and a stove hot enough to cook this dish entirely properly—you'll have a better, more caramelized result if you cut this recipe in half. But, we're cooking for four and we're not doing it twice, this is how we wing it.
- For the kids' portions, I usually scoop out some of the stir-fried chicken to a separate bowl, add a fried egg on top of that, then scramble it all together. This ensures that every bit contains that fried-runny egg umami that only a fried-runny egg can deliver. If you are only cooking for two adults and two kids you probably will only need 3 eggs total.
- Go ahead and add a little Sriracha at the table.
July 14, 2015
Okay, I did it and it’s great! Yay!! (This kitchen experiment was delayed 2 weeks because I didn’t realize oyster sauce and fish sauce are different). Prep-time: 1 small child’s nap time and running down the block and stealing basil from my neighbor’s garden who is at work right now.
July 14, 2015
That’s great, so glad you liked it! I’ll try to remember to add herb thievery time into the total prep from now on!
June 30, 2015
This looks fabulous, and I’m not even a fried egg fan. Great story.
June 30, 2015
The egg is totally optional, Tom! Or you can chop it/hide it in the chicken like I do for the kids, maybe you won’t be able to tell. ;-)
June 25, 2015
This post sent me searching for New York’s best Thai grocery store! (http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/04/where-to-buy-thai-ingredients-in-new-york-cit.html)
June 25, 2015
Oooh, nice, great resource! When I’m trying to do everything totally legit I usually go to Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Market—they tend to carry the proper chilies and basil as well. But I’ve been getting the pantry items mainly at Whole Foods.
June 23, 2015
can you get thai chiles and thai basil at whole foods or do you go to a specialty market?
June 23, 2015
I’ve seen the chilies at Whole Foods pretty regularly. Willa and Phoebe are still wary of hot peppers so I usually go with the Serrano or jalapeño here, since they are little more mild. I occasionally see the basil at Whole Foods too, but when it’s not there I just go with your run-of-the-mill sweet basil. It’s definitely a different taste but the girls still like it, which is the only goal I’m shooting for, really!