Thai it, you’ll like it! Thai Basil Chicken

Published April 3, 2013 by jenmatteson

When I lived in lowertown St. Paul, I had an abundance of options for food (if I wasn’t in the mood for cooking, of course).  Not only that, but most of them would deliver.  Score!  Now that I live out in the ‘burbs, our delivery is limited to Chinese or pizza 😦  One of my favorite places to get take out from was Sawatdee.  I fell in love with this Thai place after the first time a friend of mine brought me there.  I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing, and it was just up the block from me!  One of the best things about it is was you could order anything on the menu, with a pepper number (1-5, 1 being very little heat, 5 being insane hot).  So for example, I’d get the vegetable curry fried rice, with four peppers.  It always seemed to depend on who the chef was, as sometimes a 4 pepper was too hot for me, and sometimes it was perfect.  Since they had such huge portions, I ordered most stuff a 3 pepper so Nate and I could share whatever we got.

Thai Basil Chicken

One of my favorite dishes that Nate ordered was Thai basil chicken.  I love basil, but it didn’t really appeal to me on the menu.  I think of basil and I think of only one flavor.  I don’t at all think to pair it with spice.  Until I tried that dish.  It was out-of-this-world flavorful and amazing!  Which is exactly why I saved this recipe as soon as I saw it.

One ingredient I will never understand is fish sauce.  That stuff smells so disgusting, its terrifying putting in dishes because you are afraid to ruin it.  However, while it smells like nasty dead fish that have been sitting in the sun for the last week, it actually adds a delicious rich flavor to dishes.  It’s pretty much a staple for Thai cooking.  One thing I just learned is that the longer the fish sauce ferments, the less horrible smell it has.  This means it’s not a bad idea to invest in something a little more pricey – assuming it’s been fermented longer (which is usually the case).  Now I know for next time!

I had some leftover basil in my fridge that I wanted to use up (though it wasn’t Thai basil), and everything else is definitely a staple in my kitchen, so I didn’t even have to go out of my way to make this.  The result was just as good as the take out, with the benefit of knowing exactly what went in it.  I’d likely use Thai chilies instead of Serrano chilies, but I still had two left from making coconut lime chicken with chilies from a few nights ago.  I cannot wait to have this again very soon!

Thai Basil Chicken

Thai Basil Chicken

Source: Adapted from Cooking by Moonlight
Servings: 4


olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 Serrano chili, chopped finely (seeded for less heat)
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced (about 1″)
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 cup basmati rice, cooked


1. In a large skillet or wok, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, shallot, Serrano chili and red bell pepper.  Saute until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Add chicken and saute until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar.  Stir and let simmer until sauce begins to thicken, 10-15 minutes.  The longer you simmer, the thicker the sauce.  Once the sauce reached desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in basil.  Serve over rice.

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