Chili Chicken with Basil in Coconut Cream

Variations of this popular recipe abound on the Internet. Here is my version of this delicious and easy to cook Thai dish.

You can use fresh Thai chilis—very hot!!!—which I prefer, or if you can't find them you can substitute fresh serranos, jalapeños or other small hot chili peppers. Other substitutes include crushed red pepper flakes—try to find a product made in Thailand—or use a chili sauce such as Sriracha or sambal oelek (although the texture and appearance won't be the same). You are encouraged to adjust the amount of chili to make the recipe as spicy or as mild as you like.

I prefer to use Thai holy basil leaves (bai krapow) with their subtle liccorice taste and redish-purplish tinged leaves. However you can substute ordinary sweet basil commonly available in supermarkets. The result won't be as authentic but it will still be good.

I sometimes vary which onions I use, sometimes mixing red onions and shallots. Use what you like or what you have. The fish sauce (nam pla) is necessary so buy it on the Internet if you can't find it in local stores. The shrimp paste is the most optional ingredient. Leave it out if you can't find it. If you cannot find canned coconut cream you should use coconut milk which is thinner, so use less or it will be too soupy. As always, the measurements are not critical and you can adjust them to suit your taste. The amounts below are approprate for about 3-4 servings. Let's start:

1 lb. skinless boneless chicken, cut up in bite sized pieces
2 T. oil for sauté
1 red onion, finely chopped (or brown onion, shallots, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 T. Thai chilis, finely chopped (or other hot chilis, or crushed red pepper flakes)
2 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
1-2 t. shrimp paste (optional, use it if you have it)
2-3 t. palm sugar (or substitute ordinary sugar)
¼ C. cilantro leaves (coriander leaves, packed measure)
1 C. canned coconut cream (approximate measure)
1 C. holy basil leaves, or sweet basil leaves (packed measure)

1. Preheat wok or skillet over medium heat and then add a small amount of oil. When the oil is heated add the onion and garlic then sauté them briefly. After about a half minute add the Thai chilis and sauté for another minute or two until the garlic and shallots are lightly browned.

2. Add the chicken then toss the mixture as it cooks so that it cooks evenly. Add the fish sauce, shrimp paste and sugar as you cook, mixing thoroughly. Add the cilantro leaves near the end of this step. When the meat is lightly browned—3 to 5 minutes—proceed to the next step.

3. Add some coconut cream and continue cooking. Use your judgement as you add more coconut until the mixture has the right thickness. Don't add too much because it shouldn't be soupy. You are finished when the coconut is hot enough to serve.

4. Turn off the heat, remove the wok from the stove, add the basil leaves and stir, then serve.

Suggestion: Serve over steamed Thai jasmine rice or other white rice.

Credit: My own improvisation with no guarantee as to authenticity.

Filed under Poultry   Tagged Thai, chicken, stir fried, dinner