Spicy Chicken with Basil (Gai Pad Krapow)

I love Thai food. I love America’s Test Kitchen. I also love eating fabulous food with the people I love. So when my sister Erica came through town for a brief visit the other week, I chained her to the kitchen and cried “cook for your loved ones!” (Me being the loved one in this equation)

Yöst kiddink.

The real story goes like this: I went shopping on the Magnificent Mile with Erica during the day and bought two cute tops, a pair of shorts and a cardigan. Obviously, then I felt too guilty to spend even more money doing the Thai take-out we had planned for that evening, so instead I burst open the doors to my kitchen and shouted “We shall cook off our guilt!”

Of course, the guilt was all mine since Erica didn’t buy anything, and my kitchen doesn’t have doors–but that was the emotional reality of what happened.

I was expecting this dish to burn a hole in my tongue since it calls for no less than 10 chilies, but since we removed the seeds from all of them, the final dish had very little spice–a mere tickle on the palate. Next time I would definitely leave the seeds from one or two chilies in the mix. The flavors are classic Thai, and it’s really very simple to make, so give it a go! Just plug your nose when the fish sauce first hits the pan, and you’ll be fine.


(Serves 5)

10 jalapeño peppers
10 cloves garlic
6 shallots
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 lbs ground chicken
3 TBS vegetable oil
3 cups packed Thai or regular fresh basil leaves
3 TBS lime juice

First we’re going to remove the seeds from some or all of the jalapeño peppers.

For this to happen, you need to identify the location of a younger sibling. Hey! Get off the phone and de-seed those chilies!

I love it when bossing my sister actually works.

She used to follow my direction with unquestioning trust when she was a wee thing. Then she hit grade school and . . . well, that was the end of that.

As I mentioned above, removing the seeds from all of them will produce a pretty non-spicy dish, so if you want some spice, leave some seeds in. Toss the chilies in a food processor or blender as you go. Also, either wear gloves during this part or wash your hands very carefully, because my sister had multiple chilied-up-finger-in-eye ‘situations’ that caused her much pain throughout the evening.

De-skin the garlic . . .

. . . and add it to the blender with the chilies.

Take the skins off the shallots and toss those in, too.

Process the chilies, garlic, and shallots until they form a coarse paste.

And now for the quick sauce: whisk together the fish sauce and chicken broth . . .

. . . sugar . . .

. . . and cornstarch.

Set aside.

Watch out, because things are about to get a little freako. Okay, maybe a lot freako for some of you. Put the ground chicken in a small bowl . . .

. . . grab a fork and schmush it about until all the ‘strands’ are gone and it has become a uniform paste.

Grossiola now–but deliciousiola later. Don’t become a vegetarian yet! It will all look better soon.

Almost done with the prep! Get your sister to squeeze a lime or two into a small bowl.

Yes, it’s very important that a younger sibling do this part. If not, the recipe won’t come out quite right, you see.

And finally–get the basil leaves ready.

Unfortunately, my basil had gotten quite ugly. And dark. And slimy.

It was only 2 days old, people! Me and Mr. Dominicks will have to have a “chat.”

Thankfully my sister brought a basil plant with her, and graciously share its abundance with  me.

Thanks, babes. I repent of all my bossing.

Now it’s time to cook! Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. When shimmering, add the chili/garlic/shallot mixture . . .

. . . and cook for about 5 minutes or until the moisture evaporates, stirring so that it doesn’t burn (especially near the end).

Turn the heat down to medium and add the chicken:

Cook for about 7 minutes, breaking it up with a spatula and mixing it with the paste, until it’s no longer pink. Still a little pink in there . . .

Once the chicken ain’t s’dang pink, we’re almost done. Sprinkle the basil leaves over the chicken.

Briefly whisk the fish sauce mixture to recombine the ingredients and pour it into the pan, over the basil leaves and chicken.

Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened.

Pour the fresh lime juice over the chicken . . .

. . . give it a quick taste for seasoning (adding salt and pepper if needed), and serve it over rice.

Deliciousiola, just as I hoped! And just as satisfying (or more) than take-out would have been.

Come back, Erica! You make cooking an all-around funner* experience.

*Dear Grammarian Conscience of Mine: I know that ‘funner’ isn’t a word. Aunt Paula taught me that the summer that I was 11 years old. But sometimes, I must follow my heart and rebel.

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18 Responses to Spicy Chicken with Basil (Gai Pad Krapow)

  1. Wow! I love thai food but have never attempted it at home. This recipe looks so delicious and colorful.

  2. But where are the pictures of the cute clothes? I want to shop vicariously!

  3. Veronica says:

    I love it when your posts include pics of your sisters–makes me all happy in my heart. Erica is such a beauty! The dish looks fab–good job girls!

  4. Sherri says:

    You guys make it look so easy!

  5. Sarah R says:

    I think I found what I’m having for dinner tonight. I love the lime juice action shot! What are your feelings about substituting sliced chicken? It just sounds more appetizing, but I’ll believe you if you say the texture is ok. :)

    • Jenna says:

      I think it would be great with chopped chicken. I liked the texture fine (once it was cooked =) but chicken chunks might feel more . . . hearty. Yeah.

  6. Erica says:

    It was so very delish. All must make it! Now!!
    I think my bossing skillz need some improving. Will you write a post about it, Kiddo? “How to Boss People Around”.
    K thanks.

  7. I love Thai food, shopping, cooking with my sister AND America’s Test Kitchen. And my kitchen doesn’t have doors, either, but sometimes it would be good for dramatic effect. Like, here I come with a gorgeous cake full of candles . . .

    I am bookmarking this dish. It looks delicious!

  8. okielicious says:

    Thanks for the tip on the fish paste. :) And how nice to have a sister who brings her own basil plant!

  9. Heidi says:

    Let it be known that Erica really doesn’t need bossing lessons whatsoever.

  10. Tracy says:

    Sounds lovely! I rarely get to eat Thai food because they use a lot of peanuts (which, sadly, I am severely allergic to) so this is going on my list to try!!

  11. ground chicken terrifies me, but we have some ground beef on hand, maybe that would be good in this dish.

    Bringing a basil plant is smart. We brought Bill (our basil plant) with us to the Adirondacks last week because we didn’t have a sitter, otherwise it would’ve died.

  12. Twinky says:

    A better way to store basil is to put the stems into a glass of water and leave it OUTDSIDE the fridge! Basil is very sensitive to cold, and refrigerating it makes it go dark and bad.

    Too bad about the jalapeñno in the eyes… don’t you remember how long ago the neighbor girl Katy and the other neighbor boy Andrew played in his dad’s garden and messed with the jalapeños… and later when Katy rubbed her eyes, trouble!!!! Her dad thought we had sprayed something on the swingset and the spray had hurt her…. Bzzzzt! It was her own sneeky fault!

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