Spicy Thai Basil Chicken

The Thai basil plants in our garden are starting to go crazy, so I thought it high time to find a way to use some. For dinner tonight I did a quick version of one of my Thai recipes, basil chicken. This recipe uses mainly cupboard staples with ingredients that are becoming more common in the international section of our market, mainly the fish sauce and sweet chili sauce. Sweet chili sauce is becomming one of my favorite ingredients---I use it for more than just Thai food. It's a great dipping sauce to be used in place of sweet-and-sour sauce, so it's a great staple to have on hand. For more traditional basil chicken, you would use sweet soy sauce, but I haven't been able to acquire that ingredient so I just used soy sauce and a bit of sugar. Feel free to use sweet soy sauce instead if you have it.

Thai basil is so fragrant. It's more flavorful than even the usual sweet basil that's in traditional basil pesto. I was reading on the Cooking Light website that if you can't find Thai basil, you shouldn't substitute sweet basil. The flavors honestly do not compare, in my opinion. Thai basil is more licorice-y and minty and less lemony-sweet than sweet basil. Cooking light suggests using mint rather than sweet basil as a substitute. I am curious as to how the substitution would taste myself. The basil really makes this dish. I gave this stir-fry a taste test before adding the Thai basil and I couldn't even tell if I was close to the mark of getting the flavors right, but once I added the basil it was easy to tell how I needed to adjust things. The basil is more than just a flavor enhancer, as some herbs serve in recipes. It's a full-on ingredient, also as if it were another vegetable in the stir-fry, not only a subtle accent.

I can't believe I was able to throw together a recipe together that tastes so close to my favorite restaurant's version of the dish. It just goes to show you that it's important to keep a well stocked pantry. Of course, that's not to say I always do a good job of that...just the other morning my cabinet was so bare I contemplated eating croutons for breakfast. A sure sign that a trip to the supermarket is necessary!

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken
Printable Recipe

1 tsp canola or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, sliced lengthwise
1 cup sliced bell peppers (use multiple colors)
2 chicken breasts, finely diced
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup shredded Thai basil leaves (about 4 3-inch sprig's worth)

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, then add the oil. Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper and cook until starting to soften.
2. Add the chicken to the skillet. Toss the chicken with the vegetables, then add the fish sauce, sugar, chili sauce and soy sauce and stir-fry until the chicken is opaque.
3. Add the basil to the skillet and toss with the chicken and vegetables until it is lightly wilted. Serve the stir-fry with jasmine rice (I used brown rice for extra fiber).

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