My kitchen garden is often a hit-or-miss proposition, depending on how hungry the fat (and happy) groundhog who lives under my shed is on any given day or week. But I almost always can count on successfully growing lots and lots of basil, which I turn into pesto or cut into ribbons to top one of the all-time favorite summer dishes, bruschetta. Thanks to a sunny backyard, I also tend to have luck with a wide variety of chili peppers.
This Thai-inspired stir-fry makes good use of both ingredients, which if you don’t happen to grow in your yard or in a windowsill planter, are easy to find at any farmers market or even the smallest grocery store. It’s also incredibly quick to pull together. In the waning days of summer — with so much to still see and do before the kids go back to school — that’s definitely a good thing.
Every Thai cook has his or her version of grapow, a spicy stir-fry made from bits of meat and basil and often topped with a crispy fried egg. This recipe is adapted from the 2017 Thai cookbook “Night + Market” by chef and James Beard Award finalist Kris Yenbamroong and Garrett Snyder.
His version of the dish is built with “low-rent” ground chicken, but I had a big package of chicken thighs in the fridge, so I used meat chopped into bite-sized pieces instead.
Green beans cooked just long enough to warm them up add a wonderful crunch while garlic and chili pack a spicy punch. I used sweet Italian basil instead of the recommended Thai or holy basil (which are more pungent, with notes of licorice) because that’s what I had on hand. It was decidedly less authentic than what you’d find on the street in Thailand, but you know what? It still tasted great!
Thai seasoning sauce, a saltier version of soy sauce, can be purchased in Asian supermarkets. It’s not essential but will add a dash of complexity to the dish.
Basil Chicken Stir-fry
Serves 2. Adapted from “Night + Market” by Kris Yenbamroong and Garrett Snyder (Clarkson Potter, $35)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound ground or finely chopped chicken
1 teaspoon each minced fresh bird’s eye chilies and garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup cut green beans (1/4-inch pieces)
1 tablespoon stir-fry sauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves
Ground white pepper
Cook jasmine rice, for serving
2 crispy fried eggs, for serving
Thai seasoning sauce, such as Golden Mountain, for drizzling
Heat an empty wok over high heat until it begins to smoke, then swirl in oil.
Once the oil is shimmering, add ground or chopped chicken and stir-fry until mostly cooked, around a minute or so.
Add chilies, garlic and sugar, stirring to coat. Add green beans and stir to coat, then add 2 tablespoons stir-fry sauce and fish sauce and stir-fry for another minute. The chicken should be cooked, the green beans should still be crispy and the mixture should look wet but not soupy.
Remove from heat, add basil, a dash of white pepper and toss to combine.
Transfer to a plate and serve with a side of steamed jasmine rice. If desired, top with a crispy fried egg.
Spritz the fried egg with a bit of Thai seasoning sauce if you’re feeling decadent.
For stir-fry sauce: Whisk together ¹/3 cup oyster sauce, 1/2 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 cup Thai seasoning sauce, such as Golden Mountain Sauce, until sugar is dissolved. Keeps in an airtight container indefinitely.