Pad Ka-Prao (ผัดกะเพรา) is known as Basil Pork in English (note that it can also be made with ground chicken breast instead of ground pork if you prefer) and is perhaps the quintessential Thai street food.
This is beloved throughout Thailand and is almost always served with a fried egg over rice – you don’t see that all too often with the U.S. versions, but it really adds to the whole experience and taste of the final dish. My version is especially colorful from the use of different colored peppers and chilies – after all, they say you taste first with the eyes…
A major plus to this recipe is that it takes less than 15 minutes from start-to-finish – it is spicy and delicious as well as rich and unctuous from the runny egg yolk mixing with the garlic, pepper, spices and basil in the dish.
Of course, one key data point to consider is that to make this with complete authenticity, you need to use Thai Holy Basil, which isn’t that easy to find outside of Asian supermarkets in the States. Thai Holy Basil has a strong anise flavor that is quite different from the standard basil we typically use.
That said – you can certainly use regular basil if that’s all you’ve got – just call it Pad Bai Horapha (Sweet Basil) instead! A trick I use to simulate the taste of holy basil if I can’t find it in the store is to use some ground Star Anise in the dish, which helps to better simulate the authentic taste. Feel free to omit it if you prefer.
Enjoy this taste of Thailand, Citizens! 😀
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 egg per person, this recipe serves 2 very generously
6 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil – you want an oil with a very high smoke point
1 pound of coarsely ground pork – or use ground chicken breast if you prefer
1 handful Thai Holy Basil (preferred) or 1 handful regular basil with ½ teaspoon ground star anise if it is unavailable
6 garlic cloves
2 green hot birds-eye chilies (if you like, add more if you’re a chili-head)
2 red hot birds-eye chilies (if you like, add more if you’re a chili-head)
½ yellow pepper, cut into small dice
½ orange bell pepper, cut into small dice
2 tbs of oyster sauce – (Lee Kum Kee Premium oyster sauce is among the best) – available here on Amazon
2 tbs of top-quality fish sauce (I like Red Boat brand best – available here on Amazon, closely followed by 3 Crabs brand)
A few squirts of Maggi seasoning – available here on Amazon
1 tbs of palm sugar or use light brown sugar if unavailable
¼ cup of chicken stock, low-salt or preferably homemade
If you have a mortar, pound together the garlic and chilies until you get a coarse paste or pulse them into a coarse paste in the food processor.
In a skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the paste to it and fry until fragrant.
Add the meat to the skillet and break it up with the spatula into small pieces.
Add the remaining ingredients (except the basil leaves and chicken broth), correcting seasoning as needed.
Once the meat is cooked through, add the chicken broth as needed. The cooking process is quite quick and you should have the whole thing finished in around 5 to 7 minutes.
Before taking the skillet off the heat, add the basil leaves (plus the ground star anise if using regular basil) to the mixture and give it a couple of stirs. You only want to wilt the basil with the residual heat that is still in the pan otherwise you can kiss the wonderful fragrance of the fresh basil leaves goodbye.
In a second small skillet, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil over high heat and fry the egg(s) over easy- you want a runny yolk, ideally – but cook it as you prefer.
Serve over rice with the crispy fried egg on top. The runny yolk will mix into the sauce and add richness and additional flavor.