A real Thai classic Pad Krapao ( which means basil stir-fry) topped with, or served over, a crispy fried egg with a slightly runny yolk.
Most of the street vendors around Thailand will serve krapao as it is a very popular lunchtime dish – indeed it is a joke in many offices when you don’t know what to order for lunch, you just order krapao.
This dish is also quick and delicious to make at home – the only ingredient you may struggle to find outside of Asia is holy basil – at a push you could use sweet basil instead.
Pad krapao is usually made using either chicken or pork, but beef or even seafood like squid could also be used:
1 pound of ground pork, beef, or chicken (You can do what I do here which is chop up 1 pound of skinless chicken breasts with a cleaver. You get better texture that way.)
7 (26g) large cloves of garlic, peeled
7 (16g) bird’s eye chilies (or however many you can tolerate)
1 large shallot (20g), peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons thin/light soy sauce or seasoning sauce (such as Golden Mountain aka “the Green Cap” sauce”)
1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 cup holy basil leaves, packed
If you have a mortar, pound together the garlic, chilies, and shallot until you get a coarse paste. If no mortar, either chop them all up with a cleaver on a chopping block or pulse them into a coarse paste in a mini-chopper.
In a skillet, heat up the vegetable 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), correcting seasoning as needed. [I don’t like sugar in my Pad Ka-Prao; besides, the dark sweet soy sauce provides enough sweetness for me. But if you think you’d like it even sweeter, either add about a teaspoon of palm or brown sugar or double the amount of dark sweet soy sauce (which will also make the end product darker in color). Purists, as mentioned in the post, won’t even use anything for salinity other than fish sauce.]
Once the meat is cooked through, check the amount of liquid in the skillet. If it’s too dry, add a little bit of water or sodium-free broth.
Before taking the skillet off the heat, add the basil leaves to the mixture and give it a couple of stirs. We only want to wilt the basil with the residual heat that is still in the pan so as not to mute the fragrance of the fresh holy basil leaves.
Serve over rice. A Thai-style crispy fried egg on top and a tiny bowl of nam-pla prik would be nice.
Are you a pad krapao fan? Who or where has served the best pad krapao you have tasted? Do you think you will have a go at cooking this yourself?