Thai Basil Stir Fries

Living just outside of New York City, I get to reap the benefits of a buzzing, cosmopolitan metropolis. This area has residents that represent many cooking cultures, so it’s usually easy to track down ingredients. Usually. Because we have very small communities of Thai, Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians in Northern New Jersey, it is very difficult to find basic ingredients for Southeast Asian cooking. I’ve even asked at my favorite Thai restaurant if they know of a local market where I can buy ingredients. No luck. Sure, I can pick up a can of coconut milk at most grocery stores, and can get some lemongrass and a good curry paste at my local Whole Foods, but fresh galangal? Nowhere to be found. I had never even come across Thai basil, which should be ridiculously easy to find, considering how common it is to the increasingly popular Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

Until recently, when the Thai basil gods smiled upon me.

I was passing the herbs at Fairway Market, when I saw, from the corner of my eye, something other than the usual tarragon and dill. Gasp! Thai basil! I excitedly grabbed all three little plastic packs. A few days later, I cooked this, a ground pork stir fry, based on a recipe from She Simmers.

It’s to be noted, as her post expertly discusses, that what is commonly known as Thai basil is different from the even more difficult-to-find holy basil (Bai Ka-Prao), which is what the recipe is named after. So, because I used Thai basil, I wasn’t technically making Pad Ka-Prao. Nevertheless, the dish was delicious.

I cooked the pork on a Friday, and the next day, I happened to find Thai basil again! This time, I took all five packs I found at Whole Foods, and on Sunday decided to cook the same dish with chicken that I diced, making enough to share with extended family.

As usual, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, and used as much garlic and chilies as I pleased (which is to say, a lot of garlic and chilies). I also didn’t use oyster sauce, as I don’t have gluten-free oyster sauce. (Is there gluten-free oyster sauce?) I used only one type of gluten-free soy sauce (which you can also omit and just use fish sauce) and added a bit of the suggested palm sugar (though I’m labeling this recipe as “sugar-free” because the sugar is not needed).