Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thai Chili Goodness

So, I ventured into the world of Asian cooking for the first time last week. Preparing Asian food in the home seems daunting, but it can be conquered easily if you follow a recipe from a trusted source. Taking some help from the mad scientists/super chefs at Cook's Illustrated, I explored their version of a Thai classic, Thai Chicken with Basil. Thanks to favorite Aunt Alva for giving me a subscription to the ultimate foodie mag as a Christmas gift this year!

In the interest of full disclosure, this dish can be a bit pricey the first time you make it, assuming your fridge is devoid of white wine vinegar, oyster, fish and soy sauces, as well as Thai chilies. Buying these items, along with the additional ingredients needed for the dish, will cost you in the neighborhood of $60 the first time you make the recipe. However, after the initial purchase of the various sauces and the chilies, you can make this tasty meal for 4 time and time again for under $30, guaranteed. The results are well worth the upfront costs. Along with satisfying your Thai craving, this recipe teaches you a new way to stir fry, concentrated on low heat without the use of a wok.

On Monday night, I invited Kara, Margaret and Molly over to watch the season premiere of The Bachelor and made the dish for the second time. I served it with steamed broccoli and brown rice - a perfect pairing. The meal got rave reviews, and I’m planning to invite friends to my place every Monday to cook and make fun of the newest bachelor, Jake (the crier from last season's Bachelorette). This season, dubbed "On the Wings of Love," is TV entertainment at its finest. I mean is this guy serious?? I highly suggest playing a fun drinking game while watching. Every time Jake says something cheesy like, "I had a storybook childhood," or "I’m ready to find my first captain" or "My future wife is in this room, and I'm so excited!" take a sip. Needless to say we went through a bottle of red wine each :)

Here’s the recipe, listed below with a few Affordable Foodie modifications that make the dish even better...enjoy!

Thai Chicken with Basil


2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed (more is better)
6 dried red Thai chilies (if unavailable, substitute 2 serrano peppers
or 1 jalapeno pepper)
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 lb of skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Red pepper flakes, for serving


1. Rehydrate the dried Thai chilies in a cup of warm water - about 10 minutes.

2. Once hydrated, process 1 cup basil leaves, chilies and garlic in food processor. Pulse 8-10 times until finely chopped, scraping down bowl with spatula once during processing.

3. Transfer one tablespoon of the basil mixture to a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and vinegar. Whisk together and set aside. Transfer remaining basil mixture to 12-inch nonstick skillet. Do not wash food processor bowl.

4. Pulse chicken and 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce in food processor until meat is chopped into approximate 1/4-inch pieces, 6-8 one second pulses. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes.

5. Stir shallots and oil into basil mixture in skillet. Heat over medium-low heat (mixture should start to sizzle after about 1 1/2 minutes; if it doesn't, adjust heat accordingly), stirring constantly, until garlic and shallots are cooked, 5 to 8 minutes.

6. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with a spatula, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add reserved basil-fish sauce mixture adn continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.

7. Stir in remaining cup of basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted. Serve immediately.

* Delicious when garnished with a bit of soy sauce on top. If you want to pump up the heat, srpinkle with red pepper flakes to taste before serving. As an alternative to serving with steamed rice, use cabbage leaves to make carb-free lettuce wraps. Mmmmmmm!


  1. I thouhgt I commented earlier, but I guess it did not work- Kinger this looks delish! Do you think we could get jobs at the Test Kitchen? We could be food scientists!

  2. If you like cookiing Thai food, may I recommend this site