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Monday, July 25, 2011

Thai Chili Basil Chicken

Normally I would associate my creations in Thai cuisine to be built on a coconut base. Many a Thai Red or Green curry has made its way from my wok, to my plate, to my belly. This time however, I embarked on a different side of my Thai culinary repertoire - Chili Basil Chicken.
Surprisingly, I only discovered this dish at the beginning of 2011, whilst on holidays in sunny Queensland. On the Sunshine Coast, I found that there was no shortage of Thai eateries. It seems like the balmy weather makes the taste buds of Queenslanders crave (and tolerate!) the hot and the spicy. Needless to say my meal time decisions were now pretty much made for me quite instantly and Thai food was the clear winner.
I ordered a plate of Chili Basil Chicken at a hawker style street-side shop with limited outdoor seating shared with the adjoining pizzeria. The combination of flavours is what hit me for six as it was totally unexpected that a Thai dish, without coconut milk, tasted so good. And like most good stir fries - the simple ingredients are what give this dish both its exuberance and balance. Oh! And it is ready in minutes, so ideal weeknight fare.  Try it out.  You will be pleasantly surprised, as I was.
INGREDIENTS - to serve 5-6
3 x 400g Chicken Breasts, skin removed
2tbsp x Vegetable Oil
4 x Garlic Cloves, sliced thinly
2 x Medium Onions, diced finely
400g x Capsicum, sliced into strips
60ml x Soy Sauce (Light Soy gives the dish more zing, Dark Soy makes it more choose)
60ml x Oyster Sauce
2tbsp x Sweet Soy (Kecap Manis)
125ml x Water 
4 x Red Chillies, sliced finely (adjust the amount depending how hot you like it)
1 x bunch Thai Basil - regular Basil can be substituted but it lacks the punchy flavour of it's Asian cousin
4 Kaffir Lime leaves, vein removed then sliced into fine strands
Combine the sauces and taste for sweet and salty balance.  Remember this sauce will be diluted with the water and cooking juices so it will develop more flavour.
Slice chicken into stir fry strips
Heat a wok on medium and add half the oil and garlic.  Sautee gently do not allow garlic to burn
Turn heat up to high and add half the chicken strips.  Stir continuously until the meat is sealed all over. 
Remove the chicken and keep aside.  Repeat process with remaining oil, garlic and chicken.
Return all chicken to the wok and add the onion.  Stir fry for 4 minutes.
Pour in the combined sauces and combine well to coat the chicken.
Add the water a little at a time, tasting the sauce with each addition for a balance of flavours.
Stir through the basil leaves and chilli slices
Cook for a minute or two then remove from heat.
Garnish with the slivers of kaffir lime leaves.
Serve immediately with Thai Jasmine Rice
"When I serve this up at family dinners it always gets rave reviews and it is one of my favourite dishes to cook. For me it is not quite the same as that shop in the Sunshine Coast but it comes close and definitely brings back fond holiday memories...."  
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