Pad krapow gai – spicy stir fried chicken with Thai basil

Meat SHOPPING Stir fries

This is my favourite food of all time, my I-could-eat-this-every-day, my oh-I-did-eat-it-everyday-for-about-a-year food – and I still eat it around once a week. It’s a perfect breakfast, especially in bright hot sunshine with an iced coffee, it’s great with a kai dow (fried egg) on top of the rice. It’s good with prawns, pork or squid but I like it best with chicken. There isn’t an occasion it doesn’t suit, and it cures headaches, hangovers and heartbreak too. Honestly!

It might not be my last-supper dish but I’m not sure … contenders on that list wouldn’t pass the could-I-eat-it-every-day criteria for favourite food.  What’s your favourite food? What’s your last supper food? My last supper could be a seafood platter or perhaps rack of lamb, dauphinoise potatoes and a green salad with mustardy dressing. Or a pad krapow.  Anyway …

There’s just one admission to make …. and that’s that I’m not actually cooking a pad krapow at all.

There are two types of basil used in Thailand, both different to our Mediterranean basil. Thai sweet basil, horapha, is a bit aniseed-y and is used in Thai curries and – I learnt today from the ladies at Tawana supermarket  – can be used in a pad keemao (drunken noodles) where I  thought you could only use krapow.

Ah, krapow. Krapow is the other Thai basil, holy basil, and it gives this dish it’s name – literally ‘stir fried with holy basil’. It’s really peppery and unique. It’s also really hard to grow in our climate and it’s even hard for the Thai supermarkets to get hold of.

I really wanted my favourite food today so I went to one of my favourite places, Tawana supermarket on Chepstow Road, W2. It’s a total treasure trove of delights plus I get to practice my Thai as well. And it soothes the soul.  Here’s just a selection of the treats in store …


And here’s the goodies I brought home … including packets of holy basil seasoning I’ll use for another, lazy, day.


But the sad news is they had no krapow. Again. So I bought horapha and therefore what I’m actually cooking is pad horapha gai. It is still so good.  If you can get krapow then do! If you can’t but you can get horapha, great! And it you can get neither, just make it without. Without is how I have it most weeks (pad krapow sans krapow) and still I love it.

It’s a really spicy dish but you bash the chillies into pieces big enough to flavour the dish but not to eat unless you want to.  When I was taught to make this it was with the chicken alone – I’ve added the chopped pepper and mushrooms so do add veg or not as you wish.

Here’s how I’m making my favourite dish ever tonight. Cook your rice first and then assemble the ingredients – as always, it cooks quickly.

Vegetable oil

Half to one chicken breast

Approx 6-10 small chillies (depending on size and how spicy you like it)

Approx four garlic cloves (or eight if you have small Thai garlic cloves)

Sliced red pepper and mushroom, or other sliced veg, if using

1/2 knorr chicken stock cube

Thick soy bean sauce or rich soy sauce

Oyster sauce

A good pinch of sugar

A handful of holy basil or sweet basil leaves, if using


Tear the basil leaves from the stalks, if using, and discard the stalks, and chop the vegetables into small pieces, if using.  Mince the chicken breast by chopping very very finely, as small as you can. I know some restaurants serve this dish with the meat in bite-sized pieces but I much prefer it minced as I was shown.


Peel the garlic – the quickest way is to squash the garlic with the flat side of a knife – and remove the stalks from the chillies and then place in a plastic sandwich / freezer bag.


Bash with a rolling pin until the chillies and garlic are all in small-ish pieces. If the bag splits don’t worry just fold it and keep bashing!


Now put a frying pan or wok over a medium heat and when hot add a good glug of cooking oil. When hot add the chicken, and stir. When starting to seal tip in the garlic and chillies and cook until the chicken is completely sealed.


Add the vegetables if using and stir fry for another couple of minutes.


Add a splash of water, crumble in half a stock cube, a good dash of bean/soy sauce and a couple of dashes of oyster sauce plus a good pinch of sugar and stir it all in.  Here’s a pic because I forgot to include the oyster sauce at the start.


Cook for another couple of minutes then throw in the basil and remove from the heat immediately.


Stir in the basil until it wilts and serve with the rice. Best dinner ever. Do you agree?


PS. Yes, I did make a huge portion. I love it!

PPS.  If you like pad krapow, you’ll also like pad keemao … give it a try 🙂

3 thoughts on “Pad krapow gai – spicy stir fried chicken with Thai basil”

  1. Kevin Pullen (@kevasia1960) - May 6, 2014 12:11 pm

    Great post Rachel! I do it garlic first (pad hai hom!) then chilli then meat, but have never added oyster sauce – will definitely try next time. Of course I use MSG instead of sugar (just because I can!). Krapow dries really well hung up in an airing cupboard and then freezes but is silly expensive so I am trying to grow it this year.

  2. racey - May 6, 2014 12:22 pm

    Thanks Kevin – really glad you like it! All that time ago when Nut showed me and I still have my notebook and she said to put oyster sauce (and MSG but I don’t make it with MSG). I was hoping to grow krapow but the Thai ladies said they can’t even get it grown in Spain, it’s not hot enough for it …

  3. Pingback: Pad keemao gai – drunken noodles with chicken | Racey's easy Thai (ish) cooking ...

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