Spicy Thai Basil Chicken
Is there a meal you remember so vividly that you are immediately transported back in time whenever you taste it? For me, it's Thai Basil Chicken. I remember everything about it - the restaurant, the people who were dining with me, and the taste...
It was about 9 years ago. My husband and I had moved to the suburbs from Hoboken with our 3-week-old son. I had stopped working in February to start my maternity leave, my son was born in March, and we moved in April. Talk about life changes! So here I was - a new mom, staying at home for the first time in more than a decade, living in the suburbs with not a soul I knew around me. I was lost!
Fortunately, ever the resourceful one, I did some research and found a local mom's network where I could meet new moms in the area. It was a great little group. They hosted monthly group playdates, park meet-ups, guest-speakers, and the always-enticing Moms Night Out!
This is where I encountered Thai Basil Chicken. At my first MNO, we went to a local restaurant called Penang. (Coincidentally, the first time I ever ate Thai food was right after college -- also at Penang, in NYC -- where I had Pad Thai). I can remember that night so clearly. It was one of the first nights I had been out since becoming a mom. It was certainly one of the first nights I went out with new, local friends. It was one of the first nights that I got dressed up in more than just "new mom" attire a.k.a. leggings and flip-flops. As a matter of fact, I remember one of the other moms remarking that she didn't know I had long hair (since she had only ever seen it up in a pony-tail at playdates!).
And I remember just how much I loved my food. I had never had Thai Basil Chicken before, but I knew after having it that it was an instant favorite. Since that time, that is my number one go-to Thai order. Of course, as I am always looking to find healthier options, I had to create a recipe for myself to make at home. But still, every time I make it, I think back to that night at Penang and how much I enjoyed myself!
Fair warning...this recipe isn't for the faint of heart. It's SPICY! It also isn't for your kids unless they are like Super Man and have a stomach of steel! But don't worry...if you don't like spicy or want to make it as a family meal, just leave out the peppers and add a red bell pepper when you are almost done cooking the chicken. I have made it this way many times and my children gobble it up. My husband and I usually top with with some chili sauce to give it that extra kick!
**A couple of notes about this recipe. I use coconut aminos to keep it gluten-free and reduce the amount of soy in my diet. This can easily be substituted with regular soy sauce or Tamari. Also, I use a vegan fish sauce to get the traditional umami flavor but you can use regular fish sauce if your diet allows for it. Serve this with jasmine rice and some fresh lime.
Spicy Thai Basil Chicken
4 tsp vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into small, thin pieces
1 serrano pepper, sliced thin
1 Thai red pepper, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tbs coconut aminos (can substitute soy sauce or Tamari)
2 tbs vegan fish sauce (can use regular fish sauce)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh basil (use Thai Basil or regular Italian basil)
Jasmine rice (pre-packaged or freshly made)
Cook rice according to directions. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. Add pepper and garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant (about 1-2 minutes). Avoid taking deep breaths. Really. The peppers will be spicy and induce coughing.
Add remaining 2 tsp of oil and add chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer pink inside (about 5-7 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together coconut aminos, fish sauce and brown sugar. Add to chicken and cook until sauce is thickened and reduced.
Remove from heat and add basil. Stir until basil is wilted, about 1 minute.
Serve over rice. Garnish with additional basil, cilantro or parsley.