I made this dish to use some of the holy basil I’ve grown for the first time this year – what a beautiful herb, more on that in another post. This is a typical Thai stirfry in which you get things off to a good start by frying off some chilli jam. The chilli jam provides all the savoury elements of the dish, as well as most of the heat. You could use pork or beef or a firm-fleshed fish in place of chicken here, and by all means just use whatever vegetables are in season. Here I’ve used zucchini and green beans – to brighten it up a bit try using red capsicum or lovely yellow scalloppini.
This recipe makes enough for two meals, keep half this batch in an airtight container in the fridge and use within a few weeks. Double the recipe if you want to put aside a big batch in the fridge or freezer – it’s so great having it to hand when you want an extra-quick stirfry.
In a wok, heat a generous amount of vegetable oil and fry 4-5 shallots, sliced and 5 cloves garlic, sliced, until golden. Remove the shallots and garlic to a food processor. Fry 5 dried red chillies, chopped*, and add to processor along with 1 1/2 tsp shrimp paste* (or 2 Tbsp dried shrimp if you can get them*), 2 Tbsp grated palm sugar and 1 1/2 Tbsp tamarind juice. Process to a runny paste. Heat a little vegetable oil in the wok and add the paste back to the wok. Cook a while until it thickens; be careful not to let it burn.
STIRFRY – serves 4
In a small bowl mix 1/4 cup coconut milk with 1 Tbsp fish sauce and 1tsp sugar. Heat some vegetable oil in a large wok and fry 3 cloves finely chopped garlic with 1-2 Tbsp chilli jam. Fry until fragrant then add 500g sliced chicken breast. Stirfry over a high heat until chicken is just cooked through. Add sliced vegetables and stirfry until still crisp but starting to turn tender. Add coconut milk mixture and stir well to combine and cook sauce. Add a few handfuls of fresh holy basil leaves (stems removed) and stir through. Serve garnished with fresh red chilli, sliced on steamed jasmine rice.
You can buy dried red chillies at any good Asian grocer. They’re very cheap, $1-2 for a packet that’ll last you ages. They can be semi-reconstituted in hot water if you want to throw them straight into stirfries or stews, or just leave them dried for chilli and curry pastes.
Thai shrimp paste can be found at Asian grocers’ also. The brand I buy comes in an opaque white plastic tub (will post pic). It’s extremely pungent – not overly fishy tasting, more just salty – and a little goes a long long way.
Dried shrimps can also be bought at some Asian grocers’, or some Thai takeaway joints will sell them at the counter. The lovely Thai ladies at Avondale Markets sell them, along with all sorts of chilli jams, roasted jasmine rice and the like.