Bring Thai street food to your kitchen.
Chicken kra pao, a.k.a. Thai basil chicken, a.k.a. chicken krapow, is a fairly ubiquitous Thai street food. Chicken kra pao is a nutritious comfort food as well — one that makes a bright, delicious, 30-minute weeknight dinner that breaks free of the same old thing.
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Understanding Thai Food By Region
Thai may be my favorite Asian cuisine. I love its bold, satisfying flavors of coconut milk, hearty noodles, warm and spicy soups that often seem to carry a thread of brightness and tang from elements like lime, tamarind, and lemongrass.
For example, food of Thailand’s south, which is bordered by ocean, tends to be very spicy, with lots of seafood. Southern Thailand is home to most of the country’s coconut groves, so you also see heavy coconut, with nearby Malaysian influences.
Northern Thai dishes are drier — the region is land-locked — and also very spicy. Due to the geography, food from Northern Thailand uses lots of herbs and vegetables, fresh water fish, and meat. Think broths instead of rich coconut stews.
Central Thai food has some Chinese influence, and tends to be the most purely “Thai” because there is less influence from bordering countries. Pad Thai (which, interestingly, is more Chinese than Thai and was only popularized in the 1930s and ’40s) emerged from this region, as part of a government nutrition initiative out of the capital, Bangkok.
Recipe Notes: Chicken Kra Pao (Thai Basil Chicken)
- Chicken kra pao is a Thai classic chicken vegetable stir fry, and comes together quickly. Cook the vegetables just until the onions are translucent, then remove them and cook the chicken with the garlic, salt, and pepper. You want the vegetables to still have some bite.
- Use a hot skillet. You want the meat to brown, not steam.
- The chicken in kra pao is either made with thin, chopped strips of chicken, or ground chicken. You can chop your own chicken meat, but I strongly recommend ground chicken, which gets wonderfully crumbly and seems to soak up the flavor more. I prefer a blend of dark and white meat chicken. All-white meat tends to be dry.
- Serve this over jasmine rice with some fresh lime wedges.
- Thai bird chilis are the way to go here, but use whatever medium-hot chili pepper you can find, or leave it out entirely for more mild palates. Serrano is the best substitute.
- Thai basil has the right spicy, slightly anise flavor, but Italian basil (i.e., the kind you usually see at the store) can be substituted.
Did you make this Chicken Kra Pao (Thai Basil Chicken)? What did you think?
Chicken Kra Pao (Thai Basil Chicken)
- 1 pound ground chicken (preferably not all-white meat)
- 1 or 2 Thai bird chili(s), sliced into thin rounds
- 1 large bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 1 handful fresh haricots verts, halved
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- salt and fresh black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla); I like Red Boat brand
- 2 fresh limes, cut into wedges
- 2 teaspoons sugar or light-brown sugar
- 1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, plus more to garnish
- 4 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil, such as canola
- 4 eggs (optional)
- jasmine rice, to serve
- Heat a large skillet with half of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. If you are making rice, now is the time to start it.
- Add the onions, pepper, green beans, and chili pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are just translucent. Transfer to a plate.
- Add most of the remaining oil. When hot, add the chicken and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Break up the chicken but do not stir too often, allowing it to brown on one side. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring.
- When the chicken is mostly cooked, add back the vegetables and add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and the juice of half a lime. Stir and finish cooking. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Adjust seasoning.
- Optional: Spoon the kra pao onto plates over the rice. Add the rest of the oil to the empty skillet. Crack the eggs into the hot pan and fry until cooked, the edges crispy brown.
- Put a fried egg on top of each dish, and garnish with fresh lime wedges.