Thai Chicken with Basil and Pea Pods is a fantastic twist on a Thai classic, and perfect for spring with its brilliant use of sugar snap pea pods. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
I was trying to think of something witty to say about college basketball but honestly Michigan lost in such ignominious fashion this year that I have nothing. They picked a bad day to have a bad day. I love college basketball so I am still watching, but otherwise…. it’s baseball season. Now I just wish the weather would agree with me. Some days it feels like spring and some days, like today, I am buried under blankets on the couch.
Speaking of spring, the light has finally started cooperating with my food photography. In the meantime, this Thai Chicken with Basil and Pea Pods is my last–I think–dish that was photographed under artificial lighting. It was too delicious to not share, so pictures in the dark it was.
Thai Chicken with Holy Basil is a classic Thai dish that home cooks in America have trouble replicating perfectly because it is hard to find holy basil in our grocery stores. Not as impossible as it once was, but still pretty darn hard. John and I ate it all through Thailand, where it was one of the hotter dishes we indulged in. Actually it was the hottest thing I have ever eaten because one night in Koh (Ko) Samui I mistook an entire chile pepper for a foreign vegetable–not any particular foreign vegetable mind you, but when you are on the other side of the world you get used to trying fruits and vegetables you have never seen before. So anyway I popped the entire thing in my mouth. And promptly drank all of the water at the table, ate all of the sugar at the table (in Thailand sugar is a common table condiment), bolted from the restaurant, ran to a Dairy Queen and bought a small green tea ice cream cone, and returned to the restaurant where the maitre’d accused me of having “quite the sweet tooth!” He must have thought I was one crazy American.
Anyway, Milk Street was clearly thinking of Chicken with Holy Basil when they came up with the dish I adapted from in their seriously fantastic Milk Street: Tuesday Nights: More than 200 Simple Weeknight Suppers that Deliver Bold Flavor, Fast. They called for “basil” but I feel strongly you should not use Italian Basil. Thai Basil is preferred but Purple Basil will work also. They have more of a minty-licorice aroma to them that works better with southeast Asian flavors. I made a few other small changes, but it was Milk Street’s genius that came up with sugar snap pea pods, which elevated this dish into heavenly status. We all went crazy for it.
Some notes on some of my ingredients: I used Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Vinegar because ever since Nik Sharma turned me onto it in his Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food I, like Nik, have become obsessed with it. Also, frankly, I almost always prefer to use a vinegar other than white, which I find boring and harsh, although you certainly can use it. Because I grabbed the coconut vinegar, I decided why not also reach for the coconut palm syrup I had, continuing with the theme. You can certainly use white sugar. If you use white vinegar I recommend a full tablespoon of sweetener, whereas if you use coconut vinegar I think you only need two teaspoons of sweetener.
Another funky ingredient I used in this Thai Chicken with Basil and Pea Pods, and another one easily worked around: I bought John some Pickled Thai Bird Chile Peppers for Christmas after reading about them in Saveur’s Best Global Hot Sauces article. Although really the reason I bought them is because I instantly recognized them as a beloved table condiment from when we were in Thailand and this was the first time I had seen them in America. Anyway, as long time readers know, Alex cannot handle heat. So rather than mince up some serrano peppers and add them with the garlic and scallion whites, I left them out completely and instead chopped up some pickled chile peppers for those of us who wanted heat. Honestly, we loved them so much I prefer them to adding the serrano peppers so that is how I wrote the recipe, but if you cannot find them just add the serrano peppers to your heat tolerance. Or go (authentically) crazy and add chopped Thai Bird Chile Peppers. But be warned they are hot. I know.
Closely adapted from Christopher Kimball, Milk Street.
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 T dark soy sauce
- 3 T fish sauce, divided
- freshly ground white peppercorns, to taste
- 3 T vegetable oil, divided
- 2 T coconut vinegar (see notes above)
- 1/4 cup thai basil, chopped, plus more later
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 bunches (about 8) green onions, white bottoms chopped and green parts cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 small sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 4 oz sugar snap pea pods, ends removed
- 2 t coconut syrup (or 1 T white sugar) (see notes above)
- 3 cups lightly packed Thai basil leaves
- chopped thai pickled bird chile peppers (see notes above)
Toss the chicken with the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper. Let marinate for 15 minutes, then drain and pat the chicken pieces dry.
Stir together the vinegar and chopped basil.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chicken pieces and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Transfer to a clean bowl and then toss in the basil vinegar. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic first, stirring continuously to prevent burning. When it darkens a bit, add the chipped white parts of the scallions. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the sweet bell pepper and pea pods. Toss to mix into the garlic and scallion whites. Cook for about 3 minutes, continuing to stir.
Stir in the coconut syrup (or sugar). Add the chicken back into the pan, along with any accumulated juices. Add the scallion greens and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce and toss.
Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves and toss until the basil leaves are wilted (I reserved a few for garnishing for pictures). Taste for more ground white pepper.
Serve with Jasmine rice and chopped pickled Thai bird chile peppers for those who like their food hot.
Looking for a Thai Chicken with Basil and Pea pods collage to pin?