I took for granted how easy it was getting Thai ingredients in Tampa. Here in Chicago, it has been a bit of a challenge. Kaffir lime leaves seem to be obsolete. After a bit of research, I found out that the USDA has banned the import of them since February of 2010. That leaves (ha-ha…no pun intended) a few options…1) buying fresh from Import Foods 2) buying a Kaffir Lime tree or 3) hope a reader out there will exchange a few leaves for a pan of brownies!
The first recipe, Spicy Chicken Basil has the ‘option’ of the Kaffir lime leaves. And the second recipe excludes them. Kasma is probably the best Thai cook you will ever come across. Her cooking classes are the absolute best and you will never see Thailand quite the same if you don’t go on one of her trips. You can find information about her here, as well as the following two recipes.
Spicy Basil Chicken
- 2-3 Tbs. peanut oil for stir-frying
- 10-12 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2-3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with 1/2 cup sliced onion) – optional
- 1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped, or cut into small bite-size pieces
- 12-20 Thai chillies (prik kee noo), cut into very thin rounds; or substitute 4-6 serrano, jalapeño or fresno peppers, cut into large slivers with seeds
- 2 small kaffir lime leaves (bai ma-gkrood), very finely slivered (optional)
- 2-3 tsp. black soy sauce (the semi-sweet kind), or to taste
- 2 Tbs. fish sauce (nam bplah), or to taste
- 1 cup fresh Thai holy basil (bai gka-prow), or Thai sweet basil (bai horapa) leaves and flower buds; or use 1/4 cup dried holy basil, soaked to soften plus 1/2 to 1 cup fresh Thai sweet basil (bai horapa)
- Dash of ground white pepper
Prepare the ingredients as instructed. Leave the fresh basil leaves whole; the flower buds may also be used. The dried holy basil will soften when soaked in tap water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Pull off and discard the hard stems. Drain.
Heat a wok until its surface is smoking hot. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok surface. Wait a few seconds for the oil to heat, then stir in the garlic, followed a few seconds later with the shallots or onion. Stir another 15 to 20 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until most of the chicken has changed color on the outside and is no longer pink.
Toss in the chillies, slivered kaffir lime leaves (if using), and softened dried holy basil (if using). Sprinkle black soy sauce over the mixture and stir-fry for another 15 to 20 seconds. Season to taste with fish sauce, then stir in the fresh basil. Toss well. Stir-fry another 1/2 to 1 minute, or until the basil is wilted and the chicken cooked through. Sprinkle with white pepper. Stir and transfer to a serving dish, or spoon directly over individual plates of plain steamed rice.
Thai Chicken With Yellow Rice (this recipe is a bit involved, but worth the time)