Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to take a Thai cooking class where I learned so much about Thai cooking techniques. The class was taught by a home chef who learned to cook from his mother in Thailand. It was such a wonderful experience!!! Thai curries, coconut soups, noodle dishes, fish cakes, satay with peanut dipping sauce…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Last night I had a craving for one of my favorite Thai dishes, Pad Kra Pao, a basil and pork street food dish. I had some yellow bell pepper in the fridge that needed to be used as well as some ground pork and ground turkey in the freezer. The Thai basil in the garden is starting to produce and I had jasmine rice in the pantry. Perfect!
The first thing I did was thaw the pork and turkey in the microwave. I also started a pot of jasmine rice. In the mean time I prepped my bell pepper, garlic and Thai chilies. I keep Thai chilies in the freezer year round. You can buy a big bag of fresh chilies at the Asian market and stick them in the freezer. They will keep for up to six months and when you need a few just take them out to thaw. I rough chopped the garlic and chili peppers and dropped them into the mortar.
This mortar and pestle is one of my favorite kitchen tools. The mortar is fairly large and the pestle is made of a nice heavy wood, perfect for smashing and grinding spices and ingredients. You can usually find them at Asian markets. Here I have smashed the peppers and garlic into a nice pulp.
I added some canola oil to a sauté pan, got it nice and hot , added the garlic/chili mixture and sautéed for 45 seconds.
Then I added the ground pork and turkey and cooked until brown and blended well with garlic and chilies. Next I added oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and a little sugar.
(A note here about soy sauce. Even though all soy sauce looks similar, soy sauces made in different regions of the world differ in taste, saltiness and fragrance. For Thai cooking, I prefer Pearl River Bridge brand, which is a Chinese soy sauce and comes in both light and dark varieties. It is mild enough to not overpower the delicate flavors of Thai food. Whereas, a Japanese soy sauce like Kikkoman, is just too strong and overpowers the dish.)
Next I reduced the heat to medium and added the Thai basil leaves and yellow bell pepper. I prefer red bell pepper for this dish, but yellow is what I had in the fridge, so yellow it is.
The only thing left now is to fry an egg to top the dish. I have had this dish at a local Thai restaurant and it is tasty, but they do not put the fried egg on top, which in my opinion, makes the dish.
And now, the finished dish, just waiting to be devoured!
Enjoy! Til’ next time…
Thai Pad Kra Pao (serves 2)
4 cloves garlic
6 small green Thai chili peppers
2 small red Thai chili peppers
1 small red bell sweet pepper
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground pork (can substitute ground turkey or shrimp and squid rings)
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. white sugar
1 – 1 1/2 cups Thai basil
Cooked jasmine rice
Remove the stems from the chilies and chop the garlic and chilies into 4 or 5 chunks each. Place the garlic and chilies into a large mortar and smash with the pestle until pulverized into a pulp. Slice the red bell pepper into thin strips then chop into 1 inch pieces. Rinse the Thai basil and remove the leaves from the stems until you have 1 – 1 1/2 cups of leaves.
Add 2 Tbsp. of canola oil to a wok or skillet. Place over medium high heat. Once hot, sauté the garlic/chili mixture for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Add the ground pork (or pork substitute) and blend well with the garlic and chilies and stir until cooked through. Add oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sugar. Blend well and reduce heat to medium. Add the basil leaves and red bell pepper, blend together and remove from heat.
In another skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil over medium heat. Fry eggs either sunny side up or over medium, depending upon preference. Place a scoop of jasmine rice onto a plate, add half of the pork mixture and slide a fried egg on top. Serve immediately.