Stir fried pork with basil, or pad ga-prao, is one of my favorite Thai dishes. I love the combination of sweet basil and hot chilies. I order this dish almost every time we go to a Thai restaurant so finding a recipe for it and figuring out how to make it at home was a challenge that I took on enthusiastically. There are a ton of recipes for it online but the biggest challenge for me was tweaking the basic recipe to make everyone in the family happy. So far, this version is the winner for us. It has the right balance of heat — hot enough for me (personally, I love it when food makes you sweat) but not so hot that the kids (with a heat tolerance of: wuss) wouldn’t eat it. It also has the right amount of fish sauce — detectable but not so much that Mark’s sensitive taste buds are turned off. For a vegetarian version, you can substitute pre-fried tofu for the pork.
Pad Ga Prao (serves 4)
- 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 4 Tbs. garlic (anywhere from 8-12 cloves)
- 6-30 small Thai (bird’s eye) chillies [the amount is based on your heat tolerance but 5-6, with half of the seeds removed, is my family’s magic number]
- 1 lb. ground pork (or chicken or beef)
- 4 Tbs. fish sauce
- 4 tsp. soy sauce
- 4 Tbs. oyster sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups basil leaves and flowers
- 1 egg per person (optional)
1. Thinly slice garlic and set aside. Thinly slice the chilies, removing some, or all, of the seeds if you’re concerned about the heat. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to slice the tops off (the side with the stem), turn the chili cut-side down, and roll it between your fingers until the seeds fall out. Set the chilies aside with the garlic.
2. Pick leaves and flowers off the basil. Discard the stems. Rinse, dry, and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a pan or wok on high heat until very hot. Add chilies and garlic and stir until browned, about 2 minutes. (It’s not uncommon to sneeze from the chilies.)
4. When the garlic is ready, add the pork, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon to make sure it cooks evenly. Cook 5-8 minutes, or until the meat is no longer red.
5. Add fish sauce, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir and cook until the sauces are absorbed, about 10 minutes).
6. When the mixture is dry, add the water and the basil leaves. Stir until basil is wilted. Serve on rice.
7. If you want to top with a fried egg (and really, why wouldn’t you?), add a little more oil to the pan. When the oil is very hot, crack an egg in the middle. The egg should bubble up and sizzle. When the edges are brown (about 2 minutes), flip and brown the other side, just under a minute for an egg that’s still runny on the inside. Remove, being careful not to break the yolk, and place on top of the dish. If you can fry more than one egg at a time, then I bow to your superior cooking abilities. I, however, find it best to just cook the eggs one at a time.