A dish with pad gaprao, a fork and spoon on a grey wooden tablecloth with blue linens and lettuce seen in the background.
Photography, Janis Nicolay

Spicy Thai Basil Pork (Pad Gaprao)

Pailin Chongchitnant calls for as many chilies as you can handle in her 'old-school' Thai street-food classic. Go for it.

Spicy chilies, basil, and lots of garlic – this recipe is the real deal. In her new cookbook “Sabai”, Pailin Chongchitnant brings us simple and flavourful Thai recipes, including this one for her ‘Old-School Pad Gaprao’. Chongchitnant refers to this as old-school in that it doesn’t have all the adaptations this recipe has acquired over time, relying on simple ingredients like fish sauce, basil, garlic and chilies for flavour. As for the spiciness? The recipe calls for as many chilies as you can handle – so push your boundaries, it should be hot! – Kristen Eppich

A dish with pad gaprao, a fork and spoon on a grey wooden tablecloth with blue linens and lettuce seen in the background.

Old-School Pad Gaprao

A traditional recipe for a beloved Thai street food dish.
Course Main Course, Street Food
Cuisine Thai
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 2 to 3 Thai chilies or as many as you can handle
  • cup chopped mild red peppers
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 4 eggs optional – see note #1
  • oil for frying eggs optional – see note #1
  • 2 to 3 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • cups holy basil or Italian basil leaves see note #2
  • jasmine rice for serving

Instructions
 

  • Using a mortar and pestle, pound the Thai chilies until fine, then add the mild red peppers and garlic and pound into a rough paste.
  • If you’re making fried eggs, make them now. In a small nonstick frying pan, heat about ⅓ inch (8 mm) of oil over medium-high heat. Test the temperature of the oil by adding a little piece of vegetable scrap, like the garlic or pepper, and it should bubble excitedly right away. Once the oil is hot, add 1 egg. The white should bubble up right away. Using a spoon to occasionally baste the top of the egg with oil to help it cook faster, cook for about 1 minute for a runny yolk, or 2 minutes for a set yolk. You want the white crispy and browned, so if it’s not browning, turn up the heat. Remove the egg from the pan and drain on paper towel; repeat with the remaining eggs.
  • Place a wok on medium heat, then add the oil and garlic-chili paste. Stir for about 2 minutes, until the smallest bits of garlic start to turn golden.
  • Turn the heat up to high, add the ground pork, then quickly toss to mix with the garlic-chili paste. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and keep tossing and breaking up the pork until it is fully cooked.
  • Turn off the heat, then add the holy basil and cook just until wilted. Taste and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce and sugar as needed.
  • Plate and serve with jasmine rice. If serving as a one-dish meal, place the rice on a plate, spoon the pork over it, and top everything with the fried egg.

Notes

#1. Pad gaprao is typically paired with a fried egg when served as a one-dish meal. If serving as part of a multi-dish Thai meal, you can omit the egg.
#2. You might be tempted to use Thai basil instead, but Italian basil is actually the better substitute

A cookbook cover in a light frame

Excerpted from Sabai by Pailin Chongchitnant. Copyright © 2023 Pailin Chongchitnant. Photographs by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House ®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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