The first time I had chicken basil I was at a small Thai restaurant in Naples, Florida, a place called Siam Thai. Although it was a stone's throw away from glitzy, snobby 5th Avenue South —Naples' downtown area— the place was family-ran a hole in the wall that featured the right dose of depressing Asian decor, including a couple of posters of Thailand that had seen better days and a mismatched cutlery. Needless to say, it was one of my favorite restaurants in the area.
It also happened to be literally a minute away from my office, which is how, on a fall afternoon in 2006, my friend and coworker Dan and I ended up sitting at one of the tables in the dark dining room. Since basil is one of my favorite ingredients and Thai basil sauce happens to be one of their spiciest, I feel in love with the dish immediately. In the following four years I ordered chicken basil at every Thai restaurant I went to, although the one from Siam Thai —much like first love— was hard to forget and remains to this day my favorite.
Enter Tommy. Whenever we eat something at a restaurant, even when it's delicious and flirting with perfection, he always says the same thing. "I bet you can make this better at home." Which is sweet, really, although not always true. Or at least I don't think it's true. He seriously does, he tells me. Anyway, because he said that, I found myself buying a Thai cookbook to try and make chicken basil at home. It's an easy recipe and I have to admit that I make a killer basil sauce. But better than Siam Thai's? I don't think so.
THAI CHICKEN WITH BASIL
2 chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Bird eye chilies, to taste, sliced
6 tablespoons (or less if you don;t want it fiery) chili garlic sauce, such as Huy Fong
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
A big bunch of basil, washed and torn
In a wok heat up some oil ( I usually use canola), then add garlic and chiles. Stir fry over medium high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring and making sure that the garlic doesn't burn. Add onions, chicken and chili garlic sauce. Stir and cook until chicken changes color.
Add soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir some more, cooking for a few minutes longer. Remove from fire, add basil and serve immediately.