Can I tell you what I am most excited about in my garden this year? Thai basil. A sweet basil cultivar used not only in Thai cooking, but also in Vietnamese, Laotian, and Taiwanese cuisine, this variety has dark purple stems and a distinctive anise flavor. Here’s the very first dish I cooked using fresh Thai basil from my garden. A simple vegetable stir fry with zucchini, carrot, and mushrooms, finished off with a fistful of Thai basil leaves and a simple Thai sauce. Garlic, shallots, and bird’s eye chiles (which are quite spicy, by the way, so cut back if you don’t have a very high spice tolerance) help to round out the flavors in this addictive stir fry. This could easily be adapted to whatever vegetables you like, but don’t even think about leaving out or substituting the Thai basil. It can usually be found in large bunches at Asian markets (which is also your best bet for fish sauce and bird’s eye chiles). Once you try this stir fry, don’t be surprised if you find yourself seeking out Thai basil whenever possible and wishing for your very own plant.
Thai Basil Stir Fry (adapted from Rasa Malaysia)
Yield: 3 – 4 servings
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 3 shallots, minced
- 4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large zucchinis, julienned
- 3 large carrots, julienned
- 3/4 – 1 lb beech mushrooms, bottoms removed*
- 2 bird’s eye chiles, minced
- 2 bird’s eye chiles, whole
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce**
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar***
- 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
- 2 dashes ground white pepper
*These mushrooms usually come in bunches attached at the bottom – you want to cut the bottom off so that they fall apart into individual mushrooms.
**Preferably kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), but any good quality soy sauce should be okay.
***Brown sugar is an acceptable substitute.
- In a wok or large sautee pan, heat 2 Tbsp coconut oil over medium-high heat, then add 3 shallots, minced and 4 – 6 cloves garlic, minced, and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add 2 large zucchinis, julienned, 3 large carrots, julienned, and 3/4 – 1 lb beech mushrooms, bottoms removed, and let cook over high heat, tossing occasionally until softened, about 10 – 15 minutes. If not using a very large pan, you may want to cook each ingredient separately to speed up cooking, setting aside in a bowl when done, and then adding everything back to the pan at the end.
- Add 2 bird’s eye chiles, minced, 2 bird’s eye chiles, whole, 2 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp palm sugar. Stir together thoroughly, and continue to cook until the chiles are fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, until they wilt and become fragrant, about 1 – 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in 2 dashes ground white pepper, and serve.