Phat Kaphrao or Thai minced pork stir fry with holy basil is one of my family’s favourite one-dish meals. It is usually prepared by Valerie but I had my hands-on a few weeks ago when May came over. Ironically, our date was supposedly “girls night out” but since we are on a budget, we’d dwine, I mean dine and wine in, instead!
I poured May a glass of crisp Chardonnay and asked what she would like for dinner. May is not a fussy eater but she does appreciate good food. I told her I had chanced upon and bought a bunch of Ocimum tenuiflorum.
“Ocimum tenuiflorum, it is used in Thai cuisine! Also known as Thai holy basil (กะเพรา – kaphrao); and not to be confused with horapha (โหระพา) or Thai basil, which is a variety of Ocimum basilicum. Kaphrao leaves have petioles and are ovate, up to 5cm long, and usually slightly toothed. Their flowers are purplish in elongate racemes in close whorls.”
“Oh that!” She’s not drunk yet…
“Sunny-side up?” I raised a brow.
“Erm, ok!” She murmured and continued where she’d left off. Yakety yak…
“We’ll be having Phat Kaphrao for dinner”, I declared triumphantly!
With my back facing May and my ears perked tuning into the latest gossips, I manoeuvred effortlessly in a triangle refilling her glass with oak-aged Chardonnay every now and then, plucking the holy leaves off the stalks of the Ocimum, mincing garlic and chillies at the sink area, steaming rice and woking up on the stove. This circle line went on a few rounds until the one-dish meal was presented to her at the dining table.
- 300g Pork, minced (you may substitute with chicken or seafood i.e. shrimps and/or squid, etc…).
- 5 – 8 Chilli Padi, minced (or to taste, deseeded if desire lesser heat).
- ½ – 1 head Garlic (or to taste).
- 1 Shallot, optional.
- 1½ teaspoon Oyster Sauce, optional.
- ½ tablespoon Fish Sauce (adjust during final seasoning).
- ½ – 1 teaspoon Sugar.
- A few dashes of White Pepper Powder, optional (skip if you can’t handle heat).
- 50 – 100ml Water.
- 1 handful Thai Holy Basil Leaves.
- 2 tablespoons Vegetable/Peanut Oil.
- Thai Jasmine Rice (cooked) enough for 2 – 3 persons.
- Eggs (sunny-side up or omelette), optional, one for each person.
- Add oil to wok over medium high heat and stir fry the minced chillies, garlic and shallot until fragrant. I didn’t have shallots that night.
- Once the garlic becomes golden on the edges and chillies start to make you sneeze, add ground pork and stir-fry till the meat turns opaque.
- Add fish sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, pepper powder and stir well.
- Add some water to the mince. Let meat simmer till *fully cooked. It should be cooked down to moist not gravy-like.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Lower heat and tear Thai basil with hands instead of cutting up with knife, their aromatics/essential oils is released better that way.
- Give it a few quick stir to mix well, off flame and serve hot with Thai Jasmine rice.
- Have some fried eggs drizzled with a few drops of regular dark soy if you wish.
*I tend to overcook my pork dishes and not leaving any part of it (minced or otherwise) pink!
May said the portion was huge and the amount of chillies I had used seemed fiery but she finished everything and washed it down with more velvety smooth wine! The gossiping continued…
Amount of all ingredients are adjustable. As I have always mentioned, Asian cooking is an art not science! They do not need exact measurements but can be adjusted according to your personal taste. I have used more garlic and lesser chilli this round as I do not know how hot May can handle the heat. I also did not use dark soy/kicap manis as in my previous post (Valerie’s recipe). I did use a teaspoon of Oyster Sauce, optional (don’t bother buying if you do not have any) but I would suggest investing in a small bottle of Thai Fish Sauce if you like Thai food and intend to cook more Thai dishes. Otherwise, light soy can be substituted although the taste would not be “authentic”.
You may add some diced (1cm) Chinese Long Bean (legume a.k.a. Yardlong Bean or Snake Bean) to this dish. Add long beans in “Method, step 2” and cook for a minute or two before adding the pork.
Happy cooking, eating and bonding
Information Credit on Thai Holy Basil: Wikipedia. It is not to be confused with holy herb (Verbena officinalis).
P.S. In Singapore, this dish is known as Pad Kra Pow or Phat Kaphrao which is stir-fried holy basil and commonly paired with pork or chicken (indicated in fine print on menu) depending on the restaurant or eatery. The egg is either inclusive as a set meal, or ordered as a side with extra cost. As reader Alvin Tan kindly enlightened, “in Thai language, ผัดกะเพรา just means stir fried basil… you need to include หมูสับ (moo saab/ minced pork)… and you also need ไข่ดาว (khai daao/ sunny-side-up). Therefore, the name of this dish is: ผัดกระเพราหมูสับลาภข้าวไข่ดาว”.