Authentic Thai Basil Fried Rice | Khao Pad Thai

It pays to have friends who have friends in high places. That's how I got past the double doors of the Thai Wok restaurant and into their kitchen. While my Thai friend chatted with the owner and caught up on the latest gossip, I learned how to make an authentic Thai Basil Fried Rice (Khao Pad), complete with wok hei flavor.

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I can proudly say that this Thai Spicy Basil Fried Rice recipe is as good as any I've had when visiting Bangkok. Absolute restaurant quality chili basil fried rice prepared at home. Make it for your friends and I assure you they will have a hard time believing that it didn't come from a restaurant. 

This stir fry recipe is for a Thai Spicy Basil Chicken Fried Rice, but you can just as easily switch out the chicken for beef, porkshrimp, scrambled egg, tofu or soy bean curd.



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How to Make Authentic Thai Basil Fried Rice | Wok Hei at Home 

1. Do use the right rice

2. Do use cold rice

3. Do prepare all ingredients for the stir fry ahead of time

4. Do use a wok and cook on high heat

5. Don't overcrowd your wok

6. Don't skimp on oil

7. Do use fresh Thai Basil

8. Finally, the secret is in the sauce


1. Do use the right rice

It's important to use fragrant Thai jasmine rice when making Thai fried rice. Thai jasmine rice has a signature jasmine fragrance and that's the lovely aroma that hits you when you enter a Thai restaurant. 

The Thai Hom Mali rice is the best rice to use to make this Spicy Thai Basil Fried Rice. As this rice boils, your entire home will fill with the wonderful distinctive aroma of this rice cooking. 

Khao hom mali, mali rice, thai hom mali fragrant rice, thai mali rice, hom mali jasmine rice,

See the 11 Best Jasmine Rice Brands of 2021


2. Do use cold cooked rice

When making fried rice, it's best to use cold cooked rice, preferably refrigerated day-old rice. When the cooked rice has been refrigerated, the grains of rice firm up and hold their shape well. The excess moisture from the rice has dried up. So, when adding cold rice to your hot wok for stir-frying, the rice will not become mushy or too sticky.

Khao hom mali, mali rice, thai hom mali fragrant rice, thai mali rice, hom mali jasmine rice,
Courtesy: Pixabay/ornumadaum



3. Prepare all ingredients for the Stir Fry ahead of time

The process of cooking used in preparing this Thai fried rice is "stir frying". This is a popular Asian cooking method that cooks small-medium size portions of food in a wok. The food is cooked or fried in very hot oil in a wok, over high heat for a brief period of time and is constantly stirred and tossed. Stir frying on high heat retains color, texture and nutritional value well.

It's important to cut all your meat and vegetables and keep them ready for the stir fry. Prepare the stir fry sauce and keep that ready too. Once the stir fry process begins, things moves very quickly and there is no time to be prepping vegetables or sauces. The food cooks very quickly and before you know it the dish is ready.


4. Do use a wok and cook on high heat

Make sure to start with a clean, dry wok. The wok should be very hot and lightly smoking before it's time to add the oil. Remember, you need to start and end with a very hot wok. When you add your first ingredients to the hot oil, they need to sizzle and sing.

The entire stir-fry process will be done on very high flame/heat.

Stir fry, wok hei, asian cooking, wok,
Courtesy: Unsplash/ Clem Onojehuo


Wok hei, meaning the "breath of the wok" is the very distinctive smoky aroma that comes from using the stir fry technique of cooking in very hot oil in a wok. This is what will make your dish smell like a restaurant quality dish and what will make your home smell like a Thai restaurant when you're done!


5. Don't overcrowd your wok

Don't overload the wok with ingredients. The ingredients should occupy no more than a third of the total volume of your wok. 

If you have a small wok, then you will need to work in batches, otherwise the meat and vegetables start releasing water and boiling, rather than frying. Plus, it will be too difficult to toss the ingredients if the work is too full of meat, vegetables and rice. You will end up with a complete mish mash.


6. Don't skimp on oil

For an authentic restaurant quality Thai Basil Fried rice, use a good quantity of oil. Restaurants don't skimp on oil. That's how restaurant food tastes so good and the textures are perfect. Sad but true. But, it keeps the rice grains firm and prevents it from becoming sticky. Think of how beautiful a stir fry rice dish looks when the waiter brings it to your table. A light shimmer of oil coats the rice and vegetables. That's what you're going for. Nobody said this was a healthy recipe, anyway.

Also, make sure to use oil that handles high heat very well (high smoking point oils). Canola or vegetable oil are good oils for stir-frying. Forget about using olive oil. 


7. Do use fresh Thai Basil

Thai Basil is a type of basil from Southeast Asia. It is not the same as Italian Basil or Thai Holy Basil (tulsi). For authentic Thai flavor, you cannot substitute Thai Basil with anything else.

The leaves of Thai Basil are serrated and pointed, compared to the leaves of Italian Basil that are rounded. The flowers and stems of Thai Basil are purple. So, look for these characteristics when shopping for Thai Basil. 

Thai basil
Thai Basil leaves

Do note, that when tossed in the hot rice, the basil leaves will wilt and discolor. So, set aside some fresh green basil leaves for garnishing the dish.

8. Finally, the secret is in the sauce

The three sauces required for this stir-fry are soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce. 

Oyster sauce (Nahm Man Hoi) is a very thick, richly flavored, dark brown sauce made with caramelized oyster juices, sugar and salt and thickened with cornstarch. It is a must for stir fry.

Fish sauce is a very salty, very thin, fishy sauce. This liquidy condiment is made from fish, krill or anchovies that that have been coated in a salt and slowly fermented. It imparts a savory umami flavor to the food.

Soy sauce is a dark colored, salty, thin liquid condiment made from fermented soybean paste, wheat, salt and water.

For a vegetarian Thai Basil Fried Rice recipe, just follow the same recipe below but substitute the fish sauce and oyster sauce with soy sauce and a mushroom stir-fry sauce. For the protein, use soy or bean curd or tofu and Shitake mushrooms.

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RECIPE: Authentic Thai Basil Fried Rice


Yield: 3 persons

Spice level: Medium


Ingredients:

☐ 1/4 cup Canola or vegetable oil or peanut oil (an oil that can withstand high temperature)
☐ 4 cups cooked, cold jasmine rice
☐ 6 cloves garlic, minced
☐ 1 large onion, roughly sliced
☐ 10 Thai chilies, minced finely
☐ 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
☐ 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
☐ Protein= 1 cup sliced chicken (breast or thighs) or ground chicken. Other alternatives sliced or ground beef, pork or shrimp.
☐ 1-2 cups Thai Basil, whole leaves
☐ Crushed peanuts (optional)

For stir-fry sauce:

☐ 5 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
☐ 3 tablespoons fish sauce
☐ 1 tablespoon soy sauce
☐ 1 teaspoon sugar


Step by Step Instructions:


Step 1: Prepare the stir-fry sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce.


Step 2: Stir fry meat and vegetables

  1. Add oil to a hot wok.
  2. When the oil is hot, add garlic to the oil and stir fry for a few seconds until the garlic starts to change color slightly.
  3. Add the minced Thai chilies and stir fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the protein (chicken/ pork/beef/shrimp) and stir fry.
  5. Add the red bell peppers and onions. Give it all a quick toss before adding the sauce. Stir and cook until the protein is completely cooked.


Step 3: Add rice

  1. Now add the cold rice to the wok, breaking up clumps of rice with a wooden spoon. Stir fry to mix the rice well with all the other ingredients.
  2. Remove from heat. Add the Thai basil leaves and mix well.
  3. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts (optional). Garnish with fresh Thai basil leaves

Serve with a cucumber salad or Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som tum).



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