If you’ve ever watched cooking shows where the contestants somehow manage to cook up some dish with five different elements, foams and other such things in a hour, you’ve probably also wondered about the standard of food their family gets on any given weeknight. You might also wonder if they
pretentiously refer to chicken and beef as protein in the comfort of their own home. “There’s nothing in the fridge for dinner, just grab some protein on your way home dah-ling.”
The answer to the first question is this dish here, and the answer to the second is no. And just to elaborate, I’ve never made toasties for dinner but I sure ate them a lot in the MasterChef house when we came home exhausted after a day of filming and there were twenty other people in the kitchen trying to cook their dinners.
When I’m looking for a really quick and simple dinner, I often turn to my wok. It’s a cheapie at under $13, and probably one of my favourite pieces of kitchen equipment. The carbon steel heats up quickly and the wok is a grey black, seasoned from years of use. In the time it takes rice to cook, any manner of stir fries are ready to hit the table but it is most often this one. It’s a lazy evolution of a Thai classic, I’ve just added greens to make it a complete meal. If an Aussie kids’ food memory is biting into a sausage roll with tomato sauce, mine is crispy fried egg, runny yolk and dark soy sauce dripping onto fluffy steamed rice.
Real pad kra pow gai doesn’t have vegetables or oyster sauce, or even soy sauce. It uses on fish sauce which surprise, surprise smells fishy and can be overwhelming to palates not used to it. As one expert Thai food blogger put it –
It must be pointed out that purists maintain that oyster sauce and soy sauce — two ingredients that are almost always added to Pad Ka-Prao — should not be used. You can certainly go that route in which case omit the dark soy sauce and oyster sauce in the recipe below and add to the stir-fry just fish sauce (and perhaps a tiny bit of palm sugar) to taste. However, chances are the Pad Ka-Prao which you have fallen in love with isn’t made by purists. So, in order to come up with a homemade version similar to what you’ve had at a street food stall or restaurant, you’re going to need soy sauce and oyster sauce. Your call.
Once upon a time, I used to cook this dish religiously by the book. Fish sauce, chicken only, Thai holy basil. Over the years it’s evolved to include whatever is in the fridge or garden whether that’s tofu, pork mince, Thai sweet basil or no basil at all. I should probably mention that I don’t think it would taste good with the Italian variety basil, but feel free to prove me wrong.
- 300g chicken*, minced (buy it minced or roughly cut into fine dice)
- 300g bok choy, kai lan or other leafy Asian greens cut into 1cm pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 small red chillies
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy
- 1 tsp dark soy
- 10-15 Thai holy basil leaves, roughly torn
- cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp water + 1 tbsp corn starch), optional
- fried egg
- steamed rice
- *substitute tofu for vegetarians and omit the oyster sauce
- Put your rice on to cook first - the stir fry will be done just as the rice finished cooking.
- If you're going to eat this with crispy fried egg, start with frying the egg. This way there's only one wok to clean up after cooking. Heat the wok until smoking, then add 2 tbsp oil and cook until crispy on the edges but the yolk is still runny. Set egg aside.
- Pound garlic and chillies in a mortar and pestle or just cut finely with a knife until most of the garlic is broken up - you don't want to get big pieces of garlic in a mouthful.
- Using remaining oil in the wok (add more to become 1 tbsp if needed), heat until lightly smoking then add the garlic and chillis and cook for about 10 seconds making sure to stir so they don't catch on the bottom.
- Add the chicken and cook for about 1-2 minutes until mostly cooked through. Add the vegetables and allow to wilt (add a tablespoon or two of water if ingredients are catching on the wok).
- Add the sauces and continue to stir through, another 1-2 minutes. If you like a thicker sauce use a cornstarch slurry to thicken.
- Finally, add the holy basil and turn off the heat - the residual heat will cook the leaves through and release the aroma.
- Serve with rice and fried egg.