Thai Chicken Stir Fried with Holy Basil Recipe (Pad Gra Pow Gai)

Chicken Stir Fry with Holy BasilStir-fried chicken with Thai holy basil is a favorite dish for Thais and Westerners alike. Simple to prepare, it is sold in small Thai eateries as a quick one-plate meal served on a bed of steamed jasmine rice. The number of fresh chilies makes this a spicy dish, but you can adjust the recipe to suit your taste.

This dish is also popular made with pork instead of chicken and is called pad grapow moo.


  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped, or cut into small bite-size pieces
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 shallots, thinly sliced (or substitute with 1/2 cup sliced onion)
  • 2-3 tbsp peanut oil for stir-frying
  • 2 tsp black soy sauce (the semi-sweet kind, siew dohm)
  • 1-2 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam bplah), to taste (Golden Boy brand is recommended)
  • 1 cup fresh Thai holy basil (bai gka-prow), or substitute with: 1/4 cup dried holy basil, soaked to soften plus 1/2 to 1 cup fresh Thai sweet basil (bai horapa)
  • 2 small kaffir lime leaves (bai ma-gkrood), very finely slivered (optional)
  • 5-10 Thai chillies (prik kee noo), chopped and pounded with a mortar and pestle; or 2-3 fresh jalapeno or fresno peppers, cut into large slivers
  • Dash of ground white pepper


Prepare the ingredients as indicated. Leave the fresh basil leaves whole; the flowers may also be used. The dried holy basil will soften when soaked in tap water for 10-15 minutes. Pull off and discard the hard stems. Drain.

Heat a wok until the surface is smoking hot. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok surface. Wait a few seconds for the oil to heat, then stir in the garlic, followed a few seconds later with shallots. Stir another few seconds before adding the chicken. Stir-fry a minute or two, or until most of the chicken has started to change color on the outside and is no longer pink.

Toss in the chillies, slivered kaffir lime leaves and reconstituted dried holy basil (if using). Sprinkle black soy sauce over the mixture and stir-fry another 15-20 seconds. Then add fresh basil leaves and fish sauce to taste. Stir and mix well. Stir-fry another half a minute, or until the basil is wilted and the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with white pepper. Stir and transfer to a serving dish, or spoon directly over individual plates of plain steamed rice.

Kasma's Notes & Pointers  

This is a good and easy stir-fried dish and one of the favorites among Thai people. It is served over rice as a one-dish meal, for breakfast or for lunch, often topped with a crispy fried egg. Of course, it also appears frequently as one of the courses in a shared family-style meal.

Thai BasilIf you are not able to find fresh holy basil, this recipe can be substituted with any fresh basil. I have also tried it with a mixture of fresh Thai sweet basil (bai horapa) and fresh mint leaves with good results.

The smaller the chicken is cut, the greater the surface area to coat with the flavors of the aromatic herbs and sauces, and the more flavorful the stir-fry will be. Some of my students have reported good results using ground turkey. In Thailand, this dish is often made with chopped pork, or bird meat, especially in fast-food, curry-rice shops (rahn kao gkaeng), where an enormous variety of dishes are prepared ahead of time and served over steaming white rice to order.

When I travel in the rural areas, I often stop at such rice shops in small towns for lunch. Some of the best pad gka-prow can be had at these inconspicuous, no-frills, open-air places. They are made particularly spicy to help preserve the meat, as the dishes are prepared early in the morning and served throughout the day until they are sold out.

Try the above recipe also with fresh seafood (in this case, no need to chop) - shrimps, scallops, mussels, clams, crab and firm-flesh fish, such as fresh halibut and salmon.

Recipe Copyright © 1995 Kasma Loha-unchit, Thai cooking instructor, cookbook author.

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