My youngest son has returned from his internship in Singapore and one of the things he brought back is a taste for the kind of amazingly good Asian food he was able to buy at the Hawker stalls near his apartment in the Geylang district. His favorite was a little Thai kitchen that made excellent Gai Pai Gapow or Ground Chicken and Holy Basil. It is a common street food in Thailand and usually pretty hot from the Bird Chilis that they use. I visited him last year and watched them make it and had a pretty good idea of what to do. So, we experimented and got the flavors right the very first time!
It's a really simple dish and cooks in just a few minutes making it a delicious and nutritious fast food. I bought chicken already ground and made sure it had dark meat in it as ground chicken breast is a bit dry. If you can't find ground chicken, you can buy chicken thighs and chop them up. Or, you can substitute ground pork or ground turkey instead. Remember to buy a lot of holy basil. It may seem like too much, but you need it for the flavor and like all greens, shrinks down to very small pieces. You can also use regular basil, but I don't think it is as good. I used a Serrano Chili as it is my favorite as I can handle the heat level. But feel free to buy the traditional Bird Chilis that are a little too hot for me. It is traditionally served with steamed white jasmine rice. It was so good that it is certainly going to become one of our staple dishes from now on!
Gai Pad Gapow – Thai Ground Chicken with Basil
¾ lb ground chicken or chicken things, minced fine (can also use ground pork or turkey)
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Kecap Manis (or you can substitute Tamari and a bit of sugar to make it gluten free)
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped
1 Serrano Chili, stem removed, deseeded and minced (or use 6 Thai Bird Chilis, cut up into tiny pieces)
A big handful of Thai Basil, leaves stripped from the stem
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Mix together the Fish Sauce, the Kecap Manis and White Pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add in the shallot, garlic and Serrano Chili. Cook until it just begins to brown. Add in ground chicken and cook, separating the meat into little chunks. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Add in the sauce mixture and the Thai Basil and toss until basil is wilted. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Five Element Analysis
Chicken belongs to the Wood Element so that element is covered. The fish sauce and soy sauce contribute the Water Element. The basil, garlic and shallot bring in the Metal Element and the pepper and Serrano Chili represent the Fire Element. Only the Earth Element is missing so be sure to serve it with another earthy dish, perhaps something with coconut to make a balanced five element meal.