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Chicken Thai Basil – and loving fish sauce

August 6, 2009
I’ve never been the type of girl that has fish sauce laying around. Love Thai food, but fish sauce is not a pretty name. Conjures up mental images of fish heads. Wikipedia doesn’t help: Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment.

The second Google entry isn’t a whole lot more assuring.

So, internet be damned, I checked with one of my dear foodie-lite friend’s:

H: Soooo, talk me down from the ledge on fish sauce.
D: Um. No. I’ve never used it and it sounds scary.

Regardless of this poor start, I’m not a girl that’s going to be scared of any ingredient that I can find in Acme. Even when I can’t find it at the first two Acmes, and have to go to a third store – Genuardi’s, thankyouverymuch – to pick it up. And besides, I have some Chicken Thai Basil to make.

Looks harmless enough

This recipe was in my found-online-and-need-to-make-sooner-then-later folder (seriously, that’s my folder in Gmail. I also have a found-online-and-wishful-thinking folder). And it was one that actually peaked the husbands interest. Not least because of the fish sauce. And not also because we usually bicker like we’ve been together for 8 years (we have) whenever we go for Thai as to who gets to order Chicken Thai Basil.
Mise en place

Step-by-step, this was the easiest Chicken Thai Basil I could find online, anywhere. The usual suspects have crazy long ingredient lists with a whole array of interesting sounding items. This one has 10, and only 1 or 2 that weren’t already in my kitchen. Then there was the cook time, which was about 20 minutes from top to bottom.

Oil goes in the pan, onions and garlic go into the pan, cut up chicken goes into the pan. Everything cooks. Then all your sauces and sugar go into the pan. The end. I had to make some noodles to go along with it just to avoid feeling lazy. But the broth was rich with a nice kick to it. The fish sauce, quite tasty, and the chicken, veggies, and basil just suck it right up. This is a good easy Thai dinner when you’re in the mood for Thai and not in the mood for putting on decent clothes…or pants…or just uninterested in going out.

Chicken with Fresh Basil
From Quick and Easy Thai: 70 Everyday Recipes, by Nancie McDermott

3 tblsp vegetable oil
3 cloves diced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp water
2 tsp sugar
2 tblsp chopped fresh hot green chilies, such as Thai chilies, serranos, or jalapeños
1 cup fresh basil Asian basil, holy basil, or Italian basil leaves. I went with Italian basil, but it was still perfect.

Heat the oil in a largeskillet over medium-high heat and then add the garlic and onion. Toss well, and when they begin to release their aroma, add the chicken. Toss well, using a spatula to help meat brown evenly and to break up big chunks to achieve a crumbly texture.

Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar and cook 2 to 3 minutes, tossing now and then, just until the meat is cooked and the seasonings form a thin, smooth sauce. Add the chilies and basil and toss well. Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot or warm.

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