I think I’ve mentioned before that James & I have been on a health kick for a while, so I’ve been baking a lot less and cooking a lot more than usual. More recently, I’ve started embracing the oft-neglected wok in our kitchen and stir-frying a lot of Asian veggies and entrees. I’m sure that the most immediate question that comes to mind is–“you’re an Asian household with a neglected wok pan?” It’s a fair question, I won’t hold it against you! I was always interested in the cuisines most different than what I grew up with, and strove to better myself in the more classic French and Italian recipes. Filipino food was something I grew up with, so I didn’t place too much importance on understanding how to make Filipino dishes. Decent Asian food has always been affordable–especially here in LA–so James & I never bothered too much with cooking Asian dishes.
But now that we’re trying to watch what we eat, it’s very important that we directly control what ends up going into each meal. A lot of restaurants throw in sugar, extra oil, even butter at times… just to make sure that the food is delicious and that customers will return. Is it possible to make a home equivalent of authentic restaurants? I think so, and hopefully you will too when you try this recipe!
My all-time favorite Thai dish is pad see-ew–flat noodles stir-fried with a sweet soy sauce, eggs and broccoli–but James has always ordered pad kra pow whenever he sees it on the menu. His mother’s side is ethnically Chinese, but grew up in Laos and Thailand–so he’s always had an affinity with Thai food and spicy food in general. I decided that I would try to recreate his favorite dish for him, but mix it up in order to make it a little healthier.
For this particular attempt, I used lean ground turkey and added onions and bell pepper while omitting the shallots that the recipe normally calls for (I forgot to pick them up at the grocery store, good grief!). Because I was lacking shallots, I increased the amount of garlic to compensate–and the end result turned out well! No leftovers = victory. I usually try to make recipes with substitutions in mind in case you live in an area where certain ingredients aren’t available; unfortunately, for this dish, it is extremely important that you obtain bird’s eye chilies (Thai chilies) and Thai basil in order to retain its flavor. I have used jalapenos instead of Thai chilies in a pinch before, and the jalapeno flavor overpowers the other ingredients. If you were to substitute Thai basil with Italian basil, you’ll run into the opposite problem. Simply put: it just won’t taste like pad kra pow.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of Thai chilies! The first time I made pad kra pow, I used six chilies and felt it could use a little more of a kick. The second time I made it, I used seven chilies instead and thought my throat was going to swell shut! I’ve listed six chilies as in the original recipe, but feel free to adjust it according to your tastes. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle to ground the chilies down, you can always use your cutting board and the handle on a wooden spoon. Just exercise caution when handling chilies–wash your hands thoroughly afterward and keep your hands away from your eyes! Better yet, use gloves. Trying to take your contacts out after cooking spicy food and not washing properly is awful, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone!
I think those are all the addendum you could possibly need for this recipe. Onward ho!
Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia.
Pad Kra Pow (ผัดกะเพรา)
- 10 oz. lean ground turkey
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 1/4 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 1/4 tsp. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. dark black soy sauce (or regular)
- 1 bunch Thai basil leaves, un-stemmed (I used 8-10 stems)
- 6 Thai chilies
- 1/8 tsp. white pepper
- cooking oil (I used 3 Tbsp.)
- Chop the Thai chilies into small pieces, then use a mortar & pestle to grind the pieces down.
- Mix the fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and Thai chilies together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat the oil in the wok on medium high heat.
- Add the garlic and onions and saute for a minute, or until the garlic and onion are fragrant.
- Add the ground turkey and toss with the garlic and onions until fully cooked.
- Add the chopped bell pepper and mix into ground turkey.
- Add the bowl of sauce, then stir until the contents of the pan are coated with the sauce.
- Add the Thai basil leaves and stir quickly until the leaves have wilted and a fragrant scent is released.
- Add the white pepper, stir the mix a few more times, then remove from heat and serve immediately.
- If you have leftovers, they will keep for a week in the fridge.