Phat Kaphrao Muu

Phat Kaphrao Muu

Minced pork wok-fried with holy basil and no small amount
of chilli and garlic: the go-to spicy lunch of the on-the-go Thai.

Today, phat kaphrao is thoroughly entrenched, arguably one of the most common and beloved dishes in Thailand. It’s most likely a recent invention, an example of culinary fusion that blends Chinese cooking techniques (wok frying) and Thai ingredients (chilli, holy basil). Like many other similar dishes, the two probably first crossed paths in central Thailand, where for more than 200 years, the Thais and the Chinese have been swapping culture – and cuisine.

You’ll need
For the paste
6 or more small fresh Thai
4 cloves of garlic, peeled

For the stir-fry
1 tbs vegetable oil
300g (10½oz) minced pork
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
60ml (¼ cup) water or stock
1 large fresh Thai chilli, thinly
75g (3oz) holy basil
4 eggs, fried (optional)

Cooking Method
1 In a granite mortar and pestle, pound chillies and garlic until you have a rough paste. Set aside.
2 Place a medium wok over a high heat and add oil.
3 When the oil is smoking, add the pork. Stirring only occasionally, allow to brown slightly for about 2 minutes.
4 Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If the mixture is dry and/or sticking to pan, loosen with a tablespoon or two of water or stock.
5 Add large fresh Thai chilli and holy basil, stirring briefly to combine until basil has just begun to wilt, for about 30 seconds.
6 Remove from heat. If serving as part of Thai meal, remove to a large serving platter and serve hot, with rice; if serving over rice, divide among four plates of rice and top each with a fried egg.
TIP Another aspect of phat kaphrao that undoubtedly appeals to diners is its adaptability. Although pork is probably the most popular version of the dish, it can also be made with seafood – squid or shrimp – or minced chicken or beef.

Tasting notes
The number of chillies that goes into an average dish of phat kaphrao would undoubtedly shock many outside of Thailand. Yet like many Thai dishes, even the spicy ones, the seasoning of phat kaphrao varies from person to version. Serving to augment that chilli burn is holy basil, the eponymous kaphrao, an intensely fragrant, almost spicy leafy herb that thrives in Southeast Asia. And throwing fire on fire is the fact that phat kaphrao is served with a small bowl of phrik nam plaa, thinly-sliced fresh chillies in fish sauce, the Thai equivalent of the salt shaker. Really the only respite in phat kaphrao muu is the fact that it’s typically served over rice, topped with a fried egg.

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