Recipe Stir Fry Basil, with Chicken (Kao Pad Grapow Gai, Kai Dow)

This dish is a classic Thai “breakfast”, and it’s absolutely delicious, but for Thai people, it’s the Basil that is the important part of the dish, the chicken is secondary…

But Grapow is Thai Holy Basil  (spicy) and it can be fairly hard to find depending on where you are… as a very last resort you can use Horapa which is similar to Vietnamese Basil but it has more of a liquorice taste..

Recipe – Stir fry Basil Chicken “Gai Pad Krapow”


Stir-fry basil with almost anything, and its “comfort food” to a Thai person, but chicken is the most common way in Thailand. Gai means chicken



Part 1 – Shopping List and Pre-Preparation Directions


Ingredients Full Recipe Notes & Pre-Prep
Chicken (thighs or backs are perfectly fine) 1 to 1 ½ kilos

about 8 to 12 thighs

Remove the skin and chop/slice the meat off the bones, and then essentially dice the meat into very small pieces, but don’t quite mince it. Small pieces will result in a much more flavourful taste
Cooking oil 2 tbsp Peanut oil, peanut/canola, grape seed oil
Garlic 8 to 12 cloves Amount depends on the size, and strength of the garlic, and your taste. Chop finely
Shallots 2 – 3 medium size Amount depends on the size, and strength of the garlic, and your taste. Slice very thin
Fresh Thai Chillies 4 to 16 Amount depends on your spice tolerance. In Thailand, up to 20 of the tiny “birds eye” chillies could be used, which instantly burn on contact. Slice into small rounds, include the seeds.
Kaffir lime leaves 1 large or 2 small Remove the stem by folding the leaf, and tearing the stem out, then slice it lengthwise into very thin slivers. If the leaf is long then cut the slivers in half as well
Black Soya Sauce 2 –3 tbsp  
Fish Sauce 1 tbsp  
Oyster Sauce 1 tsp Use a Thai brand, they tend to have less sodium
Chicken Stock 1 cup 1 tsp powder in 1 cup of water
Sugar 1 ½ – 2 tsp  


Stir fry Basil Chicken “Gai Pad Krapow”

Fresh Basil 1 cup of leaves Holy basil is the correct kind (Bai gra pow), but is not available fresh unless you grow it. 2nd best is Thai Sweet basil, Bai Horapa (usually sold out by the end of the day in Chinatown), or any kind of fresh basil you can find.   Keep the leaves whole, remove the stems, but okay to use the flower buds
Pepper A dash  
Enhancements Consider garnishing it on top with a fried egg chopped into medium size pieces (this is the Kai Dow part)


Stir fry Basil Chicken “Gai Pad Krapow”

Part 2 – Cooking Instructions (1)  Prepare the sauce in advance using the black soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and chicken stock. Mix well.

(2)  Heat up the wok, first without oil for about 30 seconds or so until it starts to smoke, then add the oil and swirl it a bit to coat the surface

(3)  Let the oil heat for a few seconds and add in the garlic, stir fry it until the “good smell” comes out and it begins to brown but not burn. Burnt garlic will make the dish taste bitter, although that can be compensated for with some sugar at the end. Now it would be preferable to temporarily remove the garlic from the wok with a flipper, as the oil has picked up much of its flavour

(4)  Add the shallots, chillis and kaffir lime, and stir for 30 seconds, Watch out for the fumes from the cooking chillies, it can be quite strong!

(5)  Add the chicken by evenly placing it around the bottom of the wok but DON’T stir it for about 30 to 45 seconds initially, this will ensure that the chicken gets partially browned which adds that recognisable stir fried taste and a bit of texture to the chicken.

(6)  Then stir frequently until all the surfaces of the chicken have changed from being pink to a shade of brown, about another 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Start adding your prepared sauce gradually, especially if the wok is getting dry. Ensure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked (around ½ to 1 minute depending on your stove).

(7)  Distribute the most of the remaining prepared sauce evenly around. Stir vigorously for another 20 seconds or so in order coat all the surfaces of the chicken.

(8)  Add the fresh basil continuing to stir vigorously for until the basil has wilted, Check the taste and then adjust using any remainder of the prepared sauce as required

(9)  Sprinkle on the pepper, and its ready to be served directly on top of steamed white rice etc.

Presentation Tips Serve on top of steamed white jasmine rice. Besides being a great lunch or dinner, this makes a pretty good Thai breakfast when served on top of the white rice and with a whole fried egg on top of the basil chicken.
Variations & Notes After chopping chillies, might be a good idea to wash your hands, as you don’t want to inadvertently transfer that fire to your eyes etc.
Taste Guidance The flavours of chicken and basil are supported by the salty flavour of the fish and soy sauces, but also slightly sweet due to the black soy sauce. The heat from the chillies should come on fairly quick.