Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe (Thailand)

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is simply walking around with no definite itinerary—but with a resolute plan to eat everything in sight. Admittedly, I would have a list of places I have researched beforehand, but there would be no strict schedules. I would usually just select an area, start in one specific restaurant or eatery, and then just go from there. With the COVID-19 situation, doing this again seems like a distant thought, and so I thought of creating this blog series.

#TravelThroughFood will contain all recipes of my favorite dishes from different places I have travelled to. Just because we’re stuck at home, it doesn’t mean that we could only eat Filipino food (not that there’s anything wrong with Pinoy food, but you know what I mean). We could also recreate things we have eaten from our trips—and with Asian cuisines, it’s actually easier than you think.

Today, we’re traveling to Thailand and we’re cooking one of the most popular street eats: Pad Kra Pao. There’s nothing more comforting that eating a plate of spicy food with lots of rice, paired with soft drinks or Thai milk tea—complete with endless drops of sweat and all. This dish is also popularly known as Thai Basil Chicken—but did you know that it literally translates to stir-fried holy basil? As you probably know, holy basil is different from the normal basil you would find in groceries here—it is peppery and somewhat spicy when cooked. In addition, you can use any meat (pork, beef, even shrimps), not just chicken! You can even make a vegetarian one with mushrooms!

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe
Pad Kra Pao with pork

For this recipe, since holy basil would be a little hard to source here, we would be using sweet basil or Thai basil. It’s sad, but it’s better than stir-fried meat WITH NO HERBS. (If you're really up for it, you can try to look for holy basil plants/seeds.)

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe
Pad Kra Pao with minced chicken

The Pad Kra Pao is also one of my favorite dishes to make when I’m pressed for time—and by this, when I only have 30 minutes or less to do everything. Delicious, fast, spicy—be ready to sweat with this dish!

Pad Kra Pao
serves 1 really hungry person or 2-3 persons who have low tolerance for spicy food, LOL (see Note 1)

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (approximately 100 g) or 100 g ground chicken/pork (see Note 2)
2 - 5 red chilies
4 cloves of garlic
a handful of fresh basil leaves (see Note 3)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper (see Note 8)
2 tbsp cooking oil


1 string bean, cut an inch long per piece
1 shallot, chopped (alternative: ½ small onion) (see Note 4)
cilantro (see Note 5)

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe
Pad Kra Pao using ground chicken, with onions, no string beans


1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and black pepper and mix well (see Note 6)
2. Pound garlic and chilies using a mortar and pestle. Alternatively, mince the ingredients individually.
3. Heat oil on medium-high heat, then stir-fry garlic and chilies until fragrant (or until your eyes are watering, LOL). Make sure you don’t burn the garlic.
4. Add chicken or pork, raise the heat to high, and continue stir-frying until the meat is almost done. If it gets dry or sticks on your wok/pan, add a little bit of water.
5. When chicken is almost fully cooked, add the shallots/onions, string bean pieces, and the sauce you made in step 1. Stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes, or until string beans are as tender as you would like them (I personally like some crunch). Deglaze with water as needed. If you’re not using string beans, stir-fry for about a minute.
6. Toss in basil leaves and turn off heat/remove from stove. Mix briefly until wilted (about 30 seconds). Serve with steamed white rice and fried egg (see Note 7). Top with cilantro (optional).


1. I have tried to cook this dish for a big group of people several times, by scaling up the ingredients, but I can’t seem to replicate the same flavor and intensity I get when I’m cooking it for myself. I’d leave it up to you to adjust and experiment (hahaha)—but I suggest following the measurements here. No, it’s not as simple as multiplying the measurements by the number of people. In Thailand, street food vendors would prepare this dish per order/plate as well.
2. I personally prefer chicken simply because it cooks faster. I also like the clean taste of chicken—allowing me to taste more of the garlic, the sauce, and the basil flavors. I have never tried this recipe with beef.
3. I know you’ll ask this—I have tried putting dried basil in some days when I don’t have fresh basil. No, it doesn’t taste the same. I haven't tried dried holy basil leaves either. Fresh is recommended.
4. Some of my friends whom I have shared this recipe with prefers onions/shallots with it. Personally, I skip it.
5. Putting cilantro with this basil stir-fry dish is not common in Thailand. But I love cilantro and I like it with this dish! #DontJudgeMe
6. If you’re cooking for a big batch, I recommend scaling up the measurements for the sauce, setting it aside in a bowl, and just keep adding—and tasting—it while stir-frying, according to your preference.
7. Cook the egg according to your preference (sunny side up, over easy, etc). However, if you want to do it in true Thai style, cook your egg in lots of oil so that it is submerged and it bubbles—until the edges are burnt and crispy. Yum!
8. Use full teaspoon if you like the peppery heat. Otherwise, reduce by half.

Travel Through Food: Pad Kra Pao Recipe
Pad Kra Pao using chicken breast, with string beans and fried egg


Have you tried Pad Kra Pao in Thailand? How did you like it? What do you think of this recipe and of this new blog series?

Read also:

Bangkok Food Trip: 10 Restaurants Worth Traveling For
Lively and exciting, Bangkok is a destination every foodie should visit.

Discover the Secrets of Bangkok's Back Alleys
The real gem of any city is in the streets.

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