Normally, I encourage people to make substitutions or change a dish according to their taste, but for this dish, I feel there are a couple essentials that just should not be left out. The first is the Thai basil. Traditionally holy basil is used, but Thai sweet basil will work fine. Both have distinctive flavors that are sometimes interchanged but cannot be replicated with the basil you’d use to make pesto. The second is to use the proper type of soy sauce. Ya’ll know that all soy sauces are not created equal! I found the best combination is black soy sauce (preferably Thai, but Chinese will work okay) and mushroom soy sauce. Other than that, you can play around with the vegetables and meat. I’ve seen bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, baby corn and even tomatoes. For the meat, just about anything will do, but my favorites are chicken and pork.
I recommend using Thai black soy sauce but this Chinese version is similar enough. Both use molasses to give a slight sweetness.
Feeds 4 to 6
- 2 tbs black soy sauce
- 4 tbs mushroom soy sauce or light soy sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- fresh Thai chilies, to taste, cut lengthwise
- 1 cup packed Thai basil leaves (holy basil is best, but Thai sweet will work)
- 2 to 3 chicken breasts, roughly minced (pork, turkey or cubed tofu also okay to use)
- ½ large onion, sliced into wedges
- 1 to 2 cups Chinese long beans, sliced into 2” sticks
- fish sauce, to taste
- 1 package fresh rice noodles (sold in 2- pound packages), strands separated
Before you start stir-frying, make sure you’ve got everything prepared. The noodles may take the longest because separating the strands can be tedious and difficult to separate. It’s a little easier if they are not straight out of the fridge. Keep in mind that every single strand doesn’t have to be separated, but try to the have no more than two strands stuck together.
In a very hot wok over high heat, add about 2 tbs peanut oil or vegetable oil. Add the chilies, garlic and stir-fry for about 20 seconds. Add the onion wedges and long beans and continue to stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the meat and cook until just done. Add a couple squirts of fish sauce and remove everything quickly to a bowl. Set aside until needed.
To the hot wok, add about 1 or 2 tbs more oil, and when it’s hot add most of the basil then the separated noodles on top. Stir-fry until the noodles begin to soften, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Give the noodles a few seconds between turns to allow them to take on some color. Let’s hope your wok is well seasoned, otherwise you’ll have a big mess of rice noodle stuck and burnt at the bottom. Add back in the meat and veggies and give it a few good stirs to mix. Add in about half to 2/3 of the sauce and stir-fry to mix it well. Taste the noodles and add more sauce as needed. Throw in the remainder of the basil and give it a quick turn, then you’re done. Serve immediately with fish sauce on the side to allow diners to adjust the taste to their liking.