Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thai "Chicken" Basil stir-fry

Back in October 2000, the man and I embarked on our first overseas trip together to Thailand. Nothing had been booked apart from our flights but I knew exactly where we were heading for the duration of our time. The ultimate highlight was our 2 night stay in Khao Sok national park, a stunning rainforest in Southern Thailand slightly off the beaten track, which meant that it wasn't over populated with tourists like most of the islands are. 

Our accommodation was a little village comprising of basic huts and a couple of tree houses. We were fortunate to secure one of the tree houses as a couple happened to be leaving just as we arrived. It was the perfect set-up. A tree house in the rainforest right next to the flowing Khao Sok river, which felt a bit rugged at nighttime when the jungle came to life and was full of so many unique sounds like gibbons calling. 

The greater surprise was the atmosphere in the communal area where the backpackers socialised when they weren't out and about exploring the beauty of the rainforest. The tourists were mainly European; lots of Brits, Germans, French and Norwegians and there was one chirpy Brit in particular that we became rather friendly with. We were intrigued when one of the lovely ladies that ran the place asked our friend if he was hungry and if he would like the "usual" with a cheeky grin on her face. Apparently he had been eating it for breakfast, lunch (when not out on a tour) and dinner while he had been staying there! We both decided to follow his recommendation and were also totally hooked.  

It was such a simple dish loaded with garlic, chillies, fish sauce, soy sauce, chicken (we were omnivores back then) and vegies but it was the aniseed taste of the thai basil throughout that made it so unique. We longed for authentic Thai food after we returned to Australia and were unable to find anything like this meal at restaurants. When I did manage to track down thai basil down at a local asian supermarket I was able to replicate the dish to a decent standard so it became a regular until we gave up eating meat.  

Upon sorting through my freezer contents recently, I came across a packet of Fry's chicken-style strips that had been bought so long ago they were getting pretty close to the best before date. We do enjoy a Fry's "chicken" schnitzel topped with a tomato sauce and cheezly every now and again when time is short and have tried a few of other products in the Fry's range but not the strips.  
I decided to put these strips to use in a stir-fry like the one we used to have and hope that they would be a good stand-in. The meal was cooked almost identically to the way it used to be done with the exception of the "chicken" strips. The directions instructed that they were to be cooked in a wok for 5 minutes with some oil and not defrosted first. 

Dinner was sensational! I'm not sure that I loved the "chicken" strips, they were quite good although I may prefer to use some tofu instead next time. The balance of the salty sauces with a touch of sugar and the aniseed bite of the thai basil was perfect. Even the man who used to become a little tired with my thai basil fascination thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I would have liked to include some of our photos from Khao Sok but they were taken in pre-digital camera days and our scanner is on the blink. :( 

Thai "Chicken" Basil stir-fry

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 packet Fry's "chicken" stir-fry strips
4 cloves garlic, sliced into strips
2 birds-eye chillies, finely sliced
1 carrot, chopped thinly
1 red capsicum, sliced into thin strips
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch pak choy, stems and leaves chopped separately
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegan oyster mushroom sauce
2 teaspoons raw sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 large bunch thai basil leaves

Heat a tablespoon of peanut in a wok on the highest temperature and stir-fry the frozen "chicken" strips for about 5 minutes. Remove the strips from the wok.

Add the other tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok, stir-fry the garlic and chillies for about 15 seconds then add the carrot, red capsicum, mushrooms and pak choy stems. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes then add the chicken strips, soy sauce, vegan oyster mushroom sauce, sugar, water, pak choy leaves and thai basil leaves. Stir-fry until the pak choy and thai basil leaves have just wilted. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with brown (or white) rice.    

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