TAIWANESE BASIL CHICKEN

It happens from time to time that after I eat something, I wonder just how is that dish made.

Last month, I got to sample a basil chicken dish from a restaurant I reviewed called Chulicious. The rich, layered flavors of the chicken thighs marinated in sauce coupled with the aromatic herbs really had me unable to stop eating the dish. I remember between both my parents and I, we finished that entire take-out box of the basil chicken that night. This dish was one of those instances that ended up fueling my culinary curiosity and I delved right into some research. So, without further ado, here’s how things turned out.

Basil Chicken, Photo 1

Basil Chicken (also known as Three Cup Chicken) marries the flavors of fresh herbs with a sweet soy sauce marinade.

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Taiwanese Basil Chicken (Three Cup Chicken)
Makes 2 – 3 servings

~ 1/4 cup sesame oil
~ 10 garlic cloves, chopped
~ 2 tsp ginger, minced
~ 2 Thai chilis, chopped (seeds can be removed per spiciness preference)
~ 1 lb. chicken thighs
~ 2 tbsp soy sauce
~ 1/4 cup Chinese rice wine
~ 1 tbsp sugar
~ 1 cup Thai basil
~ 1/2 cup scallions, chopped

Prep Work:

  • Start by cutting up your garlic and ginger. Even though 10 cloves of garlic might seem like a lot, the dish’s proportions will distribute the garlic flavor evenly and not be overpowering.
  • If you don’t really care for the flavor of ginger, consider dialing back to 1 tsp instead, as I found the ginger flavor is more present in leftovers (if you even have any afterwards!).
  • Next, tackle your Thai basil and scallions. (Note that Thai basil, characterized by a purple colored stem, is different than the more common sweet basil found in grocery stores.) For the basil, cut them down to just the leaves, and then give that pile a rough chop in order to better distribute the flavor while cooking.
  • For the scallions, trim the entire section 2″ above the roots off before cutting the remainder of the stalk into 1″ sections.
  • Next, set your sights on the Thai chilis. These little peppers are what will give the dish a little bit of a kick. As I mentioned above, one way to adjust the spiciness level of the dish is to seed the chilis. I ended up seeding one chili and leaving the other intact, and I think that kept my dish’s spiciness at a good level. After stemming and slicing the chili in half, cut into 1/4″ pieces.
  • Take your chicken thighs, cut those down into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.
  • For the sauce mixture, place the soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, and sugar all into a bowl and whisk it together, checking that you’ve dissolved all the sugar in the mixing process.

Stovetop:

  • Now comes the fun part. Heat up a large skillet on medium-high and pour in your sesame oil. Once the skillet is ready, add in your garlic, ginger, and chilies, stir-frying that up for about two minutes, being careful not to burn them.
  • Add in your chicken thigh chunks and cook them up. It was probably after 3 – 4 minutes I thought the pieces were done, but I did it mostly by feel. I left the pieces on there a little longer to get the outsides fried up a little bit.
  • When your chicken is done, dial down the heat to medium and pour your soy sauce mixture over the mixture and stir to distribute evenly. It’s possible that the mixture will bubble up initially, but that will die down after a few seconds. Cook this uncovered for about 8 – 10 minutes and let the sauce thicken, stirring occasionally to turn the pieces over. There should only be a thin layer of sauce on the bottom before adding in the final two ingredients.
  • Turn the heat back up to medium-high and add in your chopped basil and scallions. Continue to stir-fry that for about another 2 – 3 minutes, letting the basil leaves shrink down and impart that flavor into the chicken. Here’s a look into the pan after it’s all said and done:

Basil Chicken, Photo 2

The aroma coming out of the pan as I took this picture was amazing.

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Plating:

  • You could serve this as a dish by itself or over a bed of rice. Either way, it still tastes great!

For my first time making this dish, I was extremely happy with how everything came together. I sampled a piece of chicken out of the pan after it was done cooking and had to restrain myself from eating the whole portion right there.

The layered flavors are what I really like about this: you get the sweet and tangy first, followed by the aromatics of the basil, then the garlic, then a slight hint of ginger, and the spiciness from the chilis lingers in the aftertaste. I absolutely can’t wait to make this again.

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