Serious Eats: Recipes

Eat for Eight Bucks: Gai Pad Krapow (Thai Basil Chicken)

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1/2 pound ground chicken - $2.21
1 bunch basil - $1.50
1/3 pound green beans - $0.99
Chili peppers - $0.30
1 large shallot - $0.20
1 lime - $0.50
2 eggs - $0.36 (carton of 12 large eggs - $2.19)

Pantry items:
White rice, garlic, fish sauce, sugar, vegetable oil

Total cost: $6.06

My second restaurant trail went well, at first. Undeterred by the spectacular failure of my first attempt, I had offered my services to a restaurant specializing in the flavors of my native region. As I was to discover, growing up in Southeast Asia is not a very strong qualification for working in a Southeast Asian kitchen.

Relieved to have survived ginger and scallion duty without attracting ridicule or severing a thumb, I set upon my next task—chopping a crate of bird's eye chilis—with vim and vigor. If only I had set upon it with common sense and a pair of gloves.

I'll say this for myself: I walked out of that restaurant with my head held high—and broke into a run only after I'd turned the corner. Then I ducked into the first bar I saw, and sat there sipping whisky through a straw, each hand knuckle-deep in a glass of ice water. My fingertips burned for three days. And no, the restaurant never did offer me the job.

In your own home, you'll probably never have to handle 300 chili peppers at a time. Still, be careful when chopping chilis for gai pad krapow (or its accompaniment, nam pla prik); let your knife slide the chilis into the wok, not your hand. Chili precautions aside, the classic Thai dish of ground chicken and basil, with chili, fish sauce, and a touch of sugar, is quick and simple to prepare.

Served over white rice with a runny fried egg, the dish is a dead ringer for the Sidewalk, lunch dish of choice—Adam has been known to order it four days in a row—at Serious Eats HQ. Office favorite Song Kran sells it for $8.95, but the home-cooked version will run you just about $3 a person.

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