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

A plate of Thai basil chicken, gai pad krapow, with white rice, a fried egg, and sliced cucumbers.

Serious Eats

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.

Recipe Facts



Cook: 10 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serves: 2 servings

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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • Chilis, finely chopped (use 2-3 serrano peppers for a very mild heat; 2-3 bird's eye chilis for a medium heat)

  • 1 large shallot, finely sliced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/3 pound green beans, trimmed, chopped in 1¼-inch lengths

  • 1/2 pound ground chicken

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1 bunch basil, leaves only

To serve:

  • Boiled rice

  • Fried eggs, 1 per person (optional)

  • Nam pla prik (recipe follows) or fresh lime wedges

For Nam Pla Prik (Chili Fish Sauce)

  • Fish sauce

  • Fresh lime juice

  • Chilis, finely chopped

  • Shallots, finely sliced


  1. Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or large frying pan. When you can see waves forming in the hot oil, add the chilis, shallots, and garlic and stir-fry until golden, about 30 seconds.

  2. Add the green beans and stir-fry until cooked but still crunchy, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Add the ground chicken, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat into small pieces. Stir-fry until chicken is cooked through.

  4. Add the fish sauce and sugar to the pan, and stir to distribute. Taste, and add more fish sauce or sugar if desired.

  5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the basil leaves and stir-fry until completely wilted. Remove from heat.

  6. Serve with boiled rice, fried egg (optional), and nam pla prik or lime wedges.

  7. Nam Pla Prik (Chili Fish Sauce): Mix fish sauce and lime juice to taste (a typical ratio is 3-4 parts fish sauce to 1 part lime juice) and pour over chilis and shallots. Consume immediately, or pour into a clean jar and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
867 Calories
44g Fat
71g Carbs
53g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 867
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 44g 56%
Saturated Fat 10g 51%
Cholesterol 172mg 57%
Sodium 3206mg 139%
Total Carbohydrate 71g 26%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 53g
Vitamin C 41mg 206%
Calcium 233mg 18%
Iron 10mg 54%
Potassium 1887mg 40%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)