Why It Works
- The warm fragrant heat of fresh ginger is layered into the dish by pounding it into a paste and thinly slicing it into matchstick pieces for the stir-fry.
- Wood ear mushrooms soak up the flavorful sauce and provide a textural contrast to the tender chicken and crisp fresh chiles.
The influence of Chinese cooking can be found in many Thai dishes, and gai pad king—stir-fried chicken with ginger and wood ear mushrooms*—is a prime example of Thai-Chinese cuisine. This dish starts with a paste made from pounding fresh ginger with white peppercorns and aromatics, which is then stir-fried with chicken, more sliced fresh ginger, wood ear mushrooms, and a savory sauce made with ingredients originally introduced to Thai cuisine by Chinese emigrants—soy sauce, oyster sauce, and fermented soybean paste.
Gai pad king is a popular aahaan dtaam sang (made-to-order) dish at street food stalls, made by vendors who specialize in high-heat wok cooking. Unlike noodle dishes, which are usually eaten as stand-alone street food meals, gai pad king is also a staple for Thai home cooks, thanks to its pantry-friendly ingredient list of shelf-stable sauces, spices, and dried mushrooms, along with the chicken and a handful of common fresh vegetables and herbs. Investing in Thai pantry ingredients will make it easy for you to pull off simple stir-fries like this one, ones that can be enjoyed as a quick and easy dinner with cooked jasmine rice and prik nam pla, a punchy condiment of fish sauce and Thai chiles. You can also serve it as part of a multi-course Thai meal, with dishes like panang beef curry, galam plee nam pla, and yam khai dao.
Editor's Note: On September 24, 2020, all Shirakiku imported dried fungus were recalled due to concerns about salmonella contamination; please check your pantry to be sure the wood ear mushrooms you may have on hand are not a part of the recall.
- For the Prik Nam Pla: (optional, see note)
- 1/4 cup (60ml) fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) fresh lime juice from 1 lime
- 3 to 5 fresh Thai chiles (3 to 5g total), stemmed and thinly sliced into rounds
- 1 small shallot (15g), thinly sliced
- 1 small garlic clove (3g), thinly sliced
- For the Stir-Fry Sauce:
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) Golden Mountain seasoning sauce or light soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (8ml) oyster sauce, preferably Thai
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Thai black soy sauce or Chinese dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Thai fermented soybean paste
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) fish sauce
- Pinch of granulated sugar
- For the Stir-Fry:
- One 3-inch piece (35g) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into julienne, divided
- 2 cilantro roots (8g), cleaned and sliced (see note)
- 1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns
- 7 small garlic cloves (20g), sliced
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound (225g) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch by 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup (1/4 ounce; 8g) dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and torn into 1-inch pieces (see note)
- 2 fresh long chiles, such as cayenne, stemmed, seeded, and quartered lengthwise (see note)
- 2 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 10g total)
- Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
For the Prik Nam Pla (if using): In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, lime juice, Thai chiles, shallot, and garlic (if using). Set aside.
For the Stir-Fry Sauce: In a small bowl, stir together Golden Mountain seasoning sauce, oyster sauce, black soy sauce, fermented yellow bean paste, fish sauce, and sugar until well-combined. Set aside.
For the Stir-Fry: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of sliced ginger (1/5 of total amount; 5g), cilantro roots (or stems), and white peppercorns to a granite mortar and pestle and pound into a fine paste, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to pound until rough paste forms, about 1 minute.
In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and remaining sliced ginger (30g), and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Add stir-fry sauce and wood ear mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is reduced to a glaze that evenly coats ingredients, about 1 minute. Add long chiles and 1 teaspoon (5ml) water around sides of wok and use a wok spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to wok.
For Serving: Remove from heat and stir in scallions to lightly wilt them. Serve immediately with cooked jasmine rice, passing prik nam pla at the table.
Prik nam pla literally translates to "chiles in fish sauce." It is a condiment often present at the table, and it's used for seasoning and adding chile heat to various dishes, especially stir-fries, eggs, and rice. Prik nam pla is not meant to be a “balanced” sauce—it is intentionally very salty and spicy, with just a hint of fresh acidity from lime juice. It is strongly recommended for serving with this dish, but it is optional.
The roots of fresh coriander (a.k.a. cilantro) provide a slight herbal note to dishes but are unfortunately hard to find in the US, as they are often cut off from the stems before going to market (though local farmers markets in the summer and fall often have coriander with the roots still attached). Coriander roots can also be found in Southeast Asian markets. If you can't find the herb with the roots still attached, you can either substitute with an equal amount by weight of tender stems or omit it altogether. And, to clarify, although they are called coriander "roots," Thai cooks usually also use some of the tender green stem.
To rehydrate wood ear mushrooms, place them in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, and set aside to steep for 15 minutes.
The chiles in the stir-fry are meant to have some heat but should be much milder than small Thai chiles. You are looking for a crisp, fresh chile aroma, not sharp spiciness. In Thailand, the red chiles used for this dish are called prik chee faa, and yellow-orange chiles are named prik leung. Fresh cayenne peppers are a comparable substitute and can be found at Southeast Asian markets, some grocery stores, and farmers markets in the late summer and fall.
Make-Ahead and Storage
This dish is best enjoyed immediately. The prik nam pla can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container; bring to room temperature before serving.