Thai-style Chicken with Chillies and Basil


Given that both chicken and basil are staples throughout the world, one may conclude that what make this a ‘Thai-style’ treat are the distinctly Thai herbs and spices in the recipe. And that is the case. The ability to take such simple foods and create a memorable dish is an aspect of any great cuisine and it is integral to the Thai canon.

This is a perfect dish for the daily menu.


  • 450 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 900 g (2 lb) unboned chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 3 large fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • large handful basil leaves


If using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones or have your butcher do it for you. Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks and combine it in a bowl with the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and cornflour. Allow it to marinate for 20 minutes.

Peel the lemongrass to the tender whitish centre and cut into 5 cm (2 in) pieces. Smash with the flat of a knife or cleaver.

Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is very hot, then add the groundnut oil. When the oil is hot, add the lemongrass and add the chicken. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the chicken is brown. Pour the contents of the wok into a stainless-steel colander set inside a bowl to drain. After a minute or so, reheat the wok and return the drained chicken and lemongrass to it. Add the rest of the ingredients except the basil leaves and continue to cook for another 8–10 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the chicken is cooked, add the basil leaves, and give the mixture a good stir. You can remove the lemongrass stalks before serving. Pour onto a warm serving platter and serve at once.