International cuisine in North Dakota?  You betcha!  Today’s post is brought to you by my husband, who has been perfecting his recipe for pad krapow for at least a year now.  I just sit back and enjoy the deliciousness.  (Note:  Most of these ingredients, including Thai bird’s eye chilies and Thai basil, can be found in a good Asian market. Also, you will want to have good ventilation–open the windows if you have to.)

In college, I was introduced to Thai food by some friends in the music department, including one who had grown up in Thailand as a missionary kid. She said the local restaurant was authentic and just like she remembered it. My favorite dish was Pad Krapow, a stir-fry with any kind of meat and Thai basil. She taught me to order it “Thai style,” with the meat ground up instead of cut in strips, and served with fried eggs on top. (Obviously, Thai style also means incredibly hot!)

Fast forward six years, and my wife and I discovered a great Thai/Burmese restaurant while at seminary in Fort Wayne. I was glad to see my favorite dish on the menu again. We brought yet another Thai missionary friend along, who confirmed that this was also a very authentic restaurant—with the added bonus of a great Asian market next to it. With her help, I was able to collect ingredients and make my favorite dish at home.

Apparently in Thailand, you eat all day long. This dish is a standard with many street vendors. Here’s a video of someone with a cool accent raving about it (and showing how to cook it).

This last meal is as close to perfection as I’ve come so far, and so I want to share it with everyone!

Thai (or bird’s eye) chilies: I’ve fallen in love with these chilies. You could substitute serranos or other peppers if you had to, but it wouldn’t be the same. Make the effort to get them! They have their own unique flavor, but for me it’s the kind of heat they give. They don’t have a really sharp bite, but they can be very hot in quantity. Your mouth will burn. Your nose will run. The top of your head will sweat. But it’s a slow, lingering heat that just makes you feel good all over. (Pepper heat releases endorphins.) And these peppers don’t have… “adverse” side effects the following day. It all adds up to a perfect kind of spicy in my book. Four peppers in this recipe makes my wife sweat, but doesn’t hurt her. I would put in more if I were making it for myself.

Nam Pla Prik: This is a common condiment. It’s nothing more than peppers marinated in fish sauce. Make a few days to a week in advance if possible. The result is a very spicy and stinky pot of pepper pieces… but it’s good, somehow!

Thai Basil: There are two types of Thai basil that you might find. The first is what is usually just called “Thai basil,” or Bai Horapa. This one is easy to identify because of the green leaves and purple stems, and it is the easiest to find. The other is Bai Krapow, or “holy basil.” This variety is what the dish is named for, so it is more authentic. Its flavor isn’t quite as bold. Either will work for this recipe.

The Sauce: I have played with the ratios of sauce. The most recent result tasted good, but may have needed slightly more. Feel free to increase, decrease, or subtract from this list: dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar.

Pad Krapow
Time:  1 hour
Serves 3-4

Stir Fry:
1 lb. ground meat (beef, pork, or chicken)
1/2 medium onion, cut into thin petals
1/3 bell pepper, cut into thin strips (optional)
4-5 cloves garlic
4+ fresh Thai bird’s eye chilies
1 to 1 1/2 cups (packed) Thai basil leaves, stems removed
canola or peanut oil

1 tsp. oyster sauce
3 tsp. fish sauce
2 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. light soy sauce

eggs (1-2 per person)
canola or peanut oil

Nam pla prik (optional):
Thai bird’s eye chilies, diced
fish sauce

1. Crush garlic and chilies in mortar with pestle (or use a food processor) into a coarse paste.  (You may want to keep the two ingredients separate; see step 4.)

2. Combine sauce ingredients, or just have the bottles on hand to add to taste.

3. Heat 1-2 T. oil in wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.

4. Add garlic/chili mixture to oil and cook until fragrant, a minute or so. (You may want to add the chilies separately, after the onion and pepper have cooked some. The chili oils tend to go into the air and burn your lungs out if you don’t have good ventilation. Be warned!)

5. Add onion and pepper. Stir-fry for a minute or so until softened.

6. Add meat. Stir-fry until cooked through.

7. Add sauces. Cook for a minute or so until the liquid reduces a bit.

8. Remove from heat and gently mix in basil.

9. Cook egg(s).

The egg is important, I think. Ideally, you fry it in oil in the wok. I usually get a separate cast-iron skillet and use just a bit of oil to coat the bottom. Fry the egg in the oil so that the edges are very crispy and brown, whites are firm, but the yolks remain runny. I’ve found that this method works well if you cover the pan loosely with a lid to help the top of the egg steam.

10. Serve over rice (jasmine is traditional) with eggs on top.