I realize I sound like a broken record every time I say “use thigh meat instead of breast”. That doesn’t stop me from saying it however, so here goes: it’s not because chicken breasts on a good day taste like cardboard, but mainly because chicken thighs are a lot more forgiving for meal-prep and bulk cooking scenarios. They tend to take slightly longer to cook – by that I mean no longer than 5 mins for this size, and stay moist and succulent even when reheated days later. There’s a time and a place where breasts are more suited, but as a general rule of thumb I usually avoid it unless it’s for a quick sear or where it’s pounded down and breaded (like a schnitzel). Or if I’m going to be stuffing them.
Sure, breasts cook a lot quicker than thigh meat but this also means that they overcook a lot quicker than thigh meat. And especially when you’re dealing with cooking and prepping dishes like this in bulk, in the time that it takes for the dish to cool down so you can portion and stash it away in the fridge, they’ll overcook. And again when you pull it out to reheat (where essentially heat is applied again), yes, you guessed right, they’ll overcook. Having said this though, for health or other reasons if you still prefer to go down the breast route, just make sure you time them right (instructions in notes below). Could’ve just succinctly made that one statement and got on with my day? Sure, but when have I ever?!
The main aromats in this recipe are a few staple sauces—soy and oyster—and lots of garlic and fresh chilli. The star of the show however is holy basil (tulsi). If you can’t find this, replace it with Thai or Italian basil. It won’t taste the same but it’ll still work. We have a tulsi plant at home which makes this doubly easy, but considering how ubiquitous tulsi is in India, and how almost every household almost always has a plant growing wild somewhere, I would totally ask my neighbour aunty for a bunch. Or scour my neighbourhood for a stray plant. It is known.
10-MINUTE THAI CHICKEN WITH HOLY BASIL
- 1 kilo chicken (I used boneless, skinless thighs)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 5 red or green chillies, or to taste
- 2 ½ tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dark soy (optional - see notes)
- 1 packed cup of holy basil, stems removed
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Pound the chillies and garlic to a coarse paste. Use a mortar and pestle for this or chop the chillies and bruise the garlic with the back of a knife. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large wide pan or wok. Add the pounded chillies and garlic and cook until fragrant - about 2 mins.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Keeping the heat on high, disperse the chicken pieces in the pan so they are in an even layer without too many overlaps. Don’t be tempted to move them around. Let the pieces colour on the first side before you stir and cook the other side.Note: do this in batches if you're cooking a big batch and/or using a small pan.
- Test a piece to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Add in the oyster sauce, dark soy and soy. Cook for a further 5 mins turning the chicken in the sauce.
- Scrape up all the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. All this is flavour we want. If it appears too dry, add a bit of water and cook for a few mins. If it’s too wet, turn the heat up and let some of the liquid evaporate. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Stir in the basil leaves and wilt for no more than a minute. Best served with rice and a side salad or vegetable.