Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thai Basil: A great herb to try

We don't go to the Asian grocery stores very often. But whenever we go, I make sure that a pack of fresh Thai Basil lands in our shopping cart. Ever since I got back from a Bangkok trip 5 years ago, I have been mesmerised by Thai cuisine. There's something intriguing in Thai cuisine. No doubt it's almost always spicy, rich-because of the coconut milk used. But on top of that there's something else. Something uniquely Thai. Maybe it's the spice and herb they use.

Ironically, the mystery is only solved after 5 years and a move to another continent later. I finally learn that part of the mystery flavor is imparted by Thai Basil. Ever since my first encounter with Thai Basil, I use it in every single Thai recipes. And it never fails to offer the flavor I love and miss from Thailand. Unlike the sweet basil which we use in Italian cooking, Thai Basil has a more assertive flavor. OCT think it's pungent. However, I find it hard to express in words its complexity. For some reason, it reminds me of fennel bulb. Other than that, Thai Basil is a highly compatible herb with Asian cuisine. I like to add it towards the end when cooking red/green curry. Sometime even in sweet and sour dish, which one could associate with Chinese/Thai cuisine.

Spicy Sesame Noodle with chopped nuts and Thai BasilRecently I find another use of this beloved herb in a recipe from July issue of Bon Appetit. A glance at the ingredient list, I know it would be perfect for our weekly vegetarian meal. The original recipe used egg noodle, but I swapped it with angel hair with no problem. Despite its simplicity, this dish is one which packs with lots of Oriental flavors. The use of three types of fragrant oil with ginger, garlic and vinegar is certainly a clever way to infuse lots of flavors without loading on fat. I further reduced the amount of oil by 1.5 tablespoons and increased 2 more cloves of garlic without missing much flavor. It was a perfect light Oriental meal for summer.

Thai basil may seems unassuming, but adding it to any stirfry, or in this case pasta; would instantly enhance the flavor. If you haven't already tried cooking with Thai basil, I strongly urge to do so. It would certainly surprises you how simple it is to add a "Thai touch" to the standard stirfry.

I am submitting this dish which features Thai Basil as my first entry to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Myriam of Once upon a Tart this round, and be sure to check out more about Weekend Herb Blogging at Kalyn's Kitchen.

Spicy Sesame Noodle with chopped nuts and Thai Basil

Spicy Sesame Noodle with Chopped Nuts and Thai Basil
adapted from July 2007 Bon Appetit

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced ( I used 4 gloves,because I love garlic!)
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil (I used 1.5 Tbps)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
11/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon (or more) hot chili oil*
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles (about 1/16 inch in diameter) or fresh angel hair pasta ( I used dried angel hair)
12 green onions (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Thai basil leaves

*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Heat peanut oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to large bowl. Add next 6 ingredients; whisk to blend.

Place noodles in sieve over sink. Separate noodles with fingers and shake to remove excess starch. Cook in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly and transfer to bowl with sauce. Add sliced green onions and toss to coat noodles. Let stand at room temperature until noodles have absorbed dressing, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour. Stir in peanuts and Thai basil; toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Rasa Malaysia said...

It's true that Thai basil is unique to Thai's cooking. We never use it in Malaysian cuisine. My favorite Malaysian aromatic leaf has got to be curry leaves or laksa leaves...just sniffing them makes me high...whahahaha.

Anh said...

Thai basil is used quite often in Vietnamese cuisine actually. So I am very familiar with its aroma. Love it a lot in salad!

Your noodles look fantastic!

Kalyn Denny said...

I also love Thai basil. It's actually quite easy to grow if you have any space for a garden where you live. This year I had so much I'm trying an experiment with freezing some. This sounds like a perfect dish to use some of the frozen basil. Saving the recipe right now, thanks!

Olivia: (mostly) Happy Homemaker said...

YUM! So happy to have found your blog!

Alanna Kellogg said...

Hi Mandy ~ this is lovely! And I'm so glad to find another St. Louis food blogger! You'll want to introduce yourself (to me via e-mail, please, I'm working on a food blogger event in the next month or so) and to all the St. Louis food bloggers.

BTW - thank Kalyn for introducing us! She came from Salt Lake for last year's food blogger event!

Finla said...

It looks really great.
I love thai food

Nora B. said...

Mandy, I love this noodle recipe! I won't miss meat at all with these terrific flavours. I love the aroma of Thai basil. I wish I can grow Thai basil, but they don't seem to want to in my small garden.

Deborah said...

I have never tried Thai basil before, but I will be looking for some. This recipe looks and sounds wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I like Thai Basil too. And love the way you added that oriental twist to the angel hair. I just done a stir fry of linguine too last week with chinese ingredients. They're good!

Mandy said...

you are making me salivating seeing the word CURRY and LAKSA. haha

I must try it in salad one day. I am going over to your blog to look for some recipes on that.:)

Too bad I am living in an apartment without a garden.:(
But I make buy some and try to freeze it, as suggested by you.

happy homemaker,
thanks for visiting my blog!I hope you enjoy what you see so far.:)

same here! I am so glad to know another St Louis food blogger. Will drop you a mail soon! :)

happy cook,

Well, I don't have a Thai Basil plant here too. Hope that makes you feel better. haha ;p

it can be found in Asian grocery store. Give it a try if you have the chance. :)

you really love noodle,huh? :)I always get many noodle inspirations from your blog!

Gattina Cheung said...

Mandy, I always go crazy for Thai basil and egg noodles! This recipe is really lovely.

Anonymous said...

hey in yr previous post you mentioned buying valrhona cocoa powder from World market... may i know where this place is? (: thank you!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

At one of our markets you can buy basil and Thai basil in pots to put on your windowsill. I didn't realize it would make that big of a difference. Thanks for the heads up!

vegetariankitchen said...

I just found your blog and I'm already hooked! I love thai food, so does my 13 year old daughter. I will be making this for her tonight! Thank you

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Very interesting recipe!! I have never tried Thai basil before...

Greetings from London!

Belinda said...

Thai basil sounds wonderful, but I probably won't be able to find it...I've been wanting to use my new balsamic vinegar in a recipe, and this sounds so yummy, Mandy! :-)

Little Corner of Mine said...

Go check my blog for the award I gave you! ;)

Anonymous said...

This dish looks sooo delicious. I do like thai basil , in fact I love thai food.

Warda said...

I have never hear of thai basil before. I should give a try one day. And the dish is making me hungry all of a sudden.

Aimée said...

Beautiful dish, Mandy. You've reminded me to add some Thai basil to my shopping list for the Asian market. Just love it!

Brilynn said...

This sounds delicious! I love Thai cooking, it always has so many flavours.

Beachlover said...

Your pix look so good.I found your blog thru Cornerofmine.Actually I can't identified which is Thai Basil.All look the same to me..hahaha!!

Aimei said...


I have been following your blog for quite some time and really love your posts. Somtimes, I wish i were like you, in a beautiful foreign country, cooking for my love ones. haha. I have just started my blog mostly on baking. Do give me your advice and comments. :)

By the way, I see that you have quite some knowledge on herbs and dressings. May I know whether the herbs that you used, were they fresh herbs or those bottled dried herbs like thyme, basil, orengano etc?

Do you have any recipes for good dressings without having to buy so may types of ingredients? I would prefer some basic ones using olive oil and herbs that works for most sandwiches and pasta.

I'm from Singapore by the way. :)


Anonymous said...

Your noodles look so delicious! I wish I could scoop up a plateful for myself. Now I need to go find some Thai basil!

Anonymous said...

I don't use much of Thai basil except when I'm cooking Thai food that calls for it. :) Your noodle looks so good.

Mandy said...

thanks everyone for your lovely comments! I just came back from vacation today. And down with a flu. Arghhh.....will visit all your lovely blogs soon.

Kajal@aapplemint said...

the Thai basil is a little sharpet in taste compared to the itallian sweet basil , and it really zings up a dish. I'm sure these noodles must've been wiped of the plate as soon as u served them.

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