Chicken with Lemongrass and Basil
This recipe is not inspired by, or adapted from any particular recipe, but the ingredients I am using are very southeast Asian in spirit and would likely be quite at home in Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand. Lemongrass plays a very central role here, but there is an umami depth from Fish Sauce, and a little Chili Paste for fire.
The ingredient list in the recipe card below calls simply for Chili paste. A Sambal Oelek works very well, but an even better ingredient would be an equivalent amount of Sambal Terasi, if you can find it. The fermented shrimp notes will really augment the umami depth of the Fish Sauce.
You may also wish to increase the amount of Basil I have used here, and/or substitute the sweet, European Basil with a South-East Asian variety such as Thai Holy Basil.
The Basic Method
First, mix the sugar and the fish sauce with the chicken and allow it to marinate for at least thirty minutes. Finely mince the lemon grass and then pound it in a mortar to make it a coarse paste and, finally, coarsely shred the basil.
Heat a half-cup to a cup of vegetable oil in your wok. When it comes to the shimmering point, fry your chicken in two, or even three, batches until it is starting to get a little golden in places. If you do this in small enough amounts, the chicken will be nicely done on the outside but still be partially uncooked in the center, which is just what you want. Remove the chicken to a separate bowl as each batch gets done.
Drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of oil and then, when it comes back up to a shimmering heat again, throw in the scallion sections and toss them until just beginning to soften. Now, scoot the sections up the sides of your wok and add the chili paste and then the lemongrass into the oil in the middle. Let them flavor the oil and release their aromas and then add the lime juice. Continue to cook for a few more seconds until the liquid has reduced ever so slightly.
Now add the chicken back into the pan along with the tomato and stir-fry until both are cooked through but not so long that the tomato begins to break down too much (a minute or two should suffice). Lastly, add the basil, toss and stir until this is wilted slightly and then plate and serve.
Your Recipe Card:
Chicken with Lemongrass and Basil
- 1 large boneless Chicken breast sliced crosswise into strips;
- 4 Scallions white part only, cut into 2” sections;
- 3 or 4 baby tomatoes seeds and pulp removed, cut into thin wedges;
- A few sprigs of Basil;
- 1 Tbsp. Chili Paste;
- 2 short sections of fresh Lemongrass;
- 1 tbsp. Sugar;
- 2 tbsp. Fish Sauce;
- 2 tbsp. Lime Juice;
2. Finely mince the lemon grass, pound it in a mortar to make a coarse paste, and coarsely shred the basil.
3. Heat a half-cup to a cup of vegetable oil in a pan over moderate heat and fry the chicken until just starting to brown. Remove the pieces to a bowl for the moment.
4. Drain off all but two tablespoons of oil from the pan, turn up the heat to a moderate high and briefly fry the scallion.
5. Add the chili paste and lemongrass and as soon as they release their aromas, add in the Lime juice. Fry a moment or two longer until the liquid is almost gone.
6. Add the chicken followed by the tomatoes and fry until both are well-heated through.
7. Add the Basil, fry until they are just wilting, then serve piping hot.