If you've got a garden glut and are desperate for recipes with holy basil (kaprow/gaprao/etc…), this holy basil sauce is a great place to start. Not only is it a good way to use up a bunch of this fragrant herb, but it will also keep for some time in the fridge. Double or triple the recipe, depending on how much holy basil you've got to hand. You can also chuck an extra handful into the single serving recipe.
How to use holy basil sauce
The most obvious application for the vegan holy basil sauce is pad kaprao, but there are plenty of other uses too. It would work well with drunken noodles and any similar style of cooking sen yai (fresh rice noodles).
Speaking of noodles, another consideration is spaghetti. To the uninitiated this may sound bizarre, but use of pasta in stir fries is familiar to Thai cooks (consider pad macaroni, a great favourite of Thai children). Though the Thai pasta preference tends to err more on the side of well done, my recommendation is to use spaghetti that's cooked al dente, coat it in some oil, and then use it to stir fry (it will cook further as you do, so keep that in mind).
Stir fry potential doesn't stop at noodles, however. Most mock meats or vegetables will also work well with this sauce. While I've yet to try it, I reckon stir fried brussels sprouts or asparagus would be a top notch pairing.
As far as other cooking methods, look to both steaming and deep frying. With regards to the former, a drizzle of this over steamed tofu is a treat. I think it would also be marvelous with broccoli and other brassicas.
With regards to deep frying, consider things like mock meats and medium to firm tofu. Sliced OmniFoods brand golden filet or fish burgers would be ace. Battered and fried mushroom also have potential. If you can get your hands on vegan pork belly that's suitable for deep frying, you'll score big.
All of that said, one of my most favourite ways to use holy basil sauce is to season dumpling fillings. One of the most popular items at pop ups I've done with Kay Kay Food is a holy basil and shiitake mushroom crystal dumpling, which was made using this sauce.
Ingredients and substitutions
In Western cooking we're often taught to never let garlic pass beyond the point of lightly fried because it will impart bitterness to foods. Thai cooking throws this strange logic to the wind. This is a note to my Western readers: cook the garlic slightly past the point of what feels natural, to where it starts to get a little crispy at the edges.
You can limit the quantity of chillies to suit your preference. As I mention in the recipe below, for me the chillies are integral to the flavour and consequently the sauce doesn't taste right without them. Rather than omit them, I'd suggest using a more mild variety if bird's eye chillies pack too much of a punch for you. But then again, my definition of what tastes "right" isn't monolithic; we've all got different preferences. You do you.
Too many Thai restaurants abroad and content creators use Thai basil in place of holy basil in recipes that should call for the latter (e.g. pad kaprao literally translates to stir fried holy basil but do a google search for this dish and I promise you'll find plenty of recipe writers who don't even mention holy basil). Holy basil is not replaceable. If you can't find it, bookmark this recipe and hold off for when you do.
Vegetarian oyster sauce is easy to find in any ESEA grocer. Look for jars labelled vegetarian mushroom stir fry sauce (or something like that).
As far as the other sauces go, look to my Thai soy and seasoning sauce primer for a more in depth explanation.
Thai holy basil sauce
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Handful of bird’s eye chillies, chopped (the quantity is up to you)
- 50 grams roughly chopped garlic ⅓ packed cup
- 60 millilitres water ¼ cup
- 2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons thin soy sauce See notes
- 1 tablespoon seasoning sauce See notes
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 packed cup holy basil leaves finely chopped (you can also add more)
- Heat the oil to medium high. Add chillies and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the garlic turns a shade or two darker and the air in your kitchen has been replaced by cough-inducing chilli fumes (P.S. prop your window open and turn on you extractor fan).
- Turn heat down to medium and add the water, sauces, and sugar. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add holy basil and cook for another 15 seconds.
- Leave the sauce to cool a bit before bottling. Store in the fridge.
Looking for other vegan Thai recipes? Try these on for size: