On our very first trip to Hua Ho supermarket in Brunei we found, in the vegetable and herbs section, a huge bunch of Thai Basil. We were SO excited - it's difficult to find in the UK, but it's quite an important flavour in Thai cuisine. It doesn't taste much like its near-namesake - it has a very distinctive aniseed-like flavour, and I wouldn't use Basil and Thai Basil interchangeably, they're just too different.
Anyway, we bought the Thai Basil and went away merrily convinced that we would have a ready supply of it whenever we fancied... But of course we hadn't seen it since! We've now realised that this is often the case when shopping here in Brunei. The supply-lines from various other countries seem a little erratic and often you can go looking for a particular ingredient which you know is always in stock... and it's nowhere to be found. Ah well, it's all part of the excitement!
This was a preamble to the huge excitement of finding Thai Basil for the second time in our 6 months here! Yes, it was back in Hua Ho last Saturday so we bought a large bunch and then set about creating a week's worth of meals around it.
We have recently discovered a great Thai restaurant in Delima, thanks to our friends Chris and Yvonne. It doesn't have a vast menu, but is seriously cheap and cheerful. One of the dishes that either Rob or I often order there is Chicken and Basil with rice, which costs all of $3 - a perfect lunch!
We ate this dish often whilst in Thailand in December and have been keen to recreate it ever since. However, the lack of Thai Basil was obviously an issue, but also the lack of a suitable recipe. Our Thai recipe book gives fish sauce as the main ingredient in the sauce, but we felt that that wasn't right - the dishes we'd had in Thailand, and in our local Thai restaurant, definitely didn't include the distinctive taste of fish sauce... so I set about creating my own version.
We decided that Oyster Sauce and Soy Sauce should be the basis, plus a generous spoonful of grated Palm Sugar.
I fried 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, along with a small onion, sliced into half-moons. Then I added a finely chopped chicken breast (not quite minced, but chopped into little pieces). The green beans and mild chillies followed once the chicken was almost cooked through.
Then the sauce - Oyster Sauce, a little chicken stock (from concentrate), then a slosh of Soy. The sugar was stirred in now too. I tasted it and remarkably it was perfect! Exactly as we have eaten it so many times in restaurants!
I stirred a handful of Thai Basil leaves through at the last minute, just giving them time to wilt, and served with a mound of rice.
We also made a huge batch of Green Curry as Thai Basil is a great addition to this, and we have frozen any leftover Thai Basil leaves... just in case it's another 6 months until we find it again!