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Thai sweet basil & Thai Holy basil
Where to find, store and cook them in a Thai way
Basil is one of the most popular herbs that is used in many different cuisines around the world. There are so many different types of basil which came from many countries and each of them has its own uniqueness. For example, sweet basils, Genova basil, Lemon basil, Thai basil and purple basil.
The aroma of the basil in general is very particular and distinctive. It has that lemony kicked-in sense, that enhance the dish to bring out another perspective of flavour. In many dishes especially in Thai cuisine, basil helps to balance the overall taste in many dishes such as greasy food and dishes with meat and seafood as part of the ingredient.
In this post I want to explain some basic facts about common types of Thai basil, how to store/cook and taking care of the herbs.
Thai Basil 101
In Thai cuisine, we have 2 types of basil that is commonly used and 1 that is known among Thai people but only use in very local dishes. Today I will be talking about the 2 types. Their name is as follow:
1) Thai Sweet Basil
2) Thai Holy Basil
2.1 Green stem
2.2 Purple stem
3) Thai Mang-luck Basil (the not so common basil)
Thai Sweet basil
Thai sweet basil is very well known internationally and it’s one of the easiest to find abroad among all of these tree kinds. This is because Thai sweet basil is easy to look after, stay fresh for longer and it’s also used in other South East Asian cuisines such as Vietnamese Cuisine.
In Thai cuisine, we use a lot of Thai Sweet basil mainly in stir-fry dish and eat it fresh as a side plate of fresh vegetable.
Thai sweet basil is good in stir-fry dish because it has a light and fresh fragrance which helps complimenting such dish and it also helps bringing out the Umami flavour.
The Thai sweet basil is also great to eat raw because the leaves texture is very plain and doesn’t disturb overall taste of the food. An example dish that Thai sweet basil is an essential part of the ingredient is fresh salad roll. If you missed out Thai sweet basil and mint leaves, the dish won’t taste complete in a South East Asian flavour or another word, the dish won’t achieve Umami flavour.
Thai Holy Basil
Thai Holy basil is very popular among Thai people because it’s a key ingredient of one of the most popular dishes in Thai and internationally. The dish is Pad-Kra-Pao, or if you translate to English it literally means Stir-fry Holly Basil.
Thai Holy Basil is equally famous as the Thai Sweet basil but the usage is more limited. It’s only uses in Pad-Kra-Pao dish and a few other clear soups. Although, it’s known to be herbal medicine to help balancing Yin-Yang of our body and you would drink it as a tea when your stomach feels uncomfortable, bloating and etc.
From the best of my knowledge, Thai Holly Basil is more difficult to source in comparison to the Thai Sweet Basil.
The purpose of Thai Holy Basil is more or less the same as the Thai Sweet Basil, however people don’t eat it raw because the texture of its leaf is quite chewy and rough.
How to store Thai Basil – 3 ways
Option 1) If you are going to use the basil within the day or two, you can put them in a jar with water and sit it in your kitchen where there is no exposure to direct sunlight. This method will only last the basil for a couple days (In a hot country like Thailand).
Option2) Simply clean the leaves and let it dry on a towel. I usually like to cut the unwanted part of the stem and discard the yellow leave, to make it easier to store and last longer.
Once it’s dry, put them nicely, and not too many layers in a container with kitchen towel under each of the layer. You can also put them in a zip-lock bag but I’m trying to use less of the single used product in my kitchen.
Option3) Freeze the leaves bye doing the same method of option one but you want to pick out all the leaves and discard the stem.
In a smaller container, store the leaves as much as how you want to use it for one dish because you don’t want to re-freeze the leave. The leave will stay fresh and still have bright green colour.
Here is the important part. Don’t thaw the leave before you use it. Take the basil out and put straight to the food that you are cooking, to preserve the best taste and flavour of the basil.
For Holy Basil, it’s possible to substitute in Pad-Kra-Pao dish by using Thai sweet basil + Dry holy basil spice, which is easier to buy.
For Thai sweet basil, I would use the Italian basil as a substitution and I would put 2-3 time the amount that I use for Thai sweet basil because Italian basil has a lot lighter flavour and volume.
How to look after the basil plant
I grow my own basil in the backyard and it’s easy to take care of them.
In Thailand, I just leave it grow naturally and taking care of them by water them regularly. The most important part that many people don’t know is you need to trim out all the flowers because when the flower dry, it’s like the end of the life cycle of the plant. The whole plant will also slowly dry out so you want to keep trimming the flower and also the leaves.
Don’t throw the stem after picking out all of the leaves but sticking it into your garden. Miracle can happen here 🙂
I hope this information is helpful for you. Please leave the comments below to let me know your thought!