Illustrations by John Burgoyne
Basil, clockwise from left: Thai basil, purple basil, sweet basil, bush or Greek basil, fino verde basil, lemon basil.
Photo: Kang Kim

Basil, the sweet and pungent summer herb, is at its fragrant peak right now, and available in bountiful bunches at your neighborhood Greenmarket. Like heirloom tomatoes, there seems to be a limitless number of varieties, from the tiny-leaved fino verde (good for pesto) to the unbelievably citrusy lemon (try it in soups and salads). The Thai variety may be the most piquant of all, and the one to use in this chicken-basil recipe from the great Queens Thai restaurant Sripraphai.

Sripraphai’s Pad Kra Pao

2 tablespoons corn oil
6 cloves garlic
15-20 Thai or bird chiles, stemmed
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
2 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
2 tablespoons “Thai-style” black salty soy sauce
2 tablespoons Golden Mountain sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (available at Stokes Farm stand, Union Square Greenmarket)
2 to 3 slices long hot pepper
NOTE: Sauces available at Bangkok Center Grocery, 104 Mosco St., nr. Mulberry St.

Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat. (1) Chop garlic and chiles, and (2) add to pan. Sauté for about 30 seconds. Add chicken and the next four ingredients, stirring and chopping up the chicken until fully cooked. (3) Add basil leaves and long hot pepper slices, and cook for just a few more seconds. Serve immediately with rice. Serves four.