Thai street food : Pad kra pao (stir fried with basil)


Street food opportunities are abundant in Thailand, with carts and pop up street restaurants everywhere. When the cover of night falls, plastic chairs are whipped out in front of closed shops, people drink, eat and socialise on the street.

Pad kra pao is a favourite of mine and something you can always find whether it’s on a street cart, in a food market or in a casual restaurant. It’s really tasty, really quick and seemingly really hard to get wrong because it’s always delicious.

Pad kra pao

Pad kra pao

Photo sourced from Flickr using a creative commons license, thanks to Alpha

The whole basis of this meal is holy basil, mixed with the pungent tastes of garlic, fish sauce and fresh stir fried meat – usually minced pork (muu) or chicken (gai) – with a bit of chilli , oyster & soy sauce.

One of the best things – I think – about this dish is the adaptability of the flavours. By using the caddy of ingredients commonly found on a Thai restaurant table,to suit your own taste. If you’re quite new to Thai food, or street food – You can ask and vendors will serve it not particularly spicy for you and you can adjust as you please. It makes it both an excellent intro to Thai food and a dish you know won’t have you feeling like you’ve set your oesophagus on fire if you’re a little chilli phobic.

This will usually be served with a side of plain white rice, most places will offer a fried egg (khai dow) on the side, which goes really well, but because they will usually be cooked in wok with an excess of very hot oil you should expect to get crispy edges. If you’re a regular eater of this, and have trouble getting a soft yolk you could try asking for khai dow mai suk.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much.
Khai dow – fried egg
Khai dow me suk – fried egg ‘soft’ (hopefully with a runny yolk) 

Note- if you’re ordering this dish outside of South-East Asia it’s possible they don’t have access to ‘holy basil’ (krapow) and will substitute for ‘Thai basil’ (horapa) which although is delicious, is not the same. There’s loads of spelling variations including pad kra pao, pad kra pow, ka prao etc.



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9 thoughts on “Thai street food : Pad kra pao (stir fried with basil)

  1. As a vegetarian, finding awesome street food in Thailand is a bit of a challenge, and it often looks so good (like the pick above).
    Rather amazingly the 7eleven had ‘ready meals’ and this (I think) was one of a couple of vegetarian, soya, options in their fridge. Super cheap and I got to try it! Hoorah!

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