Khmer Chicken with Lemongrass and Holy Basil

This recipe marks a significant departure for me. Not only is it my first Khmer / Cambodian dish, but this is also the first recipe I've had to "reverse engineer" from a couple of tastings of the dish. Although I've been to Cambodia several times now, I haven't had many opportunities to sample Khmer cuisine. The trouble is, there are just too many good restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, serving just about every kind of cuisine, so I haven't had too many opportunities to sample Cambodian foods. So, it wasn't until October of 2009 that I ran across this dish. I have to admit, I'm quite fond of holy basil. I think it might be addictive. Thai dishes made with it tend to be quite spicy, which is good, but I thought the lemongrass added a new, subtle difference to this dish.

I was surprised to find on my return home to Bangkok that there weren't many references - on-line or in print - for Cambodian foods. As a result, I had to guess at the recipe, and I don't even know what the name of this dish is, since a transliteration of it was not included on any menus I glanced at. In future trips to Cambodia, I'm going to have to look into this and see if I can find some local references. If you know the Khmer name of this dish, please leave a comment.

Chicken with Lemongrass and Holy Basi
Chicken with Lemongrass and Holy Basil

(4 Servings)

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Ingredients
Vegetable (or Olive) Oil2 Tbl
Spur Chili1 smallsliced [optional]
Onion1 med.Peeled and sliced
Lemongrass55 cc (½ cup)Thinly sliced
Boneless Chicken Breast200 g / ¼ lbThinly sliced
Oyster sauce2 Tbl
Chicken Stock30 ml / ¼ cup
Holy Basil110 cc (1 cup)

Preparation Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or wok. Add the lemongrass, onions and spur chili, and sauté over medium heat until the onions are wilted.
  • Add the chicken; continue to saut&eacut; until the chicken is browned. Add the oyster sauce and chicken stock.
  • Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced to a sauce.
  • Stir in the holy basil leaves and continue cooking for a little while longer, until the holy basil leaves are wilted.

Crispy Basil Leaves

Some crispy basil leaves make a nice garnish for this dish. In Thailand, where holy basil is cheap and plentiful, some chefs like to completely smother the dish in these leaves. Making them is easy. Simply heat some oil in a skillet or wok until it's very hot, then drop a few leaves into the hot oil. They will fry up in just a few seconds, so you need to remove them quickly and place on a paper towel to drain. It doesn't take much oil, but it does take a bit more than you'll need to stir-fry this dish. I set aside the excess oil for future use, since it will take on some of the fragrance of the holy basil.

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