Thai basil (or horapa) has a sweet anise-like and floral flavour. Often used in various Vietnamese and Thai salads, curries and stir-fry dishes. I also use it in desserts because of the subtle grassy element that it adds to a sweet dessert. Contrast makes everything more fun, doesn’t it?
How to use Thai basil
You only use the leaves, do not use the thick purple stems.
In hot dishes:
Thai basil, just like the ‘normal’ basil, is the last to be added to a hot dish. Stir until the leaves are soft and then turn the heat off. Do not continue cooking.
You can also use it as a tasty garnish. Sprinkle the (cut) leaves raw over your curry, soup and stir-fried dish. For example in this Vietnamese soup.
Raw in cold recipes:
Use in Vietnamese summer rolls, rice noodles and papaya salad.
Chop the leaves and mix into a salad. For example, make a simple cucumber salad: remove the seeds and cut into slices, mix with a few tablespoons of fish sauce dressing, chopped basil and roasted peanuts. The Asian version of (grilled) tomatoes and basil combo is also very tasty.
Or try this summer recipe for cold melon-cucumber soup with Thai chilli, fish sauce and lime.
In sweet recipes:
The sweet, fragrant basil leaves give your dessert an extra dimension of flavour that makes your dessert very special.
Use Thai basil in sweet desserts like:
- Homemade ice cream: add the basil leaves last to your (lukewarm or cold) ice cream mixture. Use a hand blender to puree the leaves. Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge for a few hours before pouring it into the ice cream maker. This gives your ice cream a soft, creamy texture and a more intense flavour.
- Panna cotta: add the basil leaves last and puree them finely. Try this vegan panna cotta recipe. Because the agar (vegetable alternative to gelatine) in this recipe solidifies at room temperature, you need to mash the basil at a slightly higher temperature in the panna cotta mixture.
- Fruit salad: mix big chuncks of fruit (melon, mango, strawberries, etc.) with lime juice and chopped basil. Try this warm chia seed pudding with papaya.
- Yoghurt: chop the basil very finely and stir it into the yoghurt for a nice flavour.
Where do I buy Thai basil?
You can find them at an Asian grocery store mostly in the fridge-department. Sometimes it can be bought in a pot at garden centres.
Grow your own basil
Thai basil grows very well during the summer. The plant only needs water and sun (and some plant food). When bought packaged: cut the stalks just under a thicker part where leaves or branches grow out of the stem. Put them in water and wait untill roots have grown or plant them in the garden soil right away. By the way, the leaves can be taken off before growing. Just don’t strip the stalk too much. Other specialized web sites offer more ins and out regarding to plant cuttings and growing.
For a healthy growth you regularly remove the purple flowers.
How to store Thai basil
Basil turns black very quickly. Wat I do to keep the leaves green and fresh for couple of days? Fold one layer of basil in a damp and clean tea towel and roll it up. Put the towel in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge.
But It’s best to use all at once and enjoy the fresh sweet taste of Thai basil asap!