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Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Of all the versions of the Thai dish Pad Kaprao (something stir-fried with Basil), my favorite is Basil Pork – Moo Pad Kaprao. It’s one of the dishes I cook the most for myself (and Kasma) at home. People often think of Thai food as being a lot of work: well, this dish is relatively easy, especially considering how very delicious it is.

Basil Pork

Basil Pork

As mentioned in my blog on Basil Salmon, almost anything can be pad kaprao – stir-fried (pad) with holy basil (kaprao). You can make it with shrimp, chicken, fish, duck, squid – almost anything you can think of.

Ground pork seems to blend particularly well with the ingredients of the dish – the holy basil, fish sauce, garlic, black soy sauce and chillies. Often in Thailand you find this as a one-dish meal basil pork served with a Thai-style fried egg (fried in lots of oil until it’s crispy on the edges) served directly over rice.

Click on photos to see a larger image.

Basil Pork Ingredients

Ingredients for Basil Pork

I first took Kasma’s Beginning Thai Cooking Series in 1992. I had never cooked Thai food before or used a wok. One of the recipes in the second (of 4) classes in the series is Basil Chicken. When Kasma was cooking it and explaining what she was doing, it seemed so very easy. The first time I cooked it for myself at home, though, things sure happened fast! After I had cooked it a half-dozen times or so, it felt just as leisurely and easy a process as Kasma had made it look. (See my article on Learning to Cook Thai.)

The way I cook the dish is a variaton on Kasma’s Spicy Basil Chicken (Gai Pad Kaprao) recipe. Her recipe calls for three ingredients that I leave out: shallots, kaffir lime leaves (optional) and white pepper, though I’ll sometimes put in the pepper.

Stir-frying Garlic & Chillies

Stir-frying garlic & chillies

It’s really very simple to cook:

  1. Heat oil (I prefer lard) in a wok until it smokes.
  2. Add chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds, add in the Thai chillies (in thin rounds)
  3. After a short time, add in the ground pork
  4. When the pork has partially browned, season with black-soy sauce & fish sauce, to taste
  5. When the pork is nearly done, add in the holy basil and cook until wilted

You can check Kasma’s Basil Chicken recipe to get an idea of quantities.

Adding Pork

Then add pork

This is one dish that I like very, very hot. She calls for 12-20 Thai chillies (prik kee noo) in thin rounds for a pound of meat: I’ll add up to 25 so that the dish will sizzle in the mouth. I’ll also add more holy basil leaves – I don’t always measure, I usually add an entire bunch. It’s hard to imagine this dish with too much holy basil.

I suggest you give it a try. For me, it’s one of those dishes that I get to craving and just havo to make. Do serve over rice – they really compliment each other. And do make sure you use holy basil rather than Thai basil – it makes a big difference n this dish.

Holy Basil

Then add holy basil

Basil Pork in Wok

Holy basil is wilted


Check out Kasma’s Thai recipes for more delicious dishes.


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2012.

Gum Kuo Restaurant, Oakland Congee

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Gum Kuo restaurant, in Oakland, California’s Chinatown, is a great place to go for congee (rice porridge) – johk (or jook or, sometimes, juk). It’s the restaurant where we go for breakfast whenever we make a visit to the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market. We’ll visit there on other occasions as well.

Gum Kuo Restaurant

Gum Kuo Restaurant

Gum Kuo is found at 388 9th St. (between Webster St. & Franklin St.) in Oakland, California. Their phone number is (510) 268-1288. It’s located in the Asian Cultural center and is found in the entryway to the center’s courtyard right off of Franklin Street. There’s a parking garage directly adjacent to the center, which is good, given how difficult it can be to find street parking in Chinatown.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Gum Kuo Window

Gum Kuo front window

Front Counter

Gum Kuo counter

When you walk pas the restaurant, you’ll see familiar Chinatown sight – browned, succulent-looking roast ducks and a half-torso of crispy, roasted pork hanging in the window; there’s also Chinese barbecue pork (cha siu), stewed chickens and stewed ducks. The trays below the hanging food contain various other dishes such as grilled octopus and various innards, for instance intestines and stomach.

Bowl of Congee

Bowl of Congee

More Congee

More Congee

Although there is a quite extensive menu of Chinese food, we tend to come mainly for the congee (and the roast duck – see below). Congee is simply rice porridge to which a food of your choice has been added. It typically includes fresh ginger slivers and green onions. You can add soy sauce and chilli oil as desired. Gum Kuo offers a wide variety of options, listed under the menu category “Porridge.” Kasma nearly always gets the same thing: congee with pork liver, preserved egg and fish. She’ll occasionally get the pork kidney instead of the liver. The congee is served in a rather large bowl; for the two of us, we ask for two smaller bowls into which we serve the congee. Rest easy, you don’t need to have innards in your congee: you can get plain chicken, or pork, or beef or fish, if you prefer.

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

The other item that we almost always order is the roast duck. It’s on the menu under “Barbecue.”The roast duck here is excellent: crispy, tasty skin over moist and delicious meat. You can order just a plate of duck, but for a little extra you get an entire half-duck; if there’s any left, take it home for a snack or meal later.

I’ll sometimes substitute a plate of roast pork for the duck. Chinese roast pork as served here has a crispy outer skin. There’s usually three layers to a piece: the crispy outer skin, a layer of fat and a layer of muscle meat. It is very tasty.

Gum Kuo Menu

Gum Kuo (partial) menu

In addition to the restaurant, Gum Kuo offers many items which can be taken home. Click on the picture to the right to read the sign more easily. Roasted and steamed duck, steamed and salted chicken (they even offer a free-range option), and various spiced pig parts such as Spiced Pig Ears, Spiced Pig Tongue, Spiced Pic Stomach and Spiced Pig Intestines. Of course, these items can be ordered as a restaurant dish as well.

They also offer a more standard American breakfast – omelet or eggs with toast, that sort of thing. I’ve never been tempted though: the congee and the roast duck or pork are the reason why I come here.

Next time you are in Oakland’s Chinatown, give Gum Kuo a try.


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