≡ Menu

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

This week, we’re changing things up a bit!  Instead of posting a recipe for another delicious Thai dish, I thought it’d be fun to delve a little deeper into some of the questions that come up as I’m cooking Thai food.  Questions like, “Which brand of curry paste is the best?”  or “Is dried galangal a good substitute for fresh in tom kha gai?”  These are questions that I ask myself all the time, and I’ve heard from many of you are on your minds as well.

I’m hoping to answer some of these questions in my new Thai Test Kitchen series, with a new post published on the 4th week of every month.  So if you have any burning questions related to Thai food, please let me know in the comments below!

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

We’ll kick off the Thai Test Kitchen series with one of my most recent questions, which is, “Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?”

This question came about earlier in the winter, as my holy basil plants were starting to die out in the cold…  In my grocery shopping, I had come across some dried holy basil leaves as well as a packaged holy basil seasoning paste.  I picked up both of these, because I was sure hoping that they might be good substitutes for fresh holy basil, at least until I can plant new seeds this spring.

To see how these stand-ins stand up to the real thing, I decided to make pad gaprow with both products as well as with 2 varieties of fresh holy basil, then invite some friends over and do a blinded taste test.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?Here are my test subjects: 1) packaged holy basil seasoning paste, 2) dried holy basil leaves,  3) fresh green holy basil, and 4) fresh purple holy basil.  I followed the recipe on the back of the package for the seasoning paste, and then used my recipe for pad gaprow for the remaining basils.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?Since this was a blinded test, I tried to be quite meticulous about it and did not taste anything as I was cooking.  This didn’t result in my best pad gaprow dishes ever, but it did make things very equal, so that the real focus could be the holy basil.  And then, because pad gaprow isn’t the same without an egg on top, I topped each dish with an appropriately-sized tiny fried quail egg.

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

The four dishes were then presented to the boyfriend and three of our friends for their taste comparisons.  Each dish was ranked independently by all four reviewers on overall taste as well as depth of holy basil flavor.  And, as you can see from the notes below, they took their jobs seriously!

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

Amazingly, we had almost a complete consensus on the results.  The packaged holy basil seasoning paste was felt to have good spice, but no real basil flavor.  In fact, one reviewer said that it had a “sundried tomato” taste instead.  The dried holy basil leaves definitely had a stronger flavor, but everyone agreed that it was more of a seaweed or tea leaf taste rather than a holy basil taste.  And, not surprisingly, everyone agreed that neither of these products beat the taste of fresh holy basil.

But between the green and purple varieties of holy basil, we actually had a tie for the best dish.  Two reviewers agreed that the purple variety was the best because its flavor was the strongest, but the other two sided with the green holy basil because its flavor was smoother.  In any case, now my question is answered…  and I can’t wait to plant more holy basil seeds as soon as it warms up!

Thai Test Kitchen: Which holy basil is best in pad gaprow?

We had a lot of fun with our first Thai Test Kitchen taste comparison.  And I actually already have a few more lined up including a curry paste brand comparison and a coconut water taste test.  If you have any other ideas or burning Thai food related questions that you’d like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments below!


10 comments… add one
  • Sid September 17, 2017, 7:14 pm

    I like Thai basil and use it in most of my Thai dishes that require basil. This past spring I ordered holy basil seeds from Thailand. It really went wild and now I have holy basil plants in places I didn’t plant. It seems like a weed. Over the summer we’ve used it in many dishes but I still prefer the Thai basil. Because there is so much of the holy basil my wife wants more recipes for it. I’d like to send a picture of the plants.

  • Cee September 11, 2017, 2:23 am

    Welcome back !!! I don’t know if this might be too gaprow focused but I’d love for you to do a taste test for holy basil vs. Thai basil vs. Basil

    As a purist I obviously prefer holy basil but I’m having a very hard time finding them! So would love to hear how you think the other two stand in comparison to the real deal. Thank you!!!

    • Rachel September 12, 2017, 2:04 am

      Thanks for the suggestion, Cee! That would be a fun taste test comparison :)

  • Bib July 6, 2017, 7:14 pm

    This is AMAZING ! And that’s coming from a Thai person :)

    Curious where you got the seeds from? I’m in Canada and have a really hard time finding fresh holy basil.

  • Janice Patterson August 10, 2016, 10:50 am

    What is the best (your favorite) brand coconut milk for cooking?

    • Rachel August 12, 2016, 5:51 pm

      That’s a great question, Janice! I’ve been thinking of doing this comparison, between different brands, and perhaps also between canned versus boxed versions.

    • Gabriel February 26, 2018, 12:27 pm

      Aroy D 100% is the best brand coconut milk for cooking.

  • David July 19, 2015, 9:40 pm

    I second that question!

  • Hanna January 30, 2014, 7:31 pm

    Hi Rachel!

    I would like to know: which tofu is best to use in a stir-fry?

    Hanna from Sweden

    • Rachel January 31, 2014, 1:44 am

      Love it! Thanks, Hanna!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.