Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

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Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Jenise » Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:15 pm

What do you use instead?

There's no right or wrong answer, but I'd choose sweet basil. I might even add mint to approximate the Thai basil's sharper flavor. But Cooks llustrated says no, don't use sweet basil at all, instead use a combination of mint and cilantro. Now I know that combination's good in it's own right, but as a substitute for basil and to reject sweet basil altogether? Is there anyone else who find Cook's suggestion surprising?
Last edited by Jenise on Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Stuart Yaniger » Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:23 pm

That surprises me. I'd use sweet basil, a little mint, and a little fennel.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Karen/NoCA » Tue Jul 25, 2006 8:41 pm

I wonder if a lemon basil would work? I do love the taste of Thai Basil and grew it in my garden for the first time this year. All the basils are very easy to grow. Most of the Farmer's Markets I've been to, have an Asian family with a booth, and they generally all have the basil, lemon grass, cilantro, among other wonderful things I used to never see.

I force myself to use other herbs in recipes when I do not have what is requested. Seems to work fine with either/or, and sometimes we are very surprised!
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Jenise » Wed Jul 26, 2006 5:02 pm

Stuart, okay, that's about where I was.

I'm unfamiliar with the flavor of lemon basil, Karen. Never had it. But if it's as different from regular sweet as lemon thyme is from English, then we're talking about the same kind of difference. Better a different basil than no basil at all? Instinctively, I say yes. Easy to grow? Everybody makes it sound so but the one time I tried--no success. Can't recall what went wrong but I feel like it must be the hardest, and I've not tried again. Prolly stupid, huh.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Karen/NoCA » Wed Jul 26, 2006 9:16 pm

Jenise wrote:Stuart, okay, that's about where I was.

I'm unfamiliar with the flavor of lemon basil, Karen. Never had it. But if it's as different from regular sweet as lemon thyme is from English, then we're talking about the same kind of difference. Better a different basil than no basil at all? Instinctively, I say yes. Easy to grow? Everybody makes it sound so but the one time I tried--no success. Can't recall what went wrong but I feel like it must be the hardest, and I've not tried again. Prolly stupid, huh.


Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, sort of like thyme, rosemary, etc.
Except in our area it is an annual because of our winters. Basil loves to be in the ground and outside. No fertilizer, just water and lots of sunshine.
Do other s grow it in your area?
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Jenise » Thu Jul 27, 2006 12:22 pm

Karen, I don't know if others grow it or not. I'm rather unusual in my area in that I cook at all. I can only think of one other person in my neighborhood who has an herb garden. I really should try to grow basil, I have what should be the perfect circumstances for it. Like you, it probably won't make it as an annual here, but I don't mind replanting.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Jul 28, 2006 12:58 pm

I routinely use "regular" basil as I cannot readily get Thai basil & I make curry every few weeks. Seems fine.

Now if I was doing something like a basil/chili sauce I might object to normal basil, but for curry it's ok.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Skye Astara » Fri Jul 28, 2006 6:47 pm

Jenise, isn't it pretty cool where you are? I may be wrong here, but I think basil likes it hot. I think it wants similar conditions to tomatoes but poorer soil.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Paul Winalski » Sat Aug 05, 2006 2:21 am

Jenise wrote:What do you use instead?

There's no right or wrong answer, but I'd choose sweet basil. I might even add mint to approximate the Thai basil's sharper flavor. But Cooks llustrated says no, don't use sweet basil at all, instead use a combination of mint and cilantro. Now I know that combination's good in it's own right, but as a substitute for basil and to reject sweet basil altogether? Is there anyone else who find Cook's suggestion surprising?


I'm with you, Jenise. The Thais use several different varieties of basil in their cooking. The two most common seem to be bai horapa (what's usually called "Thai basil" in English) and bai gaprao ("holy basil"). When I can't get either of them, I usually use sweet basil. But I have one dish (Mahogany Fire Noodles) where the Thai cookbook suggests using either bai gaprao or mint. Since fresh bai grapao is impossible to find unless you grow it yourself, I have usually substituded bai horapa for it in this dish. I've also used mint, and find that mint offsets the hotness of the bird chiles very nicely. So I guess which substitute to use varies depending on the dish.

-Paul W.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Jenise » Sat Aug 05, 2006 12:07 pm

Skye--we have a short season, that's for sure, but it's warm enough to grow tomatoes and jalapenos, and reports are that basil does well. I have a raised bed garden in a protected courtyard--it should do fine there.

Paul--it's settled then: the forum's right, and they're nuts. :) It's one of the strange things about this magazine, they seem to take a rather naive, or should I say provincial, approach to ethnic foods.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Paul Winalski » Mon Aug 07, 2006 12:46 am

Just this evening I made a Thai red curry with chicken, with red bell peppers, several fresh Thai red bird chiles, and round purple eggplants I found at the local Indian grocery store. And basil. Sweet Italian basil, since I couldn't get bai horapa. It came out just fine.

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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Linda Baldwin » Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:34 pm

Jenise, I've grown basil in my herb garden for years, sometimes as many as 14 varieties. The only thing you need to know about basil is that the first time the temperature gets down to 32° F, the basil turns black and dies instantly.

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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:01 pm

Hi Linda!!!
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Linda Baldwin » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:20 pm

Backatchya Dave!! Been a long time hasn't it?

Thanks,
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:36 pm

Linda Baldwin wrote:Been a long time hasn't it?


Welcome back, Linda! Glad you re-found us!
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Re: Okay, so you can't find Thai basil for your Thai curry

Postby Linda Baldwin » Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:40 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Linda Baldwin wrote:Been a long time hasn't it?


Welcome back, Linda! Glad you re-found us!


Thanks Robin. I guess I'll amble on over to Wine and see what's going on there. I don't buy a drop of wine any more other than the yearly shipment from Dave Coffaro. We're going to have to drink pretty fast to finish it all off before we croak.

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