Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior: Gai Paht Bai Graprao (Chicken with Fresh Basil) Recipe

Year Released: 2005
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Tony Jaa, Petchthai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol
(R, 101 min.)

Take one part vintage Jackie Chan, mix in a Bond worthy villain, and sprinkle generously with an Indiana Jones style quest.

Ah, but the cook has forgotten to add enough of the secret ingredient, humor 
– the lifting of a Bond eyebrow, the tilting of Indiana’s head, the physical antics of Chan. 

Ong-Bak makes up for it, or tries to, with fight scenes as flawless as they are violent. Not lyrical airs above ground, but real, sweat-soaked, bone-crunching contests where Tony Jaa shows a style that is ballet-like in its precision, deadly in it impact.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

Definitely a guy flick, but bring your sweetie if she’s a blood sport type and then treat her to a Thai supper. If you’d prefer to make something yourself, here’s an easy chicken dish.

Gai Paht Bai Graprao (Chicken with Fresh Basil)

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3/4 pound boneless chicken, coarsely ground or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons suga
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh hot green chilies, such as Thai chilies, serranos, or jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh holy basil (bai graprao), Asian basil, or Italian basil leaves or fresh mint leaves

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat and then add, the garlic and onion. Toss well, and when they begin to release their aroma, add the chicken in generous pinches. Toss well, using a spatula or slotted spoon, to help meat brown evenly and to break up big chunks to achieve a crumbly texture.

Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar and cook 2 to 3 minutes, tossing now and then, just until the meat is cooked and the seasonings form a thin, smooth sauce. Add the chilies and basil and toss well. Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot or warm.

Recipe Source: Quick and Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott

According to Nancie McDermott… 

“This is my husband Will”s favorite Thai dish, perhaps because he encountered it in a small cafe overlooking the Kwae River during his first journey to Thailand. Restaurant cooks make it with minced chicken, beet or pork, hand-chopping the meat with a heavy cleaver just before cooking. Chopping the meat provides maximum surface area to absorb the spectacular combination of hot green chilies, garlic, and holy basil (bai graprao), a pungent, peppery herb. Try this using ground meat from the grocery store, or cut any other meat into bite-sized pieces, or use shrimp, decreasing the cooking time since they cook so quickly. Don't worry if you can't find holy basil, since Asian basil, Italian basil, and fresh mint make delicious substitutes. Look for holy basil seeds in Asian markets in springtime, as the plant will thrive in the West in the summer sun.”