Put a basil leaf in your pocket and money will come your way, so says the ancient wisdom. Give it a go as you experiment with these flavor-boosting and health-giving recipes that will have you swooning over this gloriously aromatic and versatile ingredient.
Thai basil, or O. basilicum ‘Horapha’, also known as holy basil, is rarer than the regular or sweet basil commonly used in Western cooking and Italian dishes. The Asian variety has the smaller, serrated, purple-flushed leaves and a spicy, peppermint flavor — compared to the licorice taste of sweet basil.
Pick up an aromatic bunch at your local farmers market this weekend or pluck it directly from your garden. All basil types grow well in an outdoor garden, on your windowsill, or in one of those very clever and super cool vertical plant holders designed for balcony walls.
Basil delivers some incredible health benefits too, arising from its powerful antioxidants and volatile oils. It can help combat viruses, bacteria and chronic diseases. Read more about its anti-inflammatory properties, chronic disease prevention uses and anti-cancer properties here.
And what about the hydroponic (or water-grown) basil that is in season and available all year round? Is it any good? Surprisingly, the answer is “yes”. It is, in fact, more nutritionally sound than the soil-grown variety according to Dr. Michael Gregor of NutrutionFacts.org. Watch his short video here for a study that found the hydroponic basil to have a higher vitamin, antioxidant and phytonutrient content than the soil-grown type. Then, check out these ways to use thai basil in vegan cooking.
1. Thai Green Curry
The quintessential cooking use for Thai basil has to be this tasty Asian classic. Team fresh, fragrant Thai basil with all the delicate aromatic flavors of lemon grass, coriander, chillies, ginger, kaffir lime leaves and lime juice – all made zesty and delicious with soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut milk. Who could resist?
2. Holy Basil Stir-Fry
A cup of Thai basil leaves works its magic with red chilli, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar in this eggplant, bell pepper and tofu stir-fry dish. Try cooking stir-fried thai basil with tofu and eggplant.
3. Pho (Vietnamese-Style Noodle Soup)
This is a light and tasty dish you could never tire of – for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It combines rice noodles, bean sprouts, tons of basil and fresh herbs, vegetables and tofu in a simmering fragrant broth of tasty delicious goodness.
Some might say it is the national dish of Vietnam. I can never make it taste quite the same as I remember during my travels through that country. Nevertheless, it’s hard to go wrong with ingredients as fresh and simple as this — the results will always be good. Find inspiration for this traditional noodle soup here and here.
4. Basil Leaf Tea
Did you know that “tulsi” tea, made from Thai basil leaves, is very good for you? Hear about it from vegan MD, Dr. Michael Gregor – here.
It’s used extensively in Ayurvedic treatments and is even claimed to be a kind of longevity promoting “elixir of life.” Some say the plant derived its name of “Tulsi” — meaning “incomparable one” in Sanskrit — due to its innumerable health-giving benefits. Fresh basil, rather than dried, is best. Its nutritional content includes iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, magnesium, potassium and some dietary fiber.
5. Pizza Toppings
Pesto toppings, or just the basil leaves, are a perfect pizza topping that combine well with olives, capers, tomato, potato slices and pumpkin. Use a vegan version of mozzarella cheese, make your own Moxarella vegan cheese, or brave it and go cheese-free. There are endless ways to use Thai basil to spice up your vegan pizza nights.
And finally, one more great thing about Thai basil is that it freezes well. If you are in the fortunate position to find yourself with excess, then freeze it. Use it later for Thai pesto, salad dressings, pasta sauces, in salads, curries and stir-fries. And may good fortune be with you!
Image source: Stir-Fried Thai Basil with Tofu and Eggplant