NOTE: Since peoples’ tolerance for chile heat can vary, our version is relatively mild in terms of both heat and sweetness (too much sweetness without heat can become cloying). This dish is traditional served with crushed red pepper flakes and sugar on the table for guests to sprinkle on their dish if they desire a spicier flavor, as well as extra fish sauce and white vinegar on the table to suit their own taste. Serve over steamed rice and top with an egg fried over-easy if desired. If fresh Thai or Serrano chiles are unavailable, two teaspoons red pepper flakes can be used in their place.
2 cups fresh basil
leaves, tightly packed
3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
6 green or red Thai chiles (or 2 serrano chiles), stemmed and cut into ½-inch pieces (see note)
3 tablespoons fish sauce plus extra for serving (see note)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon white vinegar plus extra for serving (see note)
4 teaspoons sugar plus extra for serving (see note)
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces
Red pepper flakes for serving (see note)
1. Place ½ cup basil leaves, garlic, and chiles in food processor and pulse until finely chopped, 6 to 8 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Transfer 1 tablespoon mixture to small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons fish sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside. Transfer remaining mixture to medium bowl and stir in shallots and oil; set aside. Do not wash processor bowl.
2. In now empty food processor, pulse chicken and remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce until meat is chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces, 6 to 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to medium bowl and marinate, refrigerated, for 15 minutes.
3. Transfer shallot-chili mixture in 12-inch heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until garlic and shallots are golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
4. Add chicken, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking up chicken with potato masher or wooden spoon, until only traces of pink remain, 2 to 4 minutes. Add fish sauce-chili mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until chicken is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 ½ cup basil leaves and cook, stirring constantly, until basil is wilted, about 30 seconds. Serve, passing extra fish sauce, sugar, crushed red pepper, and vinegar at the table.