Basil, Basil and Basil : 3 different types used in Thai Cooking
1. Thai Basil, Siam Queen or Sweet Basil; "Hoh Ra Pa" in Thai, Native to Southeast Asia . It has a fragrance of anise, licorice root and menthol. It is widely and used fresh in Thai cooking, and also serves for garnishing. Thai Basil is considered to be one of the essential herbs , primarily used for many stir-fried dishes as well as coconut curries such as drunken noodles, red and green curry. It is the key substitute for Holy Basil because in California it is easy to grow and readily available in grocery stores.
2. Holy Basil; "Ka Prow" in Thai. Absolutely aromatic , its scent is similar to cloves. Holy Basil is spicier than Thai Basil. It is absolutely impossible to find it in the California market.
Sometimes and rarely, it is available at farmer's markets. As it is scarce, we substitute for it with Thai Basil. Holy Basil is very essential ingredient for Ka Prow dishes , as they are named after this herb.
3. Lemon or Hoary Basil ; "Bai Maeng Luck" in Thai.
The thinnest and most fragile leaf of all . Lemony heavenly scent. Not so sure where its origin is but what i know is that it is used bountifully in many Southeast Asian dishes in Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and Thailand. It is the indispensable ingredient for a Thai dish called Gaeng Liang , one of my favorite spicy soups. Typically it is used in stir-fried dishes or soups, and is always added at the end of the cooking process' in order to preserve its aroma and taste.