Types of basil using in Thai cuisine. Basil is not common in western food culture so when try to refer to these types of ingredient it become confusing. Because using of one type instead of another will change overall aroma of whole dish. Clarification is necessary.
There are three type of basil use commonly in Thai food. All of it have stronger aroma than Italian basil. First is กะเพรา, Thai basil, Holy basil. This kind of basil use in stir fry dish like Pad Kaprao (ผัดกะเพรา). Strong, herbal, minty, spicy, burn, and use in hot clear soup for its specific herbal aroma. Warm your body up.
There are three type of Kaprao in Thai market, White Kaprao, Native Kaprao, and Red Kaprao. White Kaprao is the most common, you probably find this type in the market. Big leaf, cheap but has least aroma of all types. Native Kaprao have smaller leaf but more aroma. Great for cooking. Look for this one if you want authentic Kaprao. Last is Red Kaprao. This one is strongest in term of smell. Use in herbal inhaler or medicine. Can use in cooking but maybe too much for common dish and western tongue.
Next is Horapa (โหระพา) or sweet basil. Like the name suggest, it has sweet aroma and different from Italian basil, hugely different. This type of basil is great with stir fry dish that require soft and mild aroma, just drop in before last stir. Going great with many types of clam, pasta, seafood. Not commonly use in soup but can use in curry dish. Can be eat raw with meatball or grill meat.
And the least common one. Maeng Lak (แมงลัก) that also called sweet basil but the aroma is not sweet at all. It has strong herbal scent but not as harsh as Kaprao. Often use in specific dish like Kanom Jean Namya as garnish side dish.
In case you want keyword for seeds searching.
- White Holy Basil seeds – เมล็ดกะเพราขาว
- Native Holy Basil seeds – เมล็ดกะเพราบ้าน
- Red Holy Basil seeds – เมล็ดกะเพราแดง
- Thai Sweet Basil seeds – เมล็ดโหระพา
- Maeng Lak seeds – เมล็ดพันธุ์แมงลัก
I encourage you to try and grow this herb. You will not regret it. They are easy to grow and can grow indoor in summer time.