What is Thai Basil?
Thai Basil (also known as holy basil or tulsi whole leaf) is a herb that has been used in Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries. It is a versatile herb that adds a unique flavor to any dish, and it has become a staple ingredient in Thai cuisine.
It has a fascinating history and cultural significance that is often overlooked. This herb was first introduced to Thailand by Chinese immigrants and quickly became popular due to its medicinal properties. Today, Thai Basil is an integral part of Thai cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes such as curries, stir-fries, and soups. Not only is it delicious, but it also has cultural significance in Thailand. It is often used in religious ceremonies and is believed to have spiritual powers.
In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and cultural significance of Thai Basil and explore why it has become so important in Thai cuisine and culture.
History & Background
Thai Basil, also known as sweet basil or horapha in Thai, originated in India and was brought to Southeast Asia by traders. The herb was introduced to Thailand by Chinese immigrants who used it for its medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, fever, and digestive issues.
Over time, it became popular in Thai cuisine due to its unique flavor and aroma. It is now a staple ingredient in many Thai dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and soups. It is also used in traditional Thai desserts, such as sweet sticky rice with coconut milk and Thai Basil.
What form does it take?
It is a actually member of the mint family and has a distinct aroma and flavor. The herb has green leaves and purple stems, and the leaves are slightly larger than those of Italian basil. Sold in bunches in most Asian grocery stores it comes in both fresh or dried form. Fresh Thai Basil has a stronger flavor and aroma than dried Thai Basil. You can also by Thai Green paste which is ready to use – just open the jar and scoop some out to add your recipe.
We have included a link for Dried Thai Basil, so that you will always have some ready to use in your cooking.
Dried Thai Basil – use in soups, stews and marinades.
100% natural – Perfect for Thai and Asian cuisine.
This product is Non-GMO, verified, kosher friendly, with, no sugar or additives.
0.62 ounces of flavor in a resealable jar.
Flavor profile of Thai Basil
It has a unique flavor that is different from Italian basil. It has a sweet, anise-like flavor with hints of licorice and clove. The herb has a spicy and peppery taste that adds depth to any dish. It is often used to balance out spicy and sour flavors in Thai cuisine. The herb is usually added towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor and aroma.
Is Thai Basil good for you?
It is not only delicious but also has several health benefits. The herb is rich in antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals. It also contains essential oils, including eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The herb is also a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. So, yes, I would say there are Thai Basil benefits.
Cooking with Thai Basil
Thai Basil is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes. The most common use for it is in Thai cuisine, where it is used in curries, stir-fries, and soups. It can also be used in salads and sandwiches to add a fresh and aromatic flavor.
When cooking with Thai Basil, it is important to use it sparingly as the herb has a strong flavor. It is usually added towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor and aroma. The herb can be torn by hand or chopped with a knife before adding it to the dish.
Culinary uses of Thai Basil in Thai cuisine
It is an integral part of Thai cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes. One of the most popular dishes that uses it is Pad Krapow Moo, or Thai Basil Pork. This dish is made with ground pork, Thai Basil, chili, garlic, and fish sauce. It is usually served over rice and is a favorite among Thai locals.
Another popular dish that uses it is Tom Yum Soup. Tom Yum Soup is a spicy and sour soup that is made with shrimp, lemongrass, lime juice, and Thai Basil. The herb adds a fresh and aromatic flavor to the soup and balances out the spicy and sour flavors.
It is also used in Green Curry, a popular Thai dish made with coconut milk, green chili, and a variety of vegetables. The herb is added towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor and aroma.
Thai Basil in religion and medicine
Thai basil, also known as holy basil or tulsi, holds significant religious and medicinal importance in various cultures, particularly in Hinduism and Ayurvedic medicine. Let’s explore its significance in both aspects:
- In Hinduism, holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is considered a sacred plant and is revered as the incarnation of the goddess Tulsi. It is commonly grown in courtyards or near temples. The plant is worshipped and believed to possess spiritual and healing properties. It is often associated with Lord Vishnu and his consort, Goddess Lakshmi.
- Tulsi is a vital component of Hindu worship and rituals. Devotees often offer its leaves and flowers to deities during prayers and ceremonies. The act of watering and nurturing the tulsi plant is considered an auspicious and sacred practice. Tulsi leaves are also used in making garlands for religious rituals.
- Tulsi is considered a symbol of purity, devotion, and protection. It is believed to purify the environment and ward off negative energies. In some households, a sacred basil plant is planted in a courtyard or a special pot and cared for with reverence.
- It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional Indian healing system. It is highly valued for its medicinal properties and is known as an adaptogen, which helps the body adapt to stress and promote overall well-being.
- It is believed to possess a range of health benefits. It is considered an excellent herbal remedy for coughs, colds, and respiratory ailments. It is also used for digestive disorders, as a natural detoxifier, and to promote healthy skin and hair. Holy basil is reputed to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
- Regularly usedin various Ayurvedic preparations, including herbal teas, decoctions, powders, and oils. Tulsi tea is a popular beverage known for its calming and soothing effects. Tulsi leaves are also used in Ayurvedic formulations like Chyawanprash (an herbal jam) and Ayurvedic oils for massages.
It’s important to note that while Thai basil holds religious and medicinal significance, its usage and benefits may vary across cultures and individuals. Consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner or Ayurvedic expert is advisable for personalized guidance and treatment.
Alternative uses for Thai Basil
In addition to its culinary uses, it is also used in traditional Thai medicine. The herb is believed to have medicinal properties and is used to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, fever, and digestive issues. It is also used in religious ceremonies and is believed to have spiritual powers.
It is often used in traditional Thai desserts, such as sweet sticky rice with coconut milk and Thai Basil. The herb adds a fresh and aromatic flavor to the dish and balances out the sweetness of the coconut milk.
Substitutes for Thai Basil
If you cannot find Thai Basil, there are several substitutes that you can use. Italian Basil is a good substitute, but it has a milder flavor. Lemon Basil and Lime Basil are also good substitutes and they add a citrusy flavor to dishes.
Have a look at our substitutes section for ideas on what other ingredient you can use in place of Thai Basil.
Thai Basil is a versatile herb that has a fascinating history and cultural significance. It was first introduced to Thailand by Chinese immigrants and quickly became popular due to its medicinal properties. Today, it is an integral part of Thai cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes. Not only is it delicious, but it also has several health benefits and is used in traditional Thai medicine. The herb is also used in religious ceremonies and is believed to have spiritual powers. If you haven’t tried Thai Basil before, be sure to add it to your next dish for a unique and aromatic flavor.
Table of Contents
- What is Thai Basil?
- History & Background
- What form does it take?
- Flavor profile of Thai Basil
- Is Thai Basil good for you?
- Cooking with Thai Basil
- Culinary uses of Thai Basil in Thai cuisine
- Thai Basil in religion and medicine
- Alternative uses for Thai Basil
- Substitutes for Thai Basil