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Thai basil vs. Thai holy basil

Thai basil vs. Thai holy basil
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  • Thai basil vs. Thai holy basil

    Post #1 - June 17th, 2008, 4:13 pm
    Post #1 - June 17th, 2008, 4:13 pm Post #1 - June 17th, 2008, 4:13 pm
    How much different are Thai basil (horapa) and Thai holy basil (grapao or gaprao or some variation thereof). It seems that all the Thai basil I've seen available in Chicago is of the Thai sweet (horapa) variety. Can anyone familiar with both describe the difference in taste and culinary uses? Is it a reasonable substitute for the basil used in Thai basil chicken? (I've used Italian sweet basil in this dish, but I'm curious to know how much of a difference in taste there is).

    Also, is there a nursery or other source in the Chicagoland area that has Thai holy basil?

    Lastly, what is the best transliteration for the Thai name? I usually see something along the lines of gaprow, gka-prow, gaprao, and the sort, but I've also seen the "r" in the first syllable, as grapow or khrapow. An American aquaintance I have who lives in Thailand says the "r" belongs in the first syllable, but it seems to me that 90% of the Thai menus I've seen have it in the second. I can understand the variations of "g", "k", "gk," "kh" and the like, but attaching a consonant to the wrong syllable I don't get. Any Thai speakers here who could address this linguistic mystery?
  • Post #2 - June 17th, 2008, 6:51 pm
    Post #2 - June 17th, 2008, 6:51 pm Post #2 - June 17th, 2008, 6:51 pm
    Can't help on the botanical/taste difference. And it's not much help now that it's closed, but the Thai grocery on Broadway almost always had holy basil. I haven't checked lately, but I'm fairly certain that I've seen it, as well, at Golden Pacific, also on Broadway, just north of the Jewel. Good luck!

    Golden Pacific
    5353 N Broadway
    (773) 334-6688
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #3 - June 17th, 2008, 7:12 pm
    Post #3 - June 17th, 2008, 7:12 pm Post #3 - June 17th, 2008, 7:12 pm
    Sorry...I meant for planting in the garden.
  • Post #4 - June 17th, 2008, 7:23 pm
    Post #4 - June 17th, 2008, 7:23 pm Post #4 - June 17th, 2008, 7:23 pm
    Try here. No idea where to find them locally, although sometimes Asian groceries have a small section of gardening supplies/seeds - there were some at H-Mart (I've been looking for the purple-stemmed stuff, myself) but I haven't seen them this year.

    Last year, I grew a mix of basils that I can't find online now, it had lemon basil (which took over) lettuce leafe, and the purple-stemmed globe basil, similar to what you buy in packs at H-Mart. I can't find it now, but would have liked to plant more of that.
  • Post #5 - June 17th, 2008, 7:58 pm
    Post #5 - June 17th, 2008, 7:58 pm Post #5 - June 17th, 2008, 7:58 pm
    Yeah, I've got Italian sweet basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, and some variety of frilly purple basil growing in the back yard now. As you can tell, I likes me some basil. A nursery not too far from me was having a two-for-one sale last week (and I assume this week as well), so I stocked up.
  • Post #6 - June 20th, 2008, 10:17 am
    Post #6 - June 20th, 2008, 10:17 am Post #6 - June 20th, 2008, 10:17 am
    Binko, if you have any interest in driving to Hobart (which shouldn't be that long of a drive if you take the Skyway) Johnson's Strawberry Farm is carrying two types of purple-stemmed Thai basil, although no Holy basil that I could see. The one I bought is called Siam Queen, it has large leaves, purple stems and purple flowers: I don't recall the other one.
  • Post #7 - June 20th, 2008, 11:26 am
    Post #7 - June 20th, 2008, 11:26 am Post #7 - June 20th, 2008, 11:26 am
    Yeah, I found the Siam Queen basil here on the Southwest Side (at the Egg Store). They stock it pretty much every year. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the holy basil anywhere.
  • Post #8 - June 20th, 2008, 8:48 pm
    Post #8 - June 20th, 2008, 8:48 pm Post #8 - June 20th, 2008, 8:48 pm
    Binko wrote:How much different are Thai basil (horapa) and Thai holy basil (grapao or gaprao or some variation thereof). It seems that all the Thai basil I've seen available in Chicago is of the Thai sweet (horapa) variety. Can anyone familiar with both describe the difference in taste and culinary uses?

    The holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum or O. sanctum) I grew one season had a strong camphor quality. I didn't care for it much and didn't bother again. I can't tell you whether this is the same thing as Thai holy basil or not.
  • Post #9 - June 21st, 2008, 9:19 pm
    Post #9 - June 21st, 2008, 9:19 pm Post #9 - June 21st, 2008, 9:19 pm
    Speaking of Thai basil, I am growing some in my small container herb garden on the deck and it's sprouting some purple flowers. Am I supposed to pinch these off or just leave them be? Thank you.
  • Post #10 - June 22nd, 2008, 12:20 am
    Post #10 - June 22nd, 2008, 12:20 am Post #10 - June 22nd, 2008, 12:20 am
    Yes, you should pinch the flowers to encourage growth. Basically, flowering stops the plant's growth, so keep it trimmed! The more you snip and use the basil, the more it will grow out and the bushier and fuller it will become. If you don't trim at all, the plant just basically grows straight up. The general rule is not to trim more than 1/3 of all the leaves at a time. If for some reason I'm not regularly using my basil, I make sure to trim it down 1/3 every 3 weeks, but I usually use it regularly enough through the summer that this isn't necessary.

    edit: I should add, by "trim" I mean pinching off the leaves, not cutting into the main stem.
  • Post #11 - June 22nd, 2008, 4:55 pm
    Post #11 - June 22nd, 2008, 4:55 pm Post #11 - June 22nd, 2008, 4:55 pm
    The frilly purple basil sounds like Purple Ruffles. There is also a Green Ruffles. I have grown both and found them to lack vigor and be light on flavor. My purple basil in recent years has been Red Rubin, which is a selection from Dark Opal with more consistent color. Red Rubin is an Italian large-leaf type albeit with less intense basil flavor than generic sweet basil let alone the Genovese I also grow. This year I also have Siam Queen, Mrs. Burns' lemon, and Sweet Dani lemon.

    This is a little late for this year (except maybe for second plantings), but Johnny's Seeds carries a wide range of basil seeds including both Thai and Holy. I linked to the first of three pages of basils on their Web site. The more details button usually leads to a pretty good description.
  • Post #12 - June 22nd, 2008, 6:50 pm
    Post #12 - June 22nd, 2008, 6:50 pm Post #12 - June 22nd, 2008, 6:50 pm
    I wasn't able to get to the nursery this spring to get any Thai basil, so I'm trying this experiment. I bought some holy basil at HMart on the 15th, snipped the ends of the stems, and have been keeping a large bunch in a glass of water on the windowsill. A week later, several of the cuttings are putting down roots. I'm hoping to be able to transplant them into a pot in about two weeks. I've used this same technique successfully to grow lemongrass in my garden. Hopefully it will work with the basil as well. I'll follow up if it works.

    Regards,
    Jen
  • Post #13 - June 24th, 2008, 10:11 pm
    Post #13 - June 24th, 2008, 10:11 pm Post #13 - June 24th, 2008, 10:11 pm
    In my quest for DTV converters, I saw this Thai basil at both the Wheeling and Niles Walmarts:

    http://www.bonnieplants.com/tabid/72/Pr ... fault.aspx

    The link is a picture from the grower. It does have purple stems.
  • Post #14 - July 2nd, 2008, 1:31 pm
    Post #14 - July 2nd, 2008, 1:31 pm Post #14 - July 2nd, 2008, 1:31 pm
    To follow up, I planted some of my sprouted Thai Holy basil stems on Friday. Despite the freak hailstorm that battered them on Saturday, I now have four perky basil plants growing in my self-watering container on my patio. Now that they're stabilized, I'm curious to see how well they grow.

    Jen
  • Post #15 - July 9th, 2008, 11:25 am
    Post #15 - July 9th, 2008, 11:25 am Post #15 - July 9th, 2008, 11:25 am
    This is kind of off topic but I wasn't sure where to put this question. I'm growing regular basil in a flower planter (actually a wooden barrel cut in half) in my back yard. It's doing really well and there is some mint planted next to the basil plants.

    I've noticed that since I've been consuming the basil, it's not as flavorful as I'd hoped...it's a little flat to be exact. I've never grown herbs before (I'm a newbie) so I'm not sure if there is an explanation for this. The basil plant is doing fine enough - it's huge - and I do harvest/trim it regularly to keep it in check. It just doesn't taste as awesome as I'd hoped.

    Is there something I can do?
  • Post #16 - July 9th, 2008, 4:11 pm
    Post #16 - July 9th, 2008, 4:11 pm Post #16 - July 9th, 2008, 4:11 pm
    Basil generally needs heat and strong sun to develop full flavor. Different strains of basils vary considerably in their potential for flavor. The types with either very small or very large leaves tend to have much less flavor than generic sweet basil, possibly what mellonhead means by regular basil, which in turn has less intense flavor than the Genovese cultivars.
  • Post #17 - July 10th, 2008, 2:32 am
    Post #17 - July 10th, 2008, 2:32 am Post #17 - July 10th, 2008, 2:32 am
    Variety makes some difference, but more important are weather, nurture and terroir. Our relatively cool, wet season this year isn't likely to encourage the most flavor development in herbs. Most herbs originate in hot, dry regions.

    In my experience, herbs concentrate their essential oils best, reaching the highest levels of flavor, when they are a little stressed. If you grow them in fertile soil and feed and water them well, you get lush growth and, often, watered-down taste.

    I've had the most success growing herbs in very well-drained plots. When I start a new herb bed, I select the driest, sunniest spot available, remove most of the indigenous soil and replace it with a mixture high in sand and low in nutrients. (Do not simply mix sand in with ordinary, heavy clay Chicagoland soil -- clay + sand = bricks!) Then I do not water unless the plants begin to look wilted.

    I wouldn't recommend growing mint and basil together because they have opposite requirements. Basil is a Mediterranean herb requiring lots of sun, heat and dry conditions. Most mints prefer cool, lightly shady spots with a moist soil.
  • Post #18 - July 11th, 2013, 4:48 pm
    Post #18 - July 11th, 2013, 4:48 pm Post #18 - July 11th, 2013, 4:48 pm
    Stopped at ...

    Golden Pacific Grocery
    5353 N Broadway
    (773) 334-6688

    ... yesterday to pick up some items (Holy Basil in particular) for the Montrose BBQ this Saturday.

    What a great resource for Thai items. Bundles of Holy Basil leaves waiting in the produce area along with Thai chili peppers and fresh lemon grass. A nice selection of spices (as well as some Masaman Curry Paste I was hoping to try).

    The owner, Johnson, is a hoot. Upon spying my basket of items he started rattling off my menu. :) He also was very helpful is picking out the best when confronted with a variety of brands as well as cooking suggestions (showed me their utensils for cooking sticky rice).

    Another item he mentioned that is very popular is bulk Chicken Satay ready for skewering and grilling. My Bride mentioned she thinks it is only available on weekends.
    "Make Lunch, Not War" ~ Anon
  • Post #19 - September 8th, 2017, 9:54 am
    Post #19 - September 8th, 2017, 9:54 am Post #19 - September 8th, 2017, 9:54 am
    With the sad demise of Golden Pacific, I'm wondering if anyone has other sources in the city for holy basil...growing it is not an option for me.
  • Post #20 - September 8th, 2017, 10:54 am
    Post #20 - September 8th, 2017, 10:54 am Post #20 - September 8th, 2017, 10:54 am
    Henry Brockman at the Evanston farmer's market has Thai basil, but he does not have holy basil. I just looked it up on his website. There might be somebody at Green City that has holy basil. Maybe somebody that goes there all the time would be able to tell you. You might also try hmart. Hope this helps, Nancy
  • Post #21 - September 8th, 2017, 4:25 pm
    Post #21 - September 8th, 2017, 4:25 pm Post #21 - September 8th, 2017, 4:25 pm
    bon2mic wrote:With the sad demise of Golden Pacific, I'm wondering if anyone has other sources in the city for holy basil...growing it is not an option for me.


    My backyard. I have a ton of it growing here if you want to come by the Midway area in the next week or two.

    Otherwise, in my general area, I have bought holy basil from Bangkok Grocery in Bridgeview. It has been about two years since I've been there, so you might want to call ahead.

    Bangkok Oriental Grocery
    7430 S. Harlem Ave
    Bridgeview, IL 60455
    708-458-1810

    And to answer my question from years ago, yes, they are quite different. There's even a slight numbing quality to it, like you get from Szechuan peppercorns, if you eat it raw, but that numbing quality seems to disappear when cooked. It's definitely different than the other basils.

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