Terry Durack’s Thai Chicken and Basil

Serves 4

This is a Terry Durack recipe from his book Yum, a $1 purchase from St Vincent de Paul. (Seriously, St Vincent de Paul has to be one of the best cook book chains in Sydney!)

Up until I tried this recipe, I had admired Terry Durack as a food critic though had been less impressed by his recipes. Though I am sure that this was about me and not you Terry!

He opens his book with this dish and describes it as one that changed his cooking life just because it is so unbelievably simple; I have to agree that cooking this and tasting it, it really did open my eyes too. Genuinely, like tasting the snow-egg at Quay or eating at Per Se in New York, cooking this recipe really is one of the seminal moments in my cooking life.

It is hard to believe that this recipe could taste combined, complex or even good. Instead, it really is an amazing dish that demonstrates that with only a few of the right flavours, you can produce a wonderful dish without any complaints.

To put it as Terry Durack does, ‘this dish taught me that you could toss things in the wok while half-drunk and without a care in the world, and still be able to feed people without killing them…’

I have always been lazy with this dish and substituted 3 chicken breasts for the a whole chicken (and I’ll keep doing it) and I have altered (as I usually do) the recipe to be slightly easier to follow.


1 small chicken, meat from the breast, thighs and legs removed, sliced into strips
3 or 4 green (or red) chillies, deseeded and sliced into thin slivers
2 tbsp of finely chopped parsley
Bunch of basil leaves, removed from stem
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp fish sauce


  1. Heat the oil in a wok and cook the chicken over a moderate heat for a few minutes, then add the chillis, most of the basil and the parsley.
  2. Cook, stirring as you go for another 3 or 4 minutes.
  3. Splash in the fish sauce and stir through.
  4. Add remaining basil and serve with jasmine rice.

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