Is Taiwan Basil the same as Thai Basil?
January 3, 2017 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I have a recipe I'm excited to try tonight that calls for Thai Basil. I went to H Mart and picked up "Taiwan Basil" which looks like what I expected, but... is it?

They had two types of basil, "Italian", and "Taiwan". I picked the "Taiwan" basil, which from googling is either exactly the same as, or in no way the same as and is not to be mistaken for, Thai Basil. It has purple stems and more jaggedy leaves than the Italian kind, and it smells like a bowl of Pho when I sniff it. This is the same as Thai Basil, right? Or am I about to have a very unsatisfying meal?

The recipe, btw, is a modified version of Taiwanese three-cup chicken, which makes me pretty confident this is the right stuff, but I figure the cooking mefites would know for sure.
posted by pazazygeek to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thai basil has a licorice under flavor and is purple ish. Give it a taste but it sounds like Thai basil to me. I would use it and I'm moderately picky about these things.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:41 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you picked up a Taiwanese variety of Thai Holy basil.

That will work fine. Note that Thai basil comes in holy basil and sweet green basil forms as well. I generally prefer Holy basil for my three cup chicken.
posted by Karaage at 1:47 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yep, you're good. Maybe not 100% the same varietal but good enough.

An aside on herb varieties:

I know this is sacrilege to some, but I've never been all that disappointed by putting in half of the TOTALLY WRONG BASIL and then making up the difference with other herbs or spices.

Most green leafy herbs draw flavor from a profile of the same 5-10 compounds, and so weird things like (totally made up example) adding a little tarragon to Italian basil may make it taste more like Thai basil.

Sometimes you can find guides for this kind of varsity level substitution, but to use this method I'd recommend a good nose/tongue, or the willingness to risk and experiment :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:26 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I grow and cook with Thai basil a lot. Your description sounds exactly like Thai basil, regardless of what the store called it.

I would not hesitate to use this T(h)ai(wanese) basil.
posted by Salamander at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used it, and it was delicious! Thanks for saving dinner!
posted by pazazygeek at 7:22 AM on January 4, 2017

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