Thai Holy Basil is one of many varieties of holy basil or Tulsi as it’s known in India with a distinctive aroma. Ocimum tenuiflorum is sharp and peppery, with perhaps a touch of lemon.
Many people confuse it with Thai Sweet Basil (horapa in Thai), which is a slightly sharper herb with a hint of liquorice.
There are a few different varieties of Tulsi or the holy basil and the one used in Thai cooking is called Thai Holy Basil or Kra Pao.
Why is it called Holy Basil?
Because it is a sacred herb in Hindu ceremonial practices, “Tulsi” means The Incomparable One in Sanskrit. In Hindy mythology, Tulsi represents Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu, one of the most important Gods in Hinduism.
However, it is a herb used not just in Ayurveda but also in Greek and Roman medicine. So, as you can imagine, it has many claims to heath; it’s supposed to be a stress reliever, an antioxidant and an anti inflammatory herb.
How to use Thai Holy Basil?
Besides for religious purposes as mentioned above, it is a very popular herb in some South East Asian cuisines, especially in Thai cooking, like in the Thai Basil Chicken Recipe (Pad Kra Pao Gai | ผัดกระเพราไก่):
Substitutes for Tulsi
The bottom line – NONE!
If you can’t find it, you can use alternative herbs like Thai Sweet Basil or regular basil. They do have similar properties, so make an acceptable alternative herb. Not a substitute.
How to grow Thai Basil
- Whether it’s today’s Thai holy basil, or the Thai sweet basil, you can easily propagate them in a glass of water.
- Just cut a few stems at an angle.
- Get rid of the lower leaves and place them in a small glass of water, and place them on a bright windowsill, preferably without direct sunlight.
- Within a week (sometimes two), you’ll see roots growing.
- Just pot them up in some compost, and they ought to live happily for a while.
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Thai Holy Basil | Tulsi
- 2-3 sprigs Thai Holy Basil (or as needed)
- Rinse the sprigs.
- Pick the leaves off the stems and add to your recipe, as the recipes instructs.