Food & Drink

Ryan Riley’s Thai basil and coconut chicken stew

Fresh herbs and red chillies star in this flavourful Asian-inspired dish.

“Umami really comes out to play in this quick but rich stew, with coconut milk, tomatoes, and soy and fish sauces all providing savoury synergy,” says chef Ryan Riley, co-founder of Life Kitchen, a not-for-profit cookery school for cancer patients.

“Thai basil is a favourite of mine and here it brings vibrancy, while the spices add a darting lift. This is a 30-minute midweek meal that doesn’t hold back when it comes to a warming, satisfying flavour explosion.”

Thai basil and coconut chicken stew


(Serves 2)

6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

4tbsp garlic paste

4tbsp ginger paste

1tsp ground coriander

¼tsp white pepper, plus extra to season

½tsp salt, plus extra to season

1tbsp vegetable oil

3 long red (Thai) chillies, finely chopped with seeds (keep back a few slices to garnish)

100g Thai basil leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish

1 × 400g tin of full-fat coconut milk

300ml chicken stock

10 mixed-colour cherry tomatoes, halved

1tsp fish sauce

1tsp light soy sauce

1tsp light brown soft sugar

Steamed vegetables and boiled jasmine rice, to serve

Thai basil and coconut chicken stew
Thai basil and coconut chicken stew (Craig Robertson/PA)


1. Place the diced chicken into a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, white pepper and salt and mix well. Leave to marinate overnight if you have time, but for at least 10 minutes.

2. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium–high heat. Add in the marinated chicken and fry it for five to six minutes, turning, until the chicken begins to brown. Add the chillies and half of the basil, followed by the coconut milk and chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar, and simmer for a further five minutes, until the tomatoes are just softened and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the stew from the heat, season with salt and extra white pepper, and stir through the remainder of the basil. Scatter over the extra basil leaves and the chilli slices to garnish.

3. Serve with steamed vegetables and cooked jasmine rice.

Small Pleasures: Joyful Recipes for Difficult Times by Ryan Riley
Small Pleasures: Joyful Recipes for Difficult Times by Ryan Riley (Craig Robertson/PA)

Small Pleasures: Joyful Recipes For Difficult Times by Ryan Riley is published by Bloomsbury, priced £22. Photography by Craig Robertson. Available now