Monday, September 7, 2009

Sage Advice, Part 2: Fried Herb Leaves

I don't know about you, but whenever I eat out and discover something that I like that seems as though it would be easy to replicate at home, I try it. Such is the case with fried herb leaves. Years and years ago, I fell in love with the crispy fried basil leaves that would accompany certain dishes at my favorite Thai restaurant. They were such a delightful addition to an already scrumptious Pad Thai or Som Tum salad, and their vibrant green translucent color was a stunning way to brighten up a dish. Nothing to it, I thought.

And then I tried it.

In attempt after attempt, my results were simply awful. No matter the herb, immediately upon being placed into the hot oil, they would turn black and bitter. I tried everything: changing the types of oil, changing the oil temperature, praying... nothing worked. I very nearly gave up.

But lo and behold, an aspiring chef wandered in and out of my life at just the right moment. I couldn't even pretend to recall his name, but as a result of our brief interlude, I walked away with the secret to making beautiful, delicate, colorful fried herb leaves. Which I will graciously now share with you because that's the kind of girl I am. So here goes....

Egg wash.

That's right. Simply dunk the raw herb leaves in egg whites that have been diluted and whisked together with a little bit of water before frying them. The oil doesn't matter (I use EVOO), and the heat only needs to be just shy of the oil's smoking point. Other than that - super easy!!

So, since I've got a wealth of herbs exploding in my garden right now, this is one method I'm using to put them to good use. Most herbs are delicious when prepped this way, but my favorites are basil and sage - any variety. I like to eat them all on their own as a little snack. Some of the sturdier herbs - like sage - can even be used for a dip-shoveling device, much like a potato chip - although the technique is more dunking than scooping (my favorite combo is to dip fried basil leaves in my homemade Tzatziki Sauce). But you could also use them to top my Drunk and Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, or my Thai Cucumber Salad.

Sounds good, huh? I hope you find this tip helpful and go home and pull out your Fry Daddy at once! (Now that's not something I normally say, is it?)


  1. This is such great info! I've never been able to figure out how to get it right. If it wasn't 10:30pm I'd be in the kitchen frying up the basil plant I have growing in there. Thank you!

  2. great tip! Vietnamese cuisine uses so many herbs..we'll have to try it one day!

  3. I have a bunch of left over basil waiting for me to do something with it. This post came just in time, I'll have to experiment tonight!

  4. My basil plant is big and I have guests coming for lunch tomorrow so I am trying this!

  5. I wonder if it would work for kale as well. I've tried roasting kale and have trouble with it coming out too bitter.

  6. Frugal Kiwi - Kale is a brilliant idea! I bet it would work beautifully! I'm going to try it!