This scrumptious Thai noodle dish is made of chewy rice noodles, tender chicken, and crisp veggies tossed and coated in a spicy and savory sauce that will surely hit the spot if when you have that Thai food craving and want to make it fresh. A bowl of Drunken Noodles, also known as Pad Kee Mao, is just exactly what you need!
When we lived in Thailand…
(Disclaimer: If you don’t at all care about my experience with Thai food and just want a great recipe, feel free to skip ahead…I just wanted to share our background with this dish!) My husband and I actually met in Thailand! We were both working at different non-profits in Southeast Asia and ended up attending the same business course in Chiang Mai! We have loved Thai food ever since! Sometimes we get a little nostalgic, think about our motorbike rides around town, seeing elephants on the side of the road, and wandering around open air markets eating mangos and sticky rice. My husband worked in a Thai/American restaurant for a bit and we took Thai cooking classes together in Phuket after we were married so we know a little about making Thai food. It’s definitely not our speciality but we still love to make it at home and reminisce from time to time!
What is Drunken Noodles?
Despite its name, this stir fry noodle dish does not contain any alcohol at all. It originated from Thailand and is locally called Pad Kee Mao, “pad” meaning stir-fry, and Kee Moa meaning “drunk.” The exact reason it is named as such remains a mystery until now. However, many accounts explain why it is called so. One story tells that a very spicy version of this dish was made by a frustrated housewife’s annoyance at her often drunk husband. While another simply says it was something that could be quickly and easily prepared for an intoxicated person to jolt them out of their drunken stupor with its robust and spicy flavors. Whatever the case may be, this noodle dish is now popular in Thai and Asian restaurants worldwide for its richness and ease of making.
The Best Drunken Noodles Recipe Ever!
I did not wait to check if the theory was true, however! Obviously, I made this Thai Drunken Noodles while completely sober, and it was absolutely divine! To make it as authentic as possible, I used Thai holy basil, also called “hot basil,” due to its more peppery taste. The rest of the ingredients are easy; I only had to grab some oyster and fish sauce in our local Asian grocery store. It’s a harmonious blend of flavors that is surprisingly easy to make and versatile to boot. This popular dish is simply irresistible! If you love stir fry but you’re looking for something a little more Americanized, try my Beef Stir fry instead!
Pad Kee Mao vs. Pad See Ew and Pad Thai
You have probably seen these three stir fry noodle dishes on menus of your favorite Thai restaurant. Though they have similarities, their flavor bases are different from each other. Drunken Noodles is spicier than Pad See Ew, while Pad Thai is more on the sweeter side. There are also key ingredients that differentiate the three. Pad Thai is known for having peanuts, scrambled eggs, and bean sprouts, while Pad See Ew uses both dark and light soy sauce and fewer veggies.
Why This Recipe Works
- This Thai food is the perfect on–the–go dish. You can get it from stove to plate in just 35 minutes. Less if you marinate the chicken ahead of time!
- It’s an all-in-one hearty dish that you can customize easily. Popular vegetables used include corn kernels, baby bok choy, carrots, and snow peas, but you can add whatever you have on hand. You can use your choice of protein.
- You can control the spice level to how you like it. If you don’t really go for spicy food, you can skip the peppers. If you want it spicier, you can add more or use spicier ones. Serrano chiles and red chili peppers are common choices.
- You can make your Drunken Noodles vegan by using tofu instead of chicken and by omitting the oyster and fish sauce. Or you can opt to use dark soy sauce instead.
- Rice noodles
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Fish sauce
- Brown sugar
- Vegetable oil
- Thai bird’s eye chili
- Whole baby corn
- Bell pepper
- Snow peas
- Green onions
- Thai holy basil
Kitchen Supplies You will Need
- Mixing bowls
How to Make Drunken Noodles
Step 1. Make the Sauce. Combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, ground pepper, and ground ginger in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well and set the sauce aside.
Step 2:Marinade the Chicken. Place your chicken in a medium-sized bowl. Take a third of the sauce and pour it over the sliced chicken until fully coated. Refrigerate for 20- 30 minutes.
Step 3: Cook the Noodles. Cover the noodles in hot water and let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse them in cold water. Toss the noodles with sesame oil and set them aside.
Step 4: Cook the Chicken. Heat up a. Add 2 tablespoons of oil on a wok or non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook your marinated chicken through. Take out the chicken and set it aside.
Step 5: Sauté your Veggies. Turn up your heat to medium-high heat and get the pan really hot. Add your garlic, chilies, baby corn, and bell peppers. Fry for 2 minutes, constantly stirring to avoid burning. Add your basil and green onion. Continue cooking for a minute, stirring constantly.
Step 5: Toss everything together. Add the chicken back to the pan, then pour the remaining sauce into the mixture. Add the noodles. Stir fry until the noodles are coated with the sauce.
Step 6: Garnish and serve. Take the pan off the heat and garnish it with green onions and a sprig or two of basil. Serve with lemon wedges an enjoy with a bottle of cold beer.
Tips when Making Drunken Noodles
- Have everything prepared before you start cooking. This dish cooks fast, so you will not have time to chop the veggies once the heat is on.
- If you want some zing but not too spicy, remove the seeds from the Thai chilies before adding them to the dish. Make sure to wear gloves or wash as soon as you’re done, and don’t touch your eyes.
- Use a large non-stick wok or skillet. Make sure that you do not overcrowd your pan when you are stir-frying, or you will end up with soggy veggies and limp noodles.
- Turn the noodles over a few times to ensure they are covered in the delicious sauce.
On the rare occasion that you have some left-overs, you can keep it refrigerated for up to 5 days in a clean, air-tight container. Simply reheat in the wok or in your microwave. If you are reheating in a microwave, make sure to keep a lid on to keep in the moisture or add a little water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Shrimp, beef, and pork are all delicious in this dish! You could add about 8 ounces (½ pound) of meat. If you are adding the meat uncooked, make sure to fry it first, then add the garlic, chilis, and veggies to the stir fry.
Yes, you could add sliced onions, Chinese broccoli, celery, broccoli, mushrooms or spinach.
You could leave those out, but it will change the taste. If you have Worcestershire sauce, add a tablespoon of that in place of the oyster and fish sauce.
Just before you are ready to add them to the stir fry, place the noodles in a colander and run hot tap water over them until they are softened up.
This herb can be a bit hard to find. If you do not have any, regular basil will do in a pinch.
Sure, you can. Make sure to follow the package instructions when cooking them al dente.
- 8 ounces flat wide dry rice noodles, ¼ inch or more if you have them
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 pieces Chicken breasts, butterflied, then sliced thin
- 4 Tablespoons oil , divided in half. vegetable, or canola
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 piece Thai bird’s eye chili, chopped (wear gloves or wash as soon as you’re done, and don’t touch your eyes)
- 1 – can whole baby corn, 15 ounce, cut in half and quartered
- 1 medium bell pepper, sliced
- 10 pieces snow peas
- 2 medium green onions , sliced
- 1 cup Thai holy basil, torn into small pieces
Optional Garnish: chopped green onions and basil
- Have everything ready to go before you start cooking as it goes fast.
- Mix sauce ingredients in a medium mixing bowl: soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, pepper, and ginger. Set this aside.
- Place cut chicken into a medium bowl.
- Pour a third of the sauce over the chicken, incorporate, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, boil a large pot of water, then cover noodles with the boiling water and let them sit for 10 minutes (stirring a few times). Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss the noodles with the teaspoon of sesame oil. Set aside for now.
- It is best to use a wok or large nonstick skillet for this dish. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in the skillet over medium heat, place the marinated chicken in and cook through. Take chicken out of the skillet and set aside. Turn up the heat to medium-high, when the skillet is really hot, add garlic, chilies, baby corn, bell pepper, and snow peas. Fry this for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning.
- Then add the green onions and basil. Continue to cook and stir for another minute.
- Mix the cooked chicken back into the skillet and combine. Then pour in the sauce and noodles to the pan. Stir as this is cooking until the noodles are the desired texture (about 5 more minutes). Make sure to turn the noodles over as they cook to help them absorb the sauce.
- Remove from the wok and serve immediately.
- Can I add a different meat to this dish?
- Are there other veggies that go well with Drunken Noodles?
- I don’t have oyster sauce and fish sauce – is there something else I could use?
- I am using fresh wide rice noodles; how do I get them ready for the stir fry?
- What if I do not have Thai holy basil or Thai basil leaves?
- Can I use thinner rice noodles?