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weekday weekends

Recipe: drunken noodles (pad kee mao)

Given my druthers, I prefer to work through the weekends to free up time during the week. I’m fortunate to (usually) have that luxury of choice because I want to avoid crowds and traffic and people behaving poorly… which happens most often on weekends. Hitting the slopes or the trails during the week is one of the perks of freelancing.

wildflowers are at peak in the local mountains

paintbrush and showy fleabane

my kind of morning

I spent this weekend working with more chocolate. By the end of 11 straight hours on my feet the last day, my brain was complete mush and I just needed to vegetate. Generally, I don’t watch television – it truly is a brain rot box. We have a television for the occasional DVD rental (I’m waiting for GoT season 3) or someone’s PS3 habit, but until now we have never gotten reception nor subscribed to cable or satellite. I really hate the way one gets sucked into television. A lot of it is pure junk, so we tend to select good series after they’ve been out for a few years.

cakes and pastries all damn day

Jeremy loves this kind of date night. It happens about twice a year that I’m too tired to do any work, but not tired enough to fall asleep – this is when I can watch television. We chill out on the couch, eating dinner, watching a show. The only thing missing is a cuddly Kaweah, because she really dislikes the television. She hides out in the office and emerges again when the sound is turned off. So after my week-long shoot was done, I asked Jeremy to get Netflix so we could have a date night at home and watch Sherlock. Hello. Benedict. Cumberbatch. But what made the date night even awesomer were the Thai drunken noodles we had for dinner. I doode it.

oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, golden mountain soy sauce, soy sauce, baby corn, vinegar, rice noodles, chicken, basil, thai chiles, pink peppercorns, sugar, garlic, basil

i got fresh rice noodle sheets

and sliced them up myself

After hearing so much about drunken noodles, I finally tried it last month at a restaurant. I liked it (noodle girl), although I don’t know why a lot of Asian restaurants put bell peppers in so many of their dishes. I’m just not a fan. The hunt for a good recipe began shortly afterward. The one that I settled on is authentic to the point that I had trouble sourcing a few ingredients like fresh peppercorns. I read elsewhere to substitute pink peppercorns, but I think in the future I’ll follow this recipe’s footnote to use ground white pepper in lieu of fresh peppercorns. I had a good laugh reading the recipe’s introduction, in which the author translates pad kee mao into stir-fry shit drunk – or stir-fry bad drinking habit.

separate the noodles

slice the baby corn

crush the garlic and chiles together

If you’re wondering about the difference between golden mountain soy sauce and (black) soy sauce, and whether you can just use more soy sauce – I wondered the same thing. The golden mountain soy sauce is seasoned with a more complex flavor than just regular soy sauce. It’s slightly sweet, more caramel… It shouldn’t be hard to find at an Asian grocery store and it’s relatively affordable. Also, you can use dried rice noodles if you can’t find fresh ones, just be sure to soak them well and cook them through. You can always add a tablespoon or two of water to the noodles if they are still too firm after they hit the pan.

mise en place

add the chicken and corn to the sautéed garlic, chiles, and peppercorns

add the rice noodles

As with most Asian stir fries, it’s important to get all of your ingredients measured, prepped, and ready before you start. I quadrupled the recipe (we like leftovers) and had to cook it up in two batches. So if you’re going to make this, don’t cook more than double this recipe in a single shot or else everyone gets too crowded in the pan and things won’t cook properly. Take care not to overcook the rice noodles or else you will get a mass of rice noodle mush.

adding the sauces

and fresh basil

This is a great dish and pretty easy to make. You can switch out the chicken for pork, beef, shrimp, tofu – whatever you like. If you go for tofu, just be sure to pan fry it first. Then add it when you are supposed to add the protein to the dish. The pink peppercorns lend a nice flavor to the dish, but I found biting into a peppercorn rather disconcerting. I’ll probably add sliced onions, shiitake mushrooms, and more basil to it next time and use pork or tofu instead of chicken, but this is a great noodle stir-fry to enjoy whether you’re drunk or sober.

drunken noodles (pad kee mao)

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
[print recipe]
from Real Thai Recipes

2 tbsps vegetable oil
3 cups fresh wide rice noodles
4 tbsps chopped garlic
2 tbsps smashed small Thai chiles
1 cup sliced tofu, chicken, pork, or whatever protein you like
2 sliced orange chilis (I just used Thai chiles as I couldn’t find this anywhere)
4 tbsps fresh peppercorns (this is hard to source, you can substitute 1/2 to 1 tsp ground white pepper)
1 cup baby corn, sliced in half lengthwise
3 tbsps oyster sauce
2 tsps black soy sauce
3 tsps golden mountain soy sauce (yes, this is actually different from regular soy sauce)
2 tbsps white soy sauce or fish sauce (I used fish sauce), more to taste
4 tsps sugar
1 cup packed holy basil leaves and flowers (I couldn’t source this either, so I used regular basil)
1/2 tsp vinegar

Separate the rice noodles by hand. If they are very brittle, let the noodles come to room temperature or even microwave them covered on low power for 10 seconds at a time until pliable but not cooked. If using dried noodles, soak them per the instructions on the package until ready to use. Crush the garlic and Thai chiles together in a mortar and pestle. If you are using tofu, the you should pre-fry the tofu (I’d just pan-fry it in some oil until it’s golden and crisp on the outside) and set it aside until ready to cook. Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or sauté pan over high heat. Add the garlic, chiles, and the fresh peppercorns, if using (if using ground white pepper – wait to add this last when you are done cooking everything), and stir-fry until the garlic becomes fragrant and begins to turn golden. Add the tofu or meat (in this case, chicken) and the baby corn and stir-fry for a minute or more until the meat is just done. Add the noodles and stir for a few seconds (if the noodles are really dry or brittle, you can add some a few teaspoons of water to help it soften up – but fresh noodles usually turn mushy if you cook them too long). Pour in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, golden mountain soy sauce, fish sauce (or white soy sauce, if using), and sugar. Stir in until the noodles are evenly coated then add the basil and vinegar. When the basil begins to wilt, the dish is done. Serves 2-4.

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20 nibbles at “weekday weekends”

  1. Kristin says:

    Sounds tasty, but I don’t see where the drunken comes in unless, as you suggest, it refers to the diner or chef! I guess I’ll have to start the hunt for golden mountain soy sauce.

  2. Janel @ Creating Tasty Stories says:

    Ha! Love the bawdier translation of the name. The recipe sounds so good, will be keeping an eye out for the ingredients (no Asian grocers in my area).

  3. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    This looks like the perfect date night (except for cuddly puppies)….


  4. Connie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had Thai Drunken Noodles before, but I’ve had the fresh rice noodles–the same brand as you have pictured above. The factory is local so sometimes we can pick them up from a nearby market still warm. There were many Saturday mornings in which we (the kids) sat around an enameled baking dish separating the noodles before they were warmed up in the steamer. Thanks for reminding me of a lovely memory.

  5. Phoebe says:

    I agree! Why must so many Asian restaurants put bell peppers in most everything? It’s such a bossy vegetable that (I think) overpowers just about every dish it’s added to. Thanks for the great (bell pepper-less) recipe :)

  6. Chef V says:

    Love the wildflowers, I will get there one of these days! It’s nice to see how dry this dish is, but can see how moist the chicken is, and not sitting in so much salty brown sauce. Presentation is beautiful, I noticed the gorgeous cutting block recently given to you as a gift! Nice rustic touch! keep em coming Jen :-)

  7. Eileen Thai says:

    I have the same exact pack of the rice noodle in my fridge waiting to be cooked; I usually cook Pad Thai or Kway Teow (Malaysian style Pad Tfhai) with it. We Southeast Asians like to use Maggi Soy sauce, but when the price went up, we substituted with Golden Mountain. As far as I know, black or dark soy is usually sweeter.

  8. Beth says:

    I usually order some type of tofu curry when I go out for Thai, but if I’m craving noodles, I go for the Drunken ones! This recipe sounds wonderful and I hope to get around to making it very soon.

  9. Pey-Lih says:

    Drunken noodles are my favorite! Thanks for this recipe!

  10. Alice says:

    That Sherlock is incredible! The fact that the stars are in the Hobbit movies adds another dimension : D.

  11. Sophie says:

    I’m so thrilled that you posted Pad Kee Mao! This is one of my very favorite Thai dishes and I’ve done my own research on the recipe for cooking at home, too…. all the local Thai restaurants add bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes to this dish. Which are actually not terrible in my opinion, but of course not authentic :)

    I’m interested in your take on the peppercorns, and will try it with the ground white like you suggested. I have never seen holy basil in local Asian markets either! Dang, I usually use Thai basil bcause it’s more sturdy/fragrant than the usual varieties. I haven’t had much luck finding fresh rice noodles yet, but I lovvve this dish so I will keep trying! Did you allow the rice noodles to almost brown a bit on the hot pan? Or is that not really a feature of this dish?

    Hangover food or not, this is GOOD eats! So many amazing flavors in this. Thanks so much for sharing. I hope you got some nice rest… we don’t get any television channels either, we’re always watching shows on Netflix way after the fact. I’m pretty sure that after this many tv-less years, watching a commercial would about kill me. Ha!

  12. Kirby says:

    The white flowers in your first pic -I’ve always know them as Queen Anne’s Lace, perhaps a Midwestern thing or Eastern I’m in Michigan from Upstate New York?

  13. Christine says:

    Pad Kee Mao is one of my favorites! I’ve been using the recipe from the NY Times for what feels like ages but turns out is really 5 years. (

    I’ll have to look for the fresh noodles! I’ve never seen that package before.

  14. Sandy says:

    I always consider bell peppers and bamboo shoots to be filler. These rice noodles are my favorite. We used to get fresh ones (not packaged!) from a store in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

  15. taylor says:

    Holy basil can be found at Lao’s Market on Federal Boulevard just south of US36. It is tiny, but very versatile in stock, and you have to know what you’re looking for. The produce comes in on Thursdays, so getting fresh ingredients later than Monday isn’t a good bet.

  16. Jura says:

    Love the recipe and the photos looks so tasty!

  17. jenyu says:

    Connie – oh wow, so lucky to have the factory nearby!

    Phoebe – Amen, sistah :)

    Chef V – thank you!

    Eileen – ah, I have a bottle of that which my friends gave me when we taught a cooking demo together. I’ll have to start finding ways to use it!

    Alice – yes, indeed! I just wish Peter Jackson had made The Hobbit Trilogy as good as his Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first movie felt very recycled.

    Sophie – I have a wok that I need to season and put to good use on these dishes. Yes, I think the browning/crisping of the noodles is a wonderful amazing delicious thing. For now though, I make all of my rice noodle stir-fries with a non-stick pan because it makes a terrible mess on my stainless steel pans. So if you can get the browning going, go for it! :)

    Kirby – osha and Queen Anne’s lace are in the same family, but are not the same species. Good eye!

    Christine – hmm, that looks good too. I may have to give it a try. The packaging isn’t as important as the noodles. I have found that what my Asian grocery stores have to offer is fairly limited, so I just buy what I can find. Just be sure to look for rice noodles on the label or ingredients and you’ll know if they’re fresh (they’re slippery and heavy and refrigerated).

    Sandy – ugh! So jealous!! :)

    taylor – you are totally awesome. Thanks for the tip!

  18. Mrs Ergül says:

    Looking forward to making this!!!

  19. Sear, Saute and Stir Fry » At Home in Any Kitchen says:

    […] Pad Kee Mao (Thai Stir Fried Noodles) – a favorite! […]

  20. Brandon B says:

    Do yourself a favor and DON’T search for pink peppercorns, unless your sole purpose of making this dish is actually to cure a hangover…They completely overpower all the flavor, and I only used 1 Tablespoon instead of 4. Authentic or not, I want to make a dish that tastes good and with these peppercorns it is simply not possible. The sauce is fine though.

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