Pad Kee Mao – Thai Drunken Noodles

Like any other culture, Thai home cooks have their own ways of making a certain dish, like pad thai or curry or tom kha. They don’t follow a strict recipe and measure things out by teaspoons and tablespoons. I can’t say if a dish at a restaurant is more authentic than the same dish at another restaurant. But I can say if it tastes good to me, or if I prefer one over the other. And that’s the way I approach cooking.

When I visit a Thai restaurant, I usually get a noodle dish (with the exception of pad thai) and one of my favorites is pad kee mao, AKA Thai Drunken/Drunkard noodles. Why are they called drunken noodles instead of spicy noodles? Are the noodles doused with tons of alcohol? No! There are 2 explanations that I’ve heard of. The first is that the dish is so spicy that it makes you feel like you’re drunk. The other is that this is the favorite of drunken folk in food stalls back in Thailand.

Now, you may not be in the mood or have the mental capacity to whip this out after you’ve had a few. But if you’re feeling proactive, you can make this ahead of your trip to the bar and have it waiting for you when you get back home. Or you can just enjoy it with a nice cold beer or a glass/bottle of riesling.

For the sauce:

2 T oyster sauce

2 T fish sauce

2 T palm sugar/brown sugar

1 T mirin

1 T rice vinegar

1 T Golden Mountain sauce or Maggi

1 T Thai chili-garlic paste (or substitute with another Asian chili sauce, like sriracha)

Juice of half a lime

Other ingredients:

7 ounces (about half a package) wide rice noodles (XL)

3 T canola oil

1 T minced garlic

4-5 Thai chili peppers, seeded and chopped (or substitute with another hot pepper, ex: jalapenos)

3 green onions, white ends thinly sliced, green tops cut into 2-inch pieces

1 package of tofu, cubed

Handful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Lime wedges, for serving.

Optional additions:

Broccoli florets

Bell peppers

Napa cabbage

Tomato wedges

  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Mix until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the noodles and soak for 15-20 minutes, or until softened. Then drain.
  3. Add oil to a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, chili peppers and sliced green onion ends, and saute for about a minute.
  4. Add vegetables (from optional additions list, except tomatoes) and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Keep texture in vegetables.
  5. Add noodles and sauce to wok. Toss until noodles are coated with the sauce and heated through, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add basil, cilantro, and green onion tops (and tomatoes) and toss until well mixed.
  7. Serve hot, with lime wedges.


The amounts for the sambal and the chili peppers are variable, of course, depending on your heat preference. I had to add more sambal at the end. But you do not want to have it so spicy where you can’t enjoy the other flavors of the dish.

You can add any vegetables you like, or have, to this dish. I prefer ones that can keep a crisp texture during the cooking process, such as broccoli and bell peppers, to contrast the soft noodles. The sweetness of tomatoes balances the heat in a bite.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a Thai restaurant and had pad kee mao there. So I can’t compare the results. Without the extra heat and the lime at the end, this dish might actually be too sweet. If you want to avoid this, without having to add more heat and lime, reduce the brown sugar in the sauce mixture to 1 T.

You can see the specks of chili dotted all throughout the dish. Now you know that's spicy!

You can see the specks of chili dotted all throughout the dish.

I will definitely make this again, after I try it again at a restaurant. It is a great wake up call for your drunken haze!


2 responses to “Pad Kee Mao – Thai Drunken Noodles

  1. You may be interested to learn, drunken noodle is a loose translation of this dish’s name in Thai according to:

  2. I have been looking for this recipe, will try this friday! thanks!

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