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October 26, 2012

Spicy Drunken Noodles

Also known as pad kee mao, this can be varied from mild to sober-'em-up hot

  • Drunken noodles, also known as pad kee mao, is a traditionally spicy Thai dish. Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Serves 2-3

Drunken noodle sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese vegetarian stir-fry sauce (see notes)
2 tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
4 teaspoons brown sugar or palm sugar
1 tablespoon Thai Golden Mountain sauce
2 tablespoons Thai black soy sauce or Thai sweet soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon of each sauce)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 to 3 teaspoons Asian chili garlic sauce or hot red pepper flakes

Noodles and vegetables

12 ounces (340g) Thai fresh flat rice noodles or fresh, Chinese ho fun noodles (see notes)
3 tablespoons peanut, canola, or grapeseed oil
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 to 4 red or green hot chilli peppers (Thai, Indian, or serrano), sliced into paper-thin rings
One 8-ounce (225g) package fried or baked tofu, sliced into 1/4-inch thin strips
3 cups (approx 150g) shredded Napa or savoy cabbage
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
3 scallions (spring onions), both green and white parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (half a bunch) lightly packed Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup (half a bunch) lightly packed cilantro (coriander) leaves
Lime wedges for squeezing over noodles

Prepare the noodles (see notes).

In a liquid measuring cup whisk together the vegetarian stir-fry sauce, Thai thin soy sauce, brown sugar, Golden Mountain sauce, black or sweet soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, and chili sauce.

Chop the vegetables and arrange all of the ingredients within easy reach of the stove for the stir-fry.

Preheat a wok or large skillet over high heat, then pour in 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is rippling, stir in the garlic and chilies, stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the tofu and fry another 2 to 3 minutes until the tofu browns on the edges. Transfer the tofu to a dinner plate. Add another tablespoon of oil and add the carrot, cabbage, and the white part of the scallions and fry for 2 minutes until slightly softened. Transfer to the plate with the tofu.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the noodles, and stir-fry for 1 minute. If the noodles start to stick, dribble in a teaspoon or two of water, but don't add too much or the noodles will become mushy.

Now, drizzle on half of the sauce, stir-fry for 2 minutes and return the tofu, cabbage, carrot, green parts of scallions, and the remaining sauce. Stir in the basil leaves and cilantro. Continue to stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, everything is coated in sauce and the noodles are gently seared in some places.

Transfer immediately to serving plates and squeeze the lime wedges over the noodles before devouring.

Notes on ingredients

Sauces: Pad kee mao is best made with genuine Thai soy sauces. Chinese- or Japanese-style sauces don’t have the correct flavors; your dish may be good, but it won't taste like Thai food. Thai thin soy sauce (light amber color, thin consistency, and strong, salty taste) does the job of standing in for fish sauce. Golden Mountain sauce is a special Thai seasoning sauce with a consistency and flavor slightly like Worcestershire sauce; it's vegan, with complex flavors that soy sauce alone can't cover. Thai black soy sauce and sweet soy sauce are thick and sweet sauces with molasses-like notes; both have their own unique character, but in a pinch are interchangeable. But for the most authentic tasting dish, use both.

Noodles: Regarding the rice noodles, you have license to use whatever you can find. Many Thai restaurants use slippery, chewy, wide fresh rice noodles. These noodles are delicious and will make the most authentic-tasting dish but can be difficult to find. If you can’t find sliced, fresh flat rice noodles at Thai markets, investigate Chinese markets for bags of soft fresh rice ho fun noodles, huge rice noodles that resemble a floppy kitchen towel folded into a squishy bundle. Regular Pad Thai rice sticks, if not authentic, are an easy-to-find substitute.

If you can't use fresh ho fun noodles immediately, they can be refrigerated but will be stiff after being chilled a few hours (but they can keep for weeks, so it’s worth stashing an extra bag in the fridge for future stir-fries). To refresh ho fun noodles, steam them for 4 to 8 minutes until soft and pliable enough to unfold; the older the noodle, the more steaming required. Gently unfold this super noodle (if it rips a little don't worry), and slice or tear into pieces. Don’t worry if they're not pretty, they’ll taste like dynamite in noodle stir-fries. Keep the fresh noodles covered with a moist paper towel until ready to stir-fry.

Noodle preparation: If the rice noodles are very fresh and soft, you don't need to cook them; just tear into bite-sized pieces if needed and proceed to the stir-fry. If already sliced, gently separate the noodles and set aside, or refold the ho fun several times into a wide tube and slice into wide, 2-to 3-inch strips. If the noodles have been refrigerated and are hard, set up a bamboo or metal steamer over boiling water. Steam the Thai noodles or the whole, unsliced ho fun until soft (4 to 8 minutes), then turn off the heat and keep covered.

If using ho fun, when the noodle is cool enough to handle, either slice into strips or tear into pieces 2 to 3 inches wide with your fingers. Keep covered until ready to use.


Add any of the following to the stir-fry before adding the noodles.

  • With green peppercorns: Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh green peppercorns along with the chilies.
  • With shallots: Slice a large shallot into paper-thin slices and fry along with the garlic and chilies until golden.
  • With snow peas, baby corn, or broccoli: Add a handful of snow peas, baby corn. or thinly sliced broccoli along with the cabbage.
  • Without noodles: Omit the noodles entirely and double the amount of vegetables for a spicy all-vegetable Thai stir-fry.

From the book "Vegan Eats World" by Terry Hope Romero. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012.


All figures are per serving (assumes 3 servings).

Calories: 605
Fat: 19 g
Carbs: 88 g
Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 15 g
Sodium: 2,862 mg