Easy Drunken Noodles — Pad Kee Mao — for the American Kitchen

| January 21, 2011 | 8 Comments

Like most people, when I’m stressed, feeling down in the dumps, or just not myself, I tend to gravitate towards my favorite comfort foods when it comes time to put a meal on the table.  

This is usually something that transports me back in time to pleasant memories of my childhood in Thailand and Singapore. Poached chicken and rice at my favorite uncle’s house in Bangkok, me and my cousin wrestling each other for the drumstick. Steamed blood cockles with pungent sauce at a restaurant down the street from our high-rise in Singapore. Me, Mom and Dad during a happy time in our life when everything seemed to be a new adventure and they were game to experience it with me. Wide rice noodles stir fried in a variety of fashions: with Chinese broccoli, pork and an oyster sauce gravy (pad lard na); with Chinese broccoli, sweet dark soy sauce, eggs and chicken (pad si eew); with tomatoes, and chicken, and topped with Thai Basil (pad kee mao), all served up by street-side food carts lined up near my school, Bangkok Christian College.  

I’m not sure about the origin of the name pad kee mao, which literally translates as stir-fried drunken noodles. Mom says maybe because it’s good to wash down with beer. Or maybe it’s a good cure for a hangover. I think it’s one of those quick and cheap street foods that’s widely available around Bangkok to satisfy an appetite after a night of disco. Who knows for sure? Charles and I do agree, though, that the perfect thing to serve with this dish is a bottle of Chang beer (from Ayutthaya, Thailand). We’re lucky that we can find it here in Salem at Capitol Market. 

Whatever the case, we have stir-fried noodles at our house at least once a week, not necessarily because I’m stressed, depressed or otherwise in a funk, but because they’re so tasty, hearty and easy to prepare. Mom never refuses to oblige us when she’s cooking, and I’ve managed to one-up her by mastering pad kee mao, a dish she often orders at our favorite Thai/Laotian restaurant in town but never learned to cook. Of course, my version may not be as authentic as those you’d find in Patpong Street in Bangkok, but it sure is tasty. 

Drunken noodles: easy to make as well as tasty.


Drunken Noodles — Pad Kee Mao

Serves 4 

  1. 3/4 to 1 lb. (340-454 g.) fresh wide rice noodles (sold pre-cut in rolls and sealed in plastic in refrigerated sections of Asian grocery stores)
  2. 4 tablespoons oil (60 ml.)
  3. 3 medium chicken breasts, sliced into thin pieces (you can substitute peeled whole shrimp, or sliced beef or pork, or sliced firm tofu)
  4. 1 medium white or yellow onion diced
  5. 1 14.5 ounce (458 ml.) can of diced tomatoes with chilies
  6. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fish sauce
  7. 1 cup (240 ml.) Thai basil leaves
  8. 4 spring onions, julienned
  • Microwave noodles for 2 minutes until soft and pliable, separate individual noodle strands into a large bowl.
  • Heat oil in wok over high heat.
  • Add chicken and sauté for 3-4 minutes until cooked.
  • Add onions and continue stirring until onions begin to soften.
  • Add canned tomatoes with chilies and fish sauce and heat until mixture bubbles.
  • Add noodles a handfull at a time and stir to thoroughly coat them with the sauce until all noodles are incorporated.
  • Add basil leaves and stir to mix in, turn off heat, pour noodles into serving platter, garnish with spring onions and basil leaves and serve while hot.

To kick it up a notch, you can serve the noodles with some Sriracha chili sauce on the side. 


— Vic

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Category: Thai

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (8)

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  1. Marlene says:

    It has been awhile since a blog came my way. I enjoyed it and your noodle dish sounds very good. What I enjoy the most is your writings about your child hood.

  2. Victor says:

    Thanks Marlene. I don’t know if reminiscing about your childhood is one of those things that happens often when you hit your 40s but I find it happening increasingly when it’s connected to my favorite foods. Charles and I have been very busy working on our book so our blog productivity isn’t what it used to be. Hope everyone’s well in KC.

  3. Mel Wagner says:

    Victor-this sounds delicious! I love that it is so easy to prepare. I am looking forward to your book coming soon!

  4. Victor says:

    Thanks, Mel. Sometimes I dream of opening a restaurant downtown and calling it Noodle-Rama with a psychedelic paint job on the walls. On the book — we’ve got one chapter down, 10 to go…

  5. Susan says:

    This sounds wonderful. I always order pad see ew when I go out for Thai but now I have something new to try. Thanks!

  6. Victor says:

    Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. Pad see ew is one of my favorites too! Did you hear that the Hunan Chinese Opera is going to be at the Elsinore Theatre on Thursday night? The tickets are free but you have to get them in advance. I’m going to come up with another noodle recipe that has a Chinese flair to it.

  7. Kathy Whittam says:

    Hi Victor,
    My son and I made the Drunken Noodles last night and they were good. However we went to two asian markets and couldn’t find the refrigerated noodles, nor could we get Thai Basil, so we used regular basil. Is there much difference?
    Appreciate all the wonderful recipes and any advise you coul offer about where to shop!
    Kathy Whittam

  8. Victor says:

    Hi Kathy. Thai basil is stronger and with slightly cinnamon flavor but regular basil also works! You can only get fresh rice noodles at 2 markets in Salem: Que Huong Oriental Foods 3360 Silverton Road NE near Silverton Road and Hawthorne Ave. and at Wing Wa Oriental Market 3280 Harold Drive NE, near Silverton Road and Lancaster.
    You have to get there on Wednesdays or Saturdays when they get their grocery deliveries at about 1 p.m. because they go fast!!

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