Guys. GUYS. I’ve done it. I’ve finally made pad kee mao at home, and it’s MARVELOUS. I’m never leaving my apartment again!
…okay, so I’m being a little dramatic, but really though, this makes me SUPER excited because this noodle dish is SO delicious. I have cravings for this dish pretty often, so making this at home instead of always going out will help me save money that can go towards traveling! I used a recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, with a few adjustments to match how I like eating my noodles.
What exactly is pad kee mao? Pad kee mao, or drunken noodles, is a popular spicy Thai stir-fried noodle dish. If you’ve had pad see ew before, it’s similar to that but less sweet and a good fiery kick to it. I was introduced to this flavorful noodle dish while in college. For whatever reason, Davis, CA is FULL of Thai restaurants–there was at least 5 different ones within about a 5-block radius downtown (and more throughout the city!). Wanting to try something different besides pad Thai all the time (as introduced to me by my mom), I decided to try this dish because I love spicy foods. After one bite, I was hooked. Wide rice noodles are quickly tossed together with garlic, onions, chiles, and fragrant Thai basil in a screaming hot wok, then coated in a savory soy sauce with a hint of sweetness. So good! To this day, I hardly order anything else besides pad kee mao when I’m out at a Thai restaurant.
Some notes about this recipe! There are a handful of specialty ingredients that can be a little confusing, so please take note!
As you can see below, there are 5 billion different kinds of soy sauce. I don’t know about you, but when I think of soy sauce, I only really thought of one–the one you use to dip things in to eat. Alas, there are much, much more than that! Even Japanese soy sauce, Korean soy sauce, and Chinese soy sauce are all different–they apparently all have slightly different tastes due to the differences in the brewing process. Who knew! I certainly didn’t. If you’re so inclined, I’d suggest taking a look at Serious Eats‘ soy sauce comparisons–super interesting. For this specific recipe, we’re going to be using some Thai soy sauces, and pay close attention here! There’s a handful of them and if you grab the wrong one, you won’t get the right flavor. Take a look at these here:
Black soy sauce A, sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce, and there are MORE not included this photo? Crazy, I know. I stood in the soy sauce aisle for quite some time studying the labels because I bought the wrong soy sauce yesterday (don’t get thick soy sauce!). The special soy sauce you want for this recipe is the black soy sauce, BUT WAIT. You want this one:
If you can’t find this particular one, the Chinese brands also work–you’ll be looking for a dark soy sauce. The key to buying the right one is to check the ingredients. You want one that looks like regular soy sauce, but has added brown sugar. Mine has soy sauce (salt, water, soybean, wheat flour) and brown sugar). You DO NOT want one that has molasses for the first ingredient because this is something completely different.
From my understanding, that’s used for color rather than anything else. Don’t get it. I got a jar of that on accident yesterday, and it does noooot taste good.
Rice noodles! You’ll be using rice noodles for this specific recipe, and the thickness to your noodles is important. Make sure you get the noodles that are around 1/2″ thick, not the thin ones! If you’re fortunate enough to be able to find it, I would suggest getting the fresh noodles in the refrigerated section like these:
Otherwise, you can get the dried noodles. If you get the dried noodles, I would cook the noodles according to the package (add 1 tbsp cooking oil to the boiling water) BUT take the noodles out 2 minutes before they’re cooked. The oil in the water is so the noodles don’t stick together (the fresh ones have a bit of oil on them already), and you want the noodles to be al dente after the boil so they can soak up the sauce when you stir fry them.
The recipe I used doesn’t include veggies, but I personally love having some veggies in noodles to give it some texture. You can use what you’d like, but I’d suggest bell peppers for some crunch (and they’re inexpensive!).
Last thing! For this dish, you ideally would want a wok. Why? The shape of the wok allows you to cook items at a high heat quickly without burning things because you can easily toss the food and coat everything evenly. You can cook this dish without one, of course, but it’s much easier with one. I don’t have a wok, but I do have a pan with rounded sides (instead of the tall sides). I might invest in a wok at some point since I do like stir frying and it’s kinda fun to toss the food around 🙂
Okay, enough blabbing! Are you ready? Here we go!
Pad Kee Mao with Chicken
Credit: based of recipe from Recipe Tin Eats
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil, split into 1 tsp and 2 tsps
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bird’s eye chili/Thai chili, sliced (seeded if you don’t want it that spicy)
- 4.5 tsp oyster sauce
- 2.5 tsp light soy sauce (the soy sauce you eat with)
- 2.5 tsp dark soy sauce (the one I showed you above!)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 chicken thigh, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/8 small onion, sliced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced (can use 1/4 green, 1/4 red if you’d like some color)
- 8 oz fresh rice noodles (about 1/4 of a 32 oz packet)
- 1/2 cup basil
- Let’s first mix up your sauce! Mix together oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and water together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Take the noodles out of the packet and place in a colander. Rinse the noodles under some warm water and separate them into individual noodles so it’s not just a giant clump. Let drain in colander and set aside.
- Now to move onto some cooking! Add 1 tsp oil to your pan on medium high heat. Wait until the oil looks shimmery (oil should slide around really easily), then add the chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes, then take out of the pan and set aside.
- Add the other 2 tsp oil to the pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is nice and hot, add the minced garlic and sliced chili and fry for about 15 seconds so the garlic is nice and fragrant. Don’t sniff too hard–the chili is spicy!
- Add onions and bell peppers and saute for about 1 minute.
- Add the chicken back into the pan with about 1 tbsp of sauce and toss together with the bell peppers. Let it cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add noodles to the pan and pour in the rest of the sauce. Mix everything together. As the noodles absorb the sauce, they’ll become softer and brown. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until you have nice pliable noodles (but don’t overcook or they’ll clump together). If your sauce is starting to burn onto the pan (and not coating the noodles evenly), turn down the heat a little and add a splash of water (like about 2 tsp) so it releases the sauce from the pan (it’ll boil off).
- Once your noodles are all cooked, turn off the heat and mix in the basil. Serve on a plate, and enjoy!
This recipe is a little fast paced, so make sure you have all the ingredients ready to go! If you make it, let me know how it turns out 🙂
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