Drunken Noodles, or Pad Kee Mao, is a very popular street food in Thailand that’s consistent of wide rice noodles, Thai basil, Thai chili peppers, and a delicious sauce that’s both sweet and savory. This incredibly delicious noodle recipe is easy to make and is sure to be one of your favorites from the first taste!
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
Thai dishes all have such a special place in my heart, but homemade drunken noodles may just be the highest ranking favorite of mine! This recipe has got the perfect amount of heat in it that’s nicely balanced with sweet, savory, and fresh flavors.
The complexity of flavor here is what makes this signature Thai dish so remarkable, and when you make it at home, you can make sure you don’t miss out on any of those flavors.
What is drunken noodles?
Pad Kee Mao is a very popular street food in Thailand. It consists of fresh rice noodles that are tossed in a sauce with spicy Thai chili peppers, holy basil, and a few other bold ingredients. No, drunken noodles do not actually contain alcohol in the recipe, as many people first think. (I know I did!)
There are a few theories as to why it’s called “drunken” noodles – some include that this is a perfect dish for hangovers, while other say that it’s a great dish to eat with an oversized mug of cold beer, as it can be quite spicy.
Why Make Thai Drunken Noodles At Home
You’ve likely had drunken noodles from your local Thai take-out joint before so you wonder why bother making it at home instead?
For starters, I absolutely love the flavor of drunken noodles, but every time I get it at a Thai restaurant or a food truck, I turn into a fire breathing dragon! It’s a pretty spicy dish, and I’m a little bit of a spice chicken. I like to enjoy a decent amount of heat – the kind where it feels like my mouth is burning, but I can still taste everything and don’t need to chug a glass of milk.
I don’t like it when something is so spicy that my mouth is in pain or numb. Making this dish at home is perfect, because I can control exactly how much spice goes into it!
I find the 3, 2-inch Thai chili peppers are perfect, but of course, it depends on your personal taste, heat tolerance, and the size of the peppers. With that being said, when you make this dish at home, you can 100% control heat and every other delicious ingredient that gets tossed into the mix!
How to Make Drunken Noodles
Ingredients You’ll Need:
The Drunken Noodles call for:
- Chicken – I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat. You could instead opt for tofu or shrimp if you’d prefer.
- Soy Sauce – Traditionally, you would use an even combination of light and dark soy sauce. If you only keep the regular, all purpose soy sauce, you can use that. If you need to use a gluten free substitute, use tamari.
- Peanut Oil – This oil is neutral, but still lends a slight nutty flavor to the dish.
- Rice Noodles – Using fresh wide rice noodles is the traditional way of preparing this dish. However, I’m sure you’re making it because it takes less than 30 minutes (and tastes incredible) and want to know about the substitution! Choose wide rice noodles and in a pinch, you can use Pad Thai noodles. If you have an Asian market nearby, check their refrigerated section for fresh rice noodles!
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic for the most flavorful results.
- Ginger – Just like the garlic, you’ll need to use fresh ginger!
- Shallots – These delicate onions have a slight sweetness to balance their potent onion flavor.
- Scallions – chip off the white root part and use the rest.
- Thai Chili Peppers – It’s best to use fresh Thai chili peppers, just make sure to take the seeds out. If you can’t find fresh chilis, use dried chili peppers and increase the amount slightly. Fresh chili peppers taste spicier than dried ones.
- Thai Basil Leaves – Make sure to use Thai basil as it taste quite different from Italian basil. Thai basil is stronger and has a prominent anise flavor. Traditionally, drunken noodles uses holy basil, although it’s not as easy to find in stores as Thai basil. Both Thai basil and holy basil do have that anise flavor that you need, so feel free to use Thai basil. If you’re absolutely out of luck finding either of those basils, use regular basil.
The signature sauce calls for:
- Soy Sauce
- Fish Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- Peanut Oil
- Brown Sugar
- Chicken Stock
- White Pepper
Before cooking, make sure all of your ingredients are prepared.
Prepare the chicken.
Slice the chicken into thin pieces.
In a bowl, combine the chicken, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well. Set aside.
Prepare the other ingredients.
Remove the stems from the basil leaves.
Slice the chili peppers along the side and remove the seeds/membrane. Wear gloves, these peppers are spicy!
Mince the garlic and ginger, chop the scallions, and slice the shallots.
Measure all of the ingredients for the sauce and whisk to combine them together.
Soak noodles according to package instructions.
Cook the drunken noodles.
Heat peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat.
Cook the chicken, then remove and set aside.
Add more oil followed by garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. Sauté.
Toss in the shallots and sauté until soft.
Stir in the chicken and scallions. Mix well.
Add the noodles and pour in the sauce. Toss it all together and cook for another few minutes.
Stir in the fresh basil leaves. Remove from the heat, serve, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions and Tips
Need to make it gluten free?
You will be using rice noodles, and those are typically gluten free. Use tamari, coconut aminos, or a gluten free soy sauce and gluten free oyster sauce. Make sure the fish sauce that you’re using is also gluten free.
Can I store leftovers?
Yes, I have successfully stored and reheated drunken noodles. Make sure to transfer leftovers into an air-tight container and refrigerate. To reheat, toss the leftovers in a wok, over medium to medium-low heat, just until it heats through. If the noodles look a little dry, you can make a little bit more sauce to stir in or use a couple tablespoons of chicken broth with a little fish sauce.
- This is a fast moving recipe, so soak your noodles as instructed on the packaging before cooking and prepare all the ingredients ahead of time.
- Arrange all of the ingredients in the order that you’ll need them.
- Adjust the heat of this dish according to your own taste by adding more or less Thai chili peppers. 3 peppers will give you a nice heat without turning you into a fire breathing dragon! If you like the fire, add another pepper or two.
- Season your wok to prevent sticking.
- Check out recipe notes section above for substitutions of important ingredients.
Thai Drunken Noodles
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat*
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2-3 tbsp peanut oil split
- 8 oz wide rice noodles**
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger minced, grated, or shaved
- 2 shallots
- 4 stalks of scallions
- 2-4 fresh Thai chili peppers*** to taste
- 1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves****
- 2 tbsp soy sauce all purpose, or combination of 1 tbsp of light and 1 tbsp of dark soy
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp chicken stock
- 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
- Make sure to prepare all of your ingredients before starting to cook because this is a fast moving recipe.
- Slice chicken into thin pieces and place it into a mixing bowl. (Remove excess fat.)
- Add in soy sauce and mix. Sprinkle cornstarch and mix well.
- Set aside while preparing other ingredients.
- Take the basil leaves off the stem. Slice the chili peppers along the side and take out the seeds and membrane. (I highly recommend you wear disposable gloves while handling spicy peppers.)Mince garlic and ginger, chop scallions, and slice shallots. Measure all the ingredients for the sauce and whisk them together. (I recommend heating up the chicken stock and mixing it with brown sugar to help melt it and incorporate into the sauce.)Soak noodles according to the package instructions.
Cooking Drunken Noodles:
- Preheat a wok (or a deep, 12-inch cooking pan, preferably non-stick) over medium-high heat and add some peanut oil.
- Add chicken, stir and cook until just about done. Take chicken out of the pan and set aside.
- Add a little more oil and add in garlic, ginger, and sliced chili peppers. Sauté for a few seconds.
- Add in sliced shallots and sauté until softens.
- Stir in chicken and scallions and mix well.
- Toss in noodles and pour in the sauce. Toss everything together and cook for just a few minutes, tossing often.
- Stir in fresh basil leaves and take off heat.
- Serve right away.