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Pad Kee Mao AKA Drunken Noodles

Pad Kee Mao, AKA Drunken Noodles, are both the perfect meal to eat with a crisp, cold beer and an incredible cure for a hangover if you drink too many!

low angle shot of a plate of pad kee mao or drunken noodles with basil leaves on top.

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Flat rice noodles are stir fried with a savory sauce, spicy chiles, Thai basil, vegetables, and usually some sort of meat or tofu. It’s a filling and deeply satisfying meal or late night snack.

Pad Kee Mao is a popular street food in Thailand, where you can buy a heaping plate from a cart and add extra seasonings like crushed hot pepper, pickled chiles in chile-spiked vinegar, or chile paste.

In restaurants in the US, you’ll see Drunken Noodles with a choice of meats (chicken, pork, beef, shrimp) or tofu. In Thailand, you’ll mostly see Chicken Pad Kee Mao.

The sauce is a combination of soy sauce (I use both light soy sauce and dark soy sauce), oyster sauce, fish sauce, and palm sugar or brown sugar.

Why You’ll Love Chicken Pad Kee Mao

  • These Drunken Noodles are super quick and easy to make.
  • They’ll satisfy your cravings for starchy noodles and savory and spicy flavors.
  • You can adjust this dish to the ingredients you have on hand. You can use a different meat (try pork, beef, shrimp, or tofu) or different vegetables.
A forkful of pad kee mao noodles.

Pad Kee Mao vs Pad See Ew

What is the difference between Pad Kee Mao and Pad See Ew? Both of these noodle dishes use wide, flat rice noodles, but the differences are found in the sauces, seasonings, and vegetables that make up the dishes.

Pad See Ew has a dark, thick, sweet and savory soy sauce based sauce. The dish almost always contains Chinese broccoli or gai lan and egg. Pad See Ew is often made with pork or chicken.

Drunken Noodles sauce is a lighter savory sauce made from garlic, ginger, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce. It has a touch of sweetness but is not as sweet as the sauce for Pad See Ew. Pad Kee Mao usually contains chicken. It is meant to be a bit spicy and contains hot peppers. It also has an herbaceous note from Thai basil.

Pad Kee Mao vs Pad Thai

Pad Thai also uses wide flat rice noodles, but not as wide as either Pad Kee Mao or Pad See Ew. Tamarind paste and fish sauce make up the basis for the sauce for Pad Thai.

As a result, the flavor is more sweet and tangy. Like Pad See Ew, it usually contains egg. You can make Pad Thai vegetarian or you can add chicken, pork, shrimp, or other proteins.

The noodles are much less saucy than either of the other two dishes. Pad Thai is usually garnished with chopped peanuts and lime juice. Add your own crushed hot chiles or chile spiked vinegar if you like.

Overhead shot of the ingredients needed to make pad see mao.

Ingredients You Need

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

The list of ingredients you need to make this Pad Kee Mao recipe is not super long. You can get the rice noodles, light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and fish sauce in any Asian market if they’re not available in your regular supermarket. Here’s what you need:

  • Noodles: Use flat wide rice noodles, also called rice stick noodles. Ideally, these will be wider than the noodles used for Pad Thai, but you can use Pad Thai noodles in a pinch. I usually use dried rice noodles because they are just easier to find. They’re easier to stock in the pantr, too, for when those late-night munchies hit. If you want to use fresh rice noodles, just make sure to follow the preparation instructions and don’t overcook them.
  • Oil: Use any neutral flavored cooking oil you like, such as canola oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, etc.
  • Garlic, ginger, and onion: These aromatics help form a base of flavor for the sauce.
  • Chicken: Use skinless boneless chicken thighs. Chicken thigh meat or dark meat is more tender and flavorful than chicken breast. If you only have chicken breast, though, you can substitute it.
  • Bell peppers: You can use any assortment of bell peppers here. I like to use two different colors but you can use only green or only red or orange if you like.
  • Chile peppers: I usually use green serrano peppers. You can substitute long Thai chile peppers if you have them or jalapeno peppers.
  • Thai basil: Thai basil is a bit different from “regular basil” (which is usually Italian basil). It has a purple stem and narrower, sturdier leaves. While regular basil is mild and sweet, Thai basil is spicier with a hint of anise or licorice. Thai holy basil is a different type of basil, too. It is actually more similar to sweet Italian basil than to Thai basil. But Thai holy basil is harder to find in the US. If you don’t have Thai basil, you can substitute regular basil, but the flavor won’t be as authentic.
  • Soy sauce (dark and light): Light sauce is very thin and mildly flavored. Dark soy sauce is dark, syrupy, and intense. Using both balances the flavors. You can also substitute just regular soy sauce for both of these.
  • Thai fish sauce: Called nam pla in Thai, this salty condiment is more pungent than Vietnamese fish sauce. You can use either here.
  • Sugar: I love using palm sugar in Thai cooking. If you don’t have it, you can substitute regular brown sugar (dark or light).

How to make it

For the complete list of ingredients with quantities and detailed prep and cooking instructions, please see the recipe card that appears at the end of this post.

Pad Kee Mao is a quick stir fry noodle dish. As such, it is really quick and easy to cook. Here’s how:

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions and drain them.
  2. In a bowl, combine the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, sugar, and water.
  3. Heat some oil in a skillet and add the garlic and ginger. Next add the onions and cook until they begin to soften.
  4. Add the chicken and stir fry until it’s cooked through. Stir in the chile peppers and bell peppers and cook for another minute or so.
  5. Add the noodles, Thai basil, and the sauce mixture to the skillet. Stir fry for a couple more minutes. When it’s done, the noodles will be hot and will have absorbed some of the sauce.
  6. Remove the stir fried noodles from the heat and serve immediately.
Overhead shot of a plate of pad kee mao or drunken noodles with chicken.

a few things you’ll need for this recipe

Fish sauce
oyster sauce.
Oyster sauce

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More Thai dishes you’ll love

I love to cook Thai food at home. Some of my favorite Thai recipes are Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes), Thai Curry Puffs, Chicken Satay, Green Papaya Salad, Thai Pumpkin Curry, and Thai Larb.

More Asian noodle dishes you’ll love

I also love a good Asian noodle dish. On busy evenings, I can always whip up some quick noodles that my family will love. My faves are Vegetarian Pad Thai, Singapore Noodles, Sesame Noodles, Beef Yakisoba, Shrimp Yakisoba, or Peanut Sauce Noodles.

Yield: Serves 4

Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles)

low angle shot of pad kee mao or drunken noodles on a plate.

Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles, is popular street food in Thailand. These noodles are a great accompaniment to cold beer and they are also a great cure for hangovers after a night drinking too many cold beers with friends. So it's not too hard to see where the name comes from, right? This Drunken Noodles recipe is so delicious and it can be made fast, in less than 30 minutes.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water

For the chicken

  • 7 ounces flat rice noodles (or rice stick noodles)
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ¾ pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 2 green chilies (serrano or jalapeno), finely chopped
  • 1 cup julienned Thai basil

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions and drain.
  2. In a bowl, combine the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, pepper, sugar, and water.
  3. Heat a large skillet over a high heat and add the oil to the hot pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a 2 minutes, until they begin to soften.
  5. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the chile peppers and sliced bell peppers and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  6. Add the noodles, basil, and the sauce mixture. Stir gently to combine and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the noodles are heated through and have absorbed some of the sauce.
  7. Remove from the heat and serve immediately. 
  8. NOTES:
  9. You can store the leftover Pad Kee Mao in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  10. If you don’t have wide noodles, you can substitute thin ones.
  11. If you like extra spice, add a bit of chile paste or some crushed red chile peppers along with the sauce mixture.
  12. You can substitute regular soy sauce for both the light soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
  13. You can substitute regular sweet basil for the Thai basil.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 326Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 104mgSodium 1169mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 2gSugar 9gProtein 24g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

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By on October 23rd, 2022

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

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