Thai Foods Ep.5

Authentic Thai Drunken Noodles Recipe - Pad Kee Mao

by Thomas M. Tillman


Here are all the ingredients for drunken noodles. You can change up the vegetables and I love using carrot and Chinese broccoli, though traditionally baby corn, long beans, and straw mushrooms are often added.
  • Golden Mountain Sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Carrot
  • Young peppercorns
  • Fingerroot (grachai)
  • Holy basil or regular basil
  • Garlic
  • Thai chilies.
  • Protein of your choice, I'm using shrimp.
  • Fresh rice noodles (ho fun noodles)
  • Large, mild chilies such as spur chilies, anaheim peppers or red bell pepper.

Why I use 2 types of chilies in this recipe

Pad kee mao uses a lot of chilies, so the chili flavour, not just the heat, is part of the flavour profile. If we only used the fiery Thai chilies, we can only add a few before it becomes too spicy, and not enough chili flavour would come through. So we also use the milder chilies to add more chili flavour without the heat. In Thailand, prik chee fa, or spur chilies are used, but any mild red pepper such as anaheim peppers or even red bell pepper would work in a pinch.

How to Make Authentic Drunken Noodles

Be sure to check out the detailed recipe and full video tutorial in the recipe card below to ensure success - but here's a bird's eye view of what you'll need to do.
  1. Make a rough paste with chilies and garlic.
  2. Cook off the protein and remove from the pan.
  3. Sauté the chili garlic paste.
  4. Add gai lan stems, carrots, grachai and young peppercorns.
  1. Add the noodles, the sauce, and sugar and toss until the sauce has been absorbed.
  2. Let noodles sit and char slightly before tossing. Then repeat the charring a few times.
  3. Add gai lan leaves and holy basil.
  4. All done!

7 Secrets to Epic Pad Kee Mao

It is not hard to make a decent plate of drunken noodles, but an epic one? Not so simple. There are a few things you need to know:
  1. Do not eyeball the ingredients. Weigh the noodles, and measure all sauce ingredients. There are times when winging it is okay, and using your cook's intuition is romantic. But this is not one of those times. The noodle-to-sauce ratio is extremely important, and there's nothing more disappointing than pad kee mao that's bland, or worse, too salty (which cannot be fixed afterward).
  2. Make a chili and garlic paste. One of the great flavours of drunken noodles come from the garlic and chilies. Adding chopped garlic and chilies can only get you so far, but pounding them into a paste in a mortar allows for more flavour to come out and infuse into the whole dish. Also, adding extra peppers that are not spicy gives more chili flavour without it becoming too spicy.
  3. Cook 1 portion at a time. This is the secret to well-charred noodles that are not broken or soggy. Crowding the pan traps too much moisture and causes you to stir more which breaks the noodles. It seems tedious but watch the video below and you will see that once the prep is done, each batch literally takes 3 minutes to cook!
  4. Cook the protein separately, and do a "mini brine". By cooking off the protein first and adding it back in at the end you can control exactly how long it cooks, ensuring perfectly cooked protein every time. Good news is you do not have to cook the protein 1 portion at a time, just cook it all off together in the beginning. Also, if using chicken, pork, or beef, marinate it with seasoning plus a little extra water, like a mini brine, to get extra juicy meat.
  5. Allow noodles to char. Once noodles are mixed with the sauce, allow them to sit and "grill" a bit on the hot pan. This creates a little browning, a little smokiness, and a little extra flavour that makes all the difference.
  6. Use fresh noodles. Yes, dry rice noodles exist; and they will work, but it is not the same and not nearly as good as fresh. Cooked previously-dried rice noodles do not yield the same soft and springy texture of fresh noodles, in the same way that cooked dried pasta is not the same as fresh pasta. I understand you gotta use what you have, but if you can, it's worth either looking around for them or making them yourself.
  7. Use a non-stick or well-seasoned wok. These fresh rice noodles are notoriously sticky. So it's important you use either a nonstick wok (even a 12-inch skillet will do) or a well-seasoned wok.

Frequently Asked Questions

I don't eat shrimp, can I substitute other protein?

Yes! Anything works, or even omit the protein altogether. If using chicken, pork, or beef though, I would marinate them following the instructions in the recipe card. That simple marinade yields wonderfully tender meat with the extra bit of water that gets absorbed into the meat.

How can I make these vegetarian or vegan?

You can use vegetarian stir-fry sauce instead of oyster sauce, and use soy sauce instead of fish sauce. You can also do a simplified version and use 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce.

I don't have a wok, what can I use instead?

A 12-inch non-stick skillet will work, it's just a lot easier to toss things in a wok.

The sauce makes more than I need, what else can I use it for?

Anything! This sauce is actually my Universal Stir-Fry Sauce and it's good in any stir-fries, fried rice, as a marinade, or in another fried noodle dish.


  • 1 lb fresh wide rice noodles(see note 1)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1-3 Thai chiliesor to taste
  • 1 spur chilior ⅛ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 oz protein of your choice(see note 2)
  • 2 oz carrots cut in thin sticks
  • 2.8 oz Chinese broccoli(see note 3)
  • 2 Tbsp julienned grachai (optional)
  • 2 stems young peppercornscut in small chunks (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp pad kee mao saucerecipe below
  • 2 ½ tsp sugar
  • A dash black or dark soy sauce(optional, see note 4)
  • 2 cups holy basil leaves (see note 5)

Pad Kee Mao Sauce - For 2 Servings (see note 6)

  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ Tbsp Golden Mountain Sauceor substitute more soy sauce
  • ½ Tbsp fish sauce


1. Fresh wide rice noodles can be purchased from some Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated section. Dry wide rice noodles can be used, though the results are not as good. You will need 6oz of dry noodles; and they need to be soaked, boiled and rinsed in cold water before using. 2. If using chicken, pork or beef, thinly slice and marinate in 2 tsp soy sauce, ¼ tsp sugar and 1 Tbsp water for at least 15 minutes. 3. Slice the stems thinly on a bias and roughly chop the leaves. Keep the leaves and stems separated. 4. Thai black soy sauce or Chinese dark soy sauce can be added to darken the colour if you prefer, though I don't think it needs it and have decided to simplify for this new version. If using Chinese dark soy sauce, reduce the amount of sauce slightly as it's quite salty, but Thai black soy sauce is not very salty. 5. Regular Italian basil is a fine substitute for holy basil. 6. In the video I made enough sauce for 4 servings so amounts in the video are different from in the written recipe.
  • *I highly recommend cooking 1 portion at a time for best results, so divide up your prep before you start cooking.
  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and stir to combine.
  • Separate the rice noodles from each other (see video for technique). If they are cold, hard and stuck together, you need to heat them up until soft or they will break when you try to separate them. Carefully divide the noodles into 3-4 smaller bundles and spread them out onto a large plate. Microwave at 70% power, stopping every minute to move the noodles around for more even heating. Once they are soft, pull the noodles apart and divide them into portions.
  • Add Thai chilies into a mortar and pestle and pound until fine. Add garlic and spur chilies and pound into a rough paste.
  • Before you cook, organize your prep: 1) separate the ingredients into batches; 2) combine all non-leafy vegetables, grachai and young peppercorns together; 3) put the basil and leafy greens together; 4) put a tablespoon measure into the sauce and a teaspoon into your sugar crock.; 5) have a bowl ready to put your cooked protein into.
  • In a well-seasoned or non-stick wok, heat about 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil over high heat. Once very hot, add your protein to the pan and spread it out into a single layer. Sear on one side until browned or halfway cooked, then flip or toss and cook the other side until done. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Put the pan back on the stove with the heat still off, add the chili/garlic paste and a little more oil if needed. Turn heat on to medium and stir just until the small pieces of garlic start to turn golden brown.
  • Add your bowl of non-leafy vegetables, turn the heat on high and stir for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the noodles, drizzle the sauce (2 Tbsp per serving) and sprinkle the sugar (1¼ tsp per portion; you can eyeball the ¼ tsp) and toss until all the noodles are evenly coated and the sauce has been absorbed. If you want a darker colour, you can add a dash of black or dark soy sauce at this time, a little at a time.
  • Once the noodles are well coated, add the protein back in and toss to mix. Then let the noodles sit in the pan without stirring for 15-20 seconds or until the noodles are charred in some spots. Flip the noodles and repeat 1-2 more times.
  • Add the basil and any leafy greens and turn off the heat. Toss for just a few seconds until they wilt. Plate and repeat with your other batches. Enjoy!