Thai Foods Ep.6


Pad See Ew with Rice Vermicelli

by Thomas M. Tillman

What is pad see ew?

"Pad" means to stir fry, and "see ew" means soy sauce. It's a simple noodle stir fry dish with eggs, Chinese broccoli and usually some sort of sliced meat added. With a salty-sweet flavour profile, it is immensely satisfying AND is very kid-friendly. Outside of Thailand, this dish is almost always made using fresh wide rice noodles (also known as ho fun noodles), but in Thailand, a couple of other types of noodles can be used. When thin rice vermicelli is used, it's called "sen mee pad see ew", and in Southern Thailand you can also find another version made with thick egg noodles that we call mee lueang pad see ew. Pad see ew with rice vermicelli is actually a lot more homecook-friendly because the noodles are dry, so they can be kept in the pantry ready for use at any time. In fact, this is the version more often cooked at home in Thailand. All you need are some eggs, garlic, and some Chinese broccoli (which can be substituted with other vegetables you have in the fridge). With the wide rice noodle version however you have to buy them fresh (if you can find the noodles at all), so some additional planning is involved!

Choosing the best noodles: it's more important than you think.

When I was testing this recipe I used a few different brands of rice vermicelli, and I was completely surprised by how different they were. My favourite brand for stir frying is Wai Wai, which is also the most popular brand in Thailand. These noodles are the thinnest of all the brands, and have a texture that's tender but still pleasantly a little elastic.
Wai Wai rice vermicelli is my favourite for stir frying. It's also the most popular brand in Thailand.
Mama brand would be my second choice if Wai Wai isn't available. It's slightly thicker than Wai Wai but has a good texture. Another great thing about Mama is that it comes in convenient 50g blocks, which you'll only appreciate after trying to pry apart the huge block of Wai Wai or Erawan noodles, only to have them fly off all over the place!
Mama is my second choice if Wai Wai isn't available, but bonus points for coming in easy-to-use blocks.
Perhaps the most widely available brand is ErawanThese noodles are the thickest of the three though, so I don't love them for this recipe. Erawan noodles have a texture that I find difficult to get right in stir fries; they require quite a lot of water to soften in the wok, which then means it's easy to overdo and so end up with noodles that are broken into little bits because they're overcooked. They also don't seem to have much of a chew when fully cooked, which isn't ideal for stir fries. They are still fine to use if they're the only one you can find though, and it's worth noting that I actually prefer Erawan for noodle soups and frying into crispy noodles.
Erawan brand is great for noodle soups and deep frying, but I don't love it for stir frying.

Pro Tip: Properly soaking noodles

For stir frying, you want to use fully hydrated, but still raw, noodles. This takes soaking for 5-15 minutes in room temp water, and the exact time depends on the thickness or brand of noodles you're using. Use lukewarm water if you're in a rush and they'll soften faster, but do not use hot water as they will pre-cook a bit and then overcook in the wok. To check if the noodles are done soaking, pick them up in your fingers and they should be completely limp, showing no resistance to gravity at all.

Chili Vinegar, Pad See Ew's Best Friend

If you order pad see ew in Thailand, it will always be served with chili vinegar. Oftentimes the chili vinegar is permanently stationed on every table. When I was a kid I never used it because...well...I was a kid! But now I never have pad see ew without it. A little spicy acidity is exactly the counter-balance that the salty-sweet noodles need. Try it yourself and I'm sure it will greatly enhance the whole eating experience. And once you see how easy it is to make, you will have no excuse to not have it. Chop up some chilies, any kind of chilies, and submerge them in vinegar. That's it. It just needs a few minutes to sit, so you don't need to make this ahead of time. You can also get fancy and blend them up, add garlic, or char the chilies for some smokiness, but for pad see ew the basic one will suffice.

Ingredients You'll Need

Here are all the ingredients you'll need, and as you can see it's incredibly simple. Perfect for a quick work-from-home homemade lunch!
Chinese broccoli, eggs, garlic, soy sauce, Golden mountain sauce, black/dark soy sauce, sugar, water, rice vermicelli and white pepper.

Step-By-Step:

Here's a bird's eye view of the process, but be sure to check out the full video tutorial in the recipe card below to ensure success!
1. Soak the noodles until fully softened. 2. Saute garlic until slightly golden. 3. Add eggs and scramble. 4. Add soaked noodles and toss.
5. Add seasonings, sugar and water. 6. toss until all liquid is absorbed. 7. Add black soy sauce to desired colour. 8. Add Chinese broccoli.
9. Once the chinese broccoli is wilted, it's done! 10. Serve with chili vinegar.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I add meat to this dish?

This version I am making is vegetarian, but you can easily add any kind of meat to it. Use thinly sliced chicken, pork or beef, and marinade in a little soy sauce or fish sauce. Cook them off in the wok first, then remove from the pan. Add them back in along with the veggies at the end. More details in the written recipe!

Can I make this with different kinds of noodles?

Yes! You can try the classic pad see ew with fresh wide rice noodles, or a lesser known version using egg noodles.

Is the chili vinegar necessary?

If you're serving kids you can skip the chili vinegar, but pad see ew has a salty-sweet flavour profile, so it is greatly enhanced by a little bit of acidity to balance. A little spiciness helps too! So not necessary, but highly recommended, and in Thailand it is always served alongside it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5.3 oz thin dry rice vermicelli
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 4 oz protein of choiceoptional (see note 1)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 eggscan use 2 if adding meat
  • 5.3 oz Chinese broccoli, stems thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped
  • ¼ - ½ cup watersee note 2
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Golden Mountain Saucesee note 3
  • Few dashes black or dark soy sauce for colour
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • 4 tsp sugar

Chili Vinegar (optional condiment I highly recommend)

  • 1-2 Thai chiliesor another hot pepper such as a jalapeno
  • 2-3 Tbsp white vinegarjust enough to cover

NOTES

  1. If adding chicken, pork or beef, thinly slice and marinate in 1 tsp soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and ½ Tbsp water and let it sit while you prep.
  2. Different brands of noodles require different amounts of added water. The longer the noodles took to soak, the thicker they are, and therefore the more water they'll need.
  3. Golden Mountain Sauce is a type of Thai soy sauce. You can substitute equal amount of Maggi Seasoning, Bragg's Liquid Amino, or another type of soy sauce.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Soak the noodles in room temp (not cold) water until they are fully limp; 5-15 mins depending on the brand. Drain promptly and if desired, cut in half with scissors to shorten them for easier tossing. See blog post above for more on the best brand of noodles and how to tell if the noodles are done soaking.
    5.3 oz thin dry rice vermicelli
  • Make the chili vinegar by placing the chopped chilies into a small bowl and add just enough vinegar to submerge. You can mash the chilies a bit with a spoon to extract the flavours into the vinegar, then let it sit until ready to use.
    1-2 Thai chilies,2-3 Tbsp white vinegar
  • If not adding meat, skip to the next step. If adding meat, heat a wok over high heat, then add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Once hot, add the meat and spread it out into one layer to get a nice char. Once they’re about ⅔ of the way cooked, toss them and keep stirring until they’re fully cooked. Turn off the heat then remove the meat from the wok and set aside in a small bowl.
    4 oz protein of choice
  • Heat the wok over medium high heat, add the oil and garlic and stir until the smaller bits of garlic start to turn golden.
    4 cloves garlic,2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • Add the eggs and break the yolks, then let them set about half-way before scrambling.
    3 eggs
  • Once the eggs are fully cooked, add the noodles and ¼ cup of water and toss to mix. Add the soy sauce, Golden Mountain sauce, black soy sauce, sugar and white pepper, then use tongs to toss the noodles around until all the liquid has been absorbed.
    ¼ - ½ cup water,1 Tbsp soy sauce,1 Tbsp Golden Mountain Sauce,Few dashes black or dark soy sauce for colour,4 tsp sugar,¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • If using meat, add the meat back in along with any collected juices and toss well. Check the doneness of the noodles by tasting a small amount, and if it’s still under done, add a little more water and cook until all liquid has been absorbed. Be careful not to add too much water as noodles will become too soft and break into small pieces.
  • Once the noodles are done, add the Chinese broccoli in and toss just until wilted. Turn off the heat, plate and serve with chili vinegar.
    5.3 oz Chinese broccoli, stems thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped