Savory brown sauce bejeweled with colorful veggies, chicken, and rice noodles make these drunken noodles a fantastic 15-minute meal you can whip up any time!
What is drunken noodles
With a name like drunken noodles, you might be wondering if they’re loaded up with alcohol. However, in this Thai dish, rice noodles, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, and chili are what gives it the flavors you’ll soon come to love. The name comes from the fact that very often, this dish is the go-to snack after a night of drinking.
No need to be drunk to enjoy your drunken noodles, though. My husband and I love them on busy nights. It’s so easy to throw drunken noodles together on a whim, yet they taste like you slaved over them for hours.
The rice noodles are stir-fried using a rich and savory brown sauce. Bright and cheerful vegetables along with chicken make this such a simple and speedy meal and it tastes way better than takeout.
What type of rice noodles to use
With these drunken noodles, I used fresh rice noodles from Chinatown. This gives it a stunning appearance and more of a meaty texture. Not to mention, you can directly use the noodles in the stir fry without any prep, further reducing the cooking time.
Keep your eyes peeled for the fresh noodles when you go to your local Asian market. If you can find them, they are the absolute best choice.
But don’t worry if you can’t find them fresh. You can use the dried ones which will work quite well too. You’ll just have to make sure to rehydrate them as instructed on the package.
Protein of your choice
While my recipe does list chicken thigh in the ingredients, please feel free to use any protein you wish. You can even leave it out if you’d prefer.
For example, beef, pork, shrimp, and tofu will all work perfectly. Unlike most of my Chinese stir fries, where I always use cornstarch to marinate the meat to give it a tender texture, I skipped that step in this one so the result is closer to the restaurant style. This method works really well with shrimp and beef (keep the beef a bit pink inside so it remains juicy and tender). If you use a lean cut of pork or chicken breast, the meat will come out a bit chewier than other types of protein.
I used Chinese broccoli and baby corn in this dish for color and texture.
If you can’t find it, spinach, broccolini, and even baby bok choy are all wonderful replacements that will give you plenty of nutrition, too.
The baby corn can be replaced with water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, which add a nice crunchy texture.
- Cook the aromatics to release the fragrance
- Add the chicken and cook until halfway done
- Flip the chicken, add the vegetables, and cook until slightly wilted
- Add the rice noodles, pour in the sauce, and stir to mix well
- Add the basil
- Give it a final stir and serve!
And should you be in a celebratory mood and knock back a number of cocktails, if you have leftover drunken noodles in your fridge, you’re going to be incredibly happy to come home to them!
Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (*Footnote 1)
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 (6 oz / 170 g) chicken thigh , thinly sliced (or any protein of your choice) (*Footnote 2)
- 1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 to 5 fresh Thai chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon canola oil (or peanut oil)
- 4 stalks Chinese broccoli (or broccolini, or spinach, thin sliced at an angle)
- 1/2 cup baby corn (or water chestnuts, or any desired crisp vegetables)
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh thick rice noodles (or 7 oz (200 g) wide dried rice noodles)
- 1/2 cup basil , packed
- Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside.
- Combine chicken thigh (or the protein of your choice) with the dark soy sauce in a medium-sized bowl. Toss to coat well and set aside.
- Pulverize the garlic and chilis together in a mortar and pestle or small food processor until finely ground. (*Footnote 3)
- If using fresh rice noodle sheets, slice them into 1” (2.5 cm) thick strips. If using dried rice noodles, rehydrate or boil them according to the package instructions.
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the ground garlic and chilis and stir fry for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Spread out the chicken without overlapping. Cook undisturbed until the bottom is lightly browned and the top is pink. Flip the chicken over using your spatula and quickly stir a few times.
- Add the Chinese broccoli and baby corn. Cook and stir until the chicken is no longer pink.
- Add the noodles and pour in the sauce. Use a pair of tongs to toss everything together, until the noodles have absorbed the sauce and begin to crackle. The vegetables should be cooked but remain crispy
- Remove the pan from your stove and add the basil. Give it a final toss until the basil is just wilted. Transfer to serving plates.
- Serve hot as a main dish or on the side with multiple courses.
- The dark soy sauce will add the beautiful dark brown color to the dish and a light caramel taste. You might use soy sauce to replace it, but the dish will have a much lighter color and the taste will be less rich.
- Almost any protein will work in this recipe. I highly recommend chicken thigh, shrimp, and beef (flank or loin) because they are tender and juicy. If using beef, I prefer to slightly undercook it to medium (a bit pink inside) so it’s extra tender. You can use chicken breast or pork as well, which will result in a slightly chewy texture.
- Alternatively, you can mince both together using a knife, but pulverizing will improve the end product.
More delicious Thai recipes
- Thai Style Crab Fried Rice
- Thai Beef Salad
- \Basil Chicken (Pad Krapow Gai)
- Thai-Style Salmon Curry
- Sweet Chili Chicken
- Thai Fish Cakes (Tod Mun Pla)
Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.
Questions and Reviews
Extremely delicious and easy. I wish I made double
Super tasty. Great combination of flavours and loved the crunch of the mini corn
Super tasty. Great combination of flavours and loved the crunch of the mini corn. I forgot the basil but even without it was great!
I’m guessing Thai basil not Italian?
Yeah Thai basil is the best but I’ve tried it with Italian basil too and liked the result.
Hi there! Can you recommend a brand of Thai fish sauce that you used for this recipe? I cook mostly Filipino dishes which requires the use of fish sauce. I’ve noticed that Filipino fish sauce seems stronger in scent and flavor than Thai or even Vietnamese fish sauce. I don’t want to use Filipino fish sauce if it will completely ruin the flavor of this dish. 🙂
I like Red Boat fish sauce because of it’s quality and it’s rather easy to find. I don’t think a stronger fish sauce is a big problem since you’re only using 1/2 teaspoon, but you can reduce it to 1/4 teaspoon if you’re worried.
I’m not familiar with Filipino fish sauce but now I’m very intrigued. Will keep an eye out for it next time and try it out 🙂
Great recipe! Almost as good as our favorite drunken noodles from Thai restaurant. Made 1.5 portion of sauce (not enough in my opinion) and a bit more sugar.
Hi Maggie, i’m slightly new to cooking and am learning about the order in which you cook things. Can you please explain why we cook the aromatics first, and then the protein, instead of protein and then aromatics (as in your stir fry workflow post)? Thanks so much!!!
I cook most of my dishes as I listed in the workflow post (protein first then aromatics), because in general it’s a better way of cooking proper Chinese food.
However, this is a Thai dish and the meat is not usually marinated with cornstarch. And since it’s a small portion and it’s optional, you don’t need to cook it separately then add it back later (which is usually the process when doing a meat centered stir fry, to prevent the meat overcrowding the pan and overcooking).
I’ve made this twice and it’s excellent. The second time I doubled the sauce and upped the fresh noodles to 20 oz. and chicken thigh to 10 oz. for my family of 4.
Quick, easy and most importantly delicious.
SO Good!!!!! Worth getting all the different ingredients; I’ve made this twice now and everyone LOVES it!
Damn I surprised myself at how good this was 😏 Thanks Maggie!
This came out so good! I made it with beef tri-tip slices, and the last of our broccoli and basil from the garden. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.
I was looking for a recipe to use our garden grown bok choy. This was perfect. Bok choy and carrots cut as Maggie’s mum does. It was simple to cook but tasted great. Will definitely be cooking again
Hi! Love the recipe. Where do you find the fresh wide rice noodles? I can’t find them anywhere
You can find it at Thai grocery stores and some of the bigger Asian market or at Chinatown. It’s usually in refrigerated session and maybe a bit hidden. It is a very special ingredient and I think it’s quite hard to find. You can always use dried rice noodles. Some people make fresh wide rice noodles at home.
Adding to the family favourites! I added more chicken and added carrots (as we don’t like baby corn). Makes a great alternative to ordering taleaways.