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)
- 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.