Pad Kee Mao translates directly to “Drunken Noodles.” This recipe doesn’t call for any alcohol whatsoever, so I never quite understood why they were called “drunken.” (For the longest time, I thought it was just because most Thai restaurants completely flood these noodles with sauce.) As it turns out, the traditional version of Pad Kee Mao is so spicy, it can easily leave the diner scrambling for the nearest ice-cold beverage—many times, beer is involved. (I’d rather reach for a chocolate milkshake, but that’s just me. 🤪)
When you’re making this at home, you have complete control over the heat level. Traditional recipes often call for fresh Thai chilies, but I’ve found that a much more accessible option is sambal oelek, an Indonesian chili paste that will give you a similar kick of heat. If you can’t get enough fire in your food, you can double or even triple the amount of chili paste in the recipe. If you’re not a fan of feeling the flames, you can reduce the amount of chili, or leave it out entirely.
One other thing to note in this dish is the Thai basil. This tastes a lot like the sweet basil you can find in Western supermarkets, but it also has a little bit of an anise-like note to its flavor. Your best bet to find this is an Asian market with a well-stocked produce section. However, if that’s not available, sweet basil will work great as a substitute.
This spicy street food favorite is an absolute blast to make!
Pad Kee Mao
- 3 TBSP soy sauce
- 2 TBSP dark soy sauce
- 3 TBSP oyster sauce
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 TBSP sambal oelek
- 1 TBSP water
1 10-oz package wide rice noodles
2 TBSP coconut oil, divided
1 lb chicken breast, cut into long strips
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
3 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh whole Thai basil leaves
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauces, oyster sauce, brown sugar, sambal oelek, and water until well combined. Set aside. Cook and drain the rice noodles according to directions. Set aside.
Put a wok or large sauté pan over medium heat with 1 TBSP of the coconut oil. Lay the chicken in the oil, and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until fully cooked. Remove from the pan to a plate, then add the remaining coconut oil, the bell pepper, and the onion. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes, then add the green onions and garlic. Cook until fragrant, then toss the noodles and chicken into the pan. Pour the sauce into the pan, and toss to evenly coat. Toss the basil in, and cook just long enough to wilt the leaves, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
Serves about 4.