Thai Drunken Noodles – Pad Kee Mao
No matter what city I travel to, I’m always drawn to the local Thai restaurant…like a moth to a flame, I just can’t seem to get enough of this cuisine. My first introduction to Thai food, interestingly enough, was NOT pad thai nor was it any of their lovely curries. No, my first foray into Thai food which forever drew me into its culinary clutches was this right here…pad kee mao.
Pad kee mao? Not really a main headliner when it comes to most Thai menus, this is the unsung hero in my eyes. A spicy dish with just enough heat to make its presence known paired with a myriad of veggies to keep everything light and delectable. To top it off, fresh thai basil rounds out the dish, giving a delightful punch of herby licoriceness that makes this dish uniquely wonderful.
Also known as drunken noodles because of the supposed penchant to throw a few of these dishes back after a long night of imbibing, I can think of less better ways to work off a hangover. 🙂 Drunken or not though, you’ll be easily won over by this dish, I promise! I knew after my first bite, I was part of Team Kee Mao forever more! I’ve found and tried several different recipes for this, but the one below is what I feel most closely represents what it is without being too difficult to master. The main key here, if anything, is the Thai basil. Boasting purple stems and a more flat leaf than its Italian cousin, this basil is the heart of this dish.
In Thailand, this is actually traditionally eaten with spaghetti, but I’ve usually had it prepared with these wide flat rice noodles. If you don’t have ready access to banh uot, by all means, use whatever you have available. I’ve had this dish prepared with udon (which, by the way, is out of this world good!), pad thai noodles, spaghetti, and even a variation with rice.
Pad Kee Mao
Adapted by TastyDesu
1 package (12-14oz) fresh wide rice noodles***
1/2 cup white, firm tofu
1/2 cup beef, chicken, or shrimp
1 tablespoon garlic chili paste
1-2 Thai serrano chilis, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Assorted veggies (I used 1/4 cup snowpeas, 1/4 sliced portabella mushrooms, 1/2 of a sliced carrot, and 1 onion cut into wedges)
1/2 cup packed Thai basil leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon regular soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons golden mountain soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vinegar
4 tablespoons oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Take package of noodles and cut into 1″ x 2″ blocks. Separate noodles by peeling them apart one block at a time. Set aside.
Prepare tofu by pressing tofu with paper towels to remove as much water as possible. Cut into bite sized pieces, about 1″ x 1/4″, pressing each piece gently with paper towel to remove more moisture. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in pan over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add tofu and fry until golden, flipping over to ensure even browning on both sides. Set aside on paper towel.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in pan, I recommend a nonstick wok, and heat on high till oil shimmers. Add garlic, chili paste, and sliced chilis. Saute until garlic is a light brown…don’t leave unattended as garlic can burn very easily and stand back as it pops! I have a battle scar on my arm from an errant popping piece of garlic attempting to jump to freedom.
Once garlic is browned, add your protein(s) and saute until those are no longer pink. Add your veggies and continue to saute until all is cooked through. You may add 1 tablespoon of water here to help facilitate the veggies cooking.
Add noodles and tofu and continue to fry for a minute or two. The noodles will begin to stick a bit (the nonstick pan will help tremendously here) and you may add water sparingly here to help it not stick. Just don’t add too much as too much water will result in mushy noodles. And really, who likes mush?
After about 2 minutes, add the soy sauces, sugar, and hoisin. Stir well to mix. Once everything is all incorporated, add basil and vinegar. Stir again to mix. Once basil has wilted, it’s done. Remove from heat and serve.
***Note: The noodles I used here were fresh Vietnamese flat rice noodles, called Banh Uot Tuoi, which is usually available at most of the larger asian supermarkets. If unavailable, spaghetti or another noodle may be substituted.