There are many different stories about how drunken noodles, or pad kee mao (ผัดขี้เมา), got their name. Depending on the source, this dish’s name came from the use of rice wine in its preparation, but no alcohol is used in any of the original Thai recipes. Other sources claim that the original recipe was devised by someone who came home drunk and made something to eat with available ingredients, while others maintain that the dish’s spiciness makes diners imbibe in an attempt to quench the heat of the chilies, leading to inebriation. Although we may never about how drunken noodles got their name, one thing is certain- they’re delicious!
While holy basil is preferred in this recipe, Thai basil works well too. You can use regular Italian basil in a pinch, but the flavor will be a bit different, but any basil is better than no basil at all. As for the noodles, I recommend using the same kind of wide dry rice noodles that you would use for making pad thai. Although fresh rice noodles are fantastic, unless you have a good Asian market nearby or know how to make them yourself, you’re going to have a hard time tracking them down.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
- 2 tablespoons water
- 12 ounces sliced chicken thighs or chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 8 ounces wide dried rice noodles
- 1½ teaspoons brown sugar, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (Thai soy sauce preferred)
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- pinch of ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 shallots, sliced (about ⅓ cups)
- 1 scallion, julienned into 3-inch pieces
- 4 Thai red chili peppers, deseeded and julienned
- 1 cup loosely packed holy basil or Thai basil
- 5 to 6 pieces of baby corn, split in half (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- Work the two tablespoons of water into the chicken with your hands until the chicken absorbs the liquid. Add the soy sauce, oil and cornstarch, and mix until the chicken is evenly coated. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Follow the directions on the rice noodle package to prepare your noodles. Alternatively, prepare a stainless steel bowl with hot tap water to soak the noodles for about 15 minutes. Then drain the noodles and set them aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Stir together the dissolved brown sugar/water mixture, soy sauces, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and white pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat your wok until it’s close to smoking, and spread 2 tablespoons of oil around the perimeter of the wok. Add the chicken and let it sear for 1 minute on each side until it’s about 90% cooked. Remove from the wok and set aside. If the heat was high enough and you seared the meat correctly, your wok should be still clean with nothing sticking to it. If not, you can wash the wok to prevent the rice noodles from sticking.
- Continue with the wok on high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil, along with the garlic and grated ginger.
- After a few seconds, add the shallots. Stir fry for 20 seconds and add the scallions, chili peppers, basil, baby corn and shaoxing wine. Stir-fry for another 20 seconds and add in the rice noodles. Use a scooping motion to mix everything for another minute until the noodles warm up.
- Next, add the prepared sauce mixture and stir-fry at the highest heat for about 1 minute until the noodles are uniform in color. Take care to use your metal spatula to scrape the bottom of the wok to prevent sticking. Add the seared chicken and stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes.
last updated August 17, 2023