Pad Kee Mao

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Comforting Pad Kee Mao

You might have ordered Pad Kee Mao, aka “drunken noodles,” at a Thai restaurant, but I’m here to tell you that it is simple to make at home.  In fact, my daughter’s kids did all the chopping and herb stem removal the last time I made this…lucky me. AND they sent me home with a bottle of dressing and all the ingredients prepped and ready to cook.  Let me tell you, that was one of the nicest things anyone has done for me, and I will pay it forward to someone who has no time to shop or prep.

Mark Bittman published the starting point of my recipe in the New York Times and I expanded it and made it to my taste.  In southeast Asia, Pad Kee Mao refers to a mixture of  stir-fried rice noodles, vegetables, and meat, seafood, or tofu, served with a spicy sauce. I have made this with ground lamb, ground beef and ground chicken.  IMHO, Chicken wins…I like the light flavor and we are trying to eat little if any beef in our family.  Because…climate change.  

I also cheat and make extra dressing since I also add more vegetables than the original recipe calls for which soak up more of the sauce  

Huge bonus – this reheats really well if you have leftovers.  In fact, I now keep extra rice stick noodles and prepared dressing on hand so I can whip this up easily when I am in the mood for something salty, sweet and delicious.

Pad Kee Mao, Reconfigured

Serves Four



Sauce Ingredients
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (Red Boat is my go-to)
  • 1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar (regular rice vinegar that is seasoned is OK too)
  •  2 tablespoons dark sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) – Uwajamaya has this in Seattle, but my sister made it and here is a recipe I found.
Main Ingredients
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped by hand
  • 5 bird’s eye chiles (I used a jalapeno in place of this or just 1-2 chilis since we are spice wusses) Cut the little peppers in half, remove the seeds and mince.  Wear gloves because these are spicy chilis
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil 
  • ½ cup sliced brown or red onion 
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced red or orange bell peppers (we use the mini peppers that come in a bag)
  • 2 cups broccoli flowerettes or pea pods (slightly cooked)
  • 12 ounces dried rice noodles (I buy the ones that look like linguini, flat and about ⅓ inch wide.  I cook them in a pot of water until they are al dente, then I rinse and drain.) 
  • 2 handfuls holy basil leaves (or Thai basil, in a pinch)

To make the sauce, place all 3 sauce ingredients in a jar with a lid, and shake, shake, shake. Shake. Note you can make 1 ½ times this if you are worried about it being a little dry.

Roughly chop the garlic and the chiles together. Avoid touching your eyes and wash your hands immediately after chopping chilis or wear disposable rubber gloves to chop them. 

Heat a large straight sided saute pan over medium-high. When it’s hot, add the avocado oil, the slivered sweet peppers, and the onion. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until everything cooks down.  

Add the ground meat/chicken and a splash of the fish sauce mixture. Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until it is cooked through, about five minutes. 

Add the hot peppers and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.

Ready to Serve!

Add the noodles, turn the heat to high and add almost all of the sauce (save a spoonful or two to add later). Cook, tossing everything together and separating the noodles if necessary, until the noodles are coated in sauce. Taste, and add more sauce if needed. Toss in the basil and serve.  

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