Saturday, February 2, 2008

Drunken Noodles

Drunken noodles (aka pad kee mao) seemed like all the rage a few years back. Funny thing is the first time I can remember having this dish is at a Thai restaurant. Mom never made it at home. People never believe me when I tell them this. They think that just because I grew up in a Thai household, I’ve eaten every Thai dish ever invented. So not true. But just because I didn’t grow up eating pad kee mao doesn’t mean I don’t love it. It also happens to be Hubby’s favorite rice noodle preparation so I’ve learned to make it.

Normally, I encourage people to make substitutions or change a dish according to their taste, but for this dish, I feel there are a couple essentials that just should not be left out. The first is the Thai basil. Traditionally holy basil is used, but Thai sweet basil will work fine. Both have distinctive flavors that are sometimes interchanged but cannot be replicated with the basil you’d use to make pesto. The second is to use the proper type of soy sauce. Ya’ll know that all soy sauces are not created equal! I found the best combination is black soy sauce (preferably Thai, but Chinese will work okay) and mushroom soy sauce. Other than that, you can play around with the vegetables and meat. I’ve seen bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, baby corn and even tomatoes. For the meat, just about anything will do, but my favorites are chicken and pork.

I recommend using Thai black soy sauce but this Chinese version is similar enough. Both use molasses to give a slight sweetness.

Drunken Noodles
Feeds 4 to 6
  • 2 tbs black soy sauce
  • 4 tbs mushroom soy sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh Thai chilies, to taste, cut lengthwise
  • 1 cup packed Thai basil leaves (holy basil is best, but Thai sweet will work)
  • 2 to 3 chicken breasts, roughly minced (pork, turkey or cubed tofu also okay to use)
  • ½ large onion, sliced into wedges
  • 1 to 2 cups Chinese long beans, sliced into 2” sticks
  • fish sauce, to taste
  • 1 package fresh rice noodles (sold in 2- pound packages), strands separated
Start by making the sauce. I always recommend making more than you’ll need. Try doing 1.5x to a double portion just in case you want more flavor. Mix the soy sauces and brown sugar in a bowl until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Set aside until needed.

Before you start stir-frying, make sure you’ve got everything prepared. The noodles may take the longest because separating the strands can be tedious and difficult to separate. It’s a little easier if they are not straight out of the fridge. Keep in mind that every single strand doesn’t have to be separated, but try to the have no more than two strands stuck together.

In a very hot wok over high heat, add about 2 tbs peanut oil or vegetable oil. Add the chilies, garlic and stir-fry for about 20 seconds. Add the onion wedges and long beans and continue to stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the meat and cook until just done. Add a couple squirts of fish sauce and remove everything quickly to a bowl. Set aside until needed.

To the hot wok, add about 1 or 2 tbs more oil, and when it’s hot add most of the basil then the separated noodles on top. Stir-fry until the noodles begin to soften, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Give the noodles a few seconds between turns to allow them to take on some color. Let’s hope your wok is well seasoned, otherwise you’ll have a big mess of rice noodle stuck and burnt at the bottom. Add back in the meat and veggies and give it a few good stirs to mix. Add in about half to 2/3 of the sauce and stir-fry to mix it well. Taste the noodles and add more sauce as needed. Throw in the remainder of the basil and give it a quick turn, then you’re done. Serve immediately with fish sauce on the side to allow diners to adjust the taste to their liking.


Manggy said...

Whoa! That looks and sounds good... Can I get away with mixing soy sauce and molasses? ;) Even though huge bottles of soy sauce are cheap, I just checked out my Light Soy Sauce with a "24 month shelf life" and there were colonies of yeast and/or bacteria growing on top! Yuck!!! I of course threw it away. Sayang, as we say here. It discouraged me to buy new huge bottles of sauces :(

Cate said...

Mmmm, that looks and sounds delicious. Reminds me a bit of Chow Fun Wide Noodles. Printing out now. :)

dp said...

Manggy, you're so funny! You always ask me the tough questions. To be honest, I have no idea what the formulation would be, but if you give it a try, let me know how it turns out. Keep in mind that the noodles are not sweet at all. It's almost like an essence of molasses, which comes out when the sauce is caramelized during cooking.

Good luck!

Cate, I hope you like the results!

Manggy said...

Ah, it's up to me to make them sweet then! Haha :)

I've always loved sweet-spicy-salty combinations. My favorite.