These Vegan Thai Drunken Noodles or Pad Kee Mao are thick, chewy rice noodles cooked in a spicy and savoury sauce with garlic, onions, chili, tofu, and lots of fresh basil!
What is Pad Kee Mao or Drunken Noodles?
This is a famous dish in Thailand and you’d usually find them in simple road-side restaurants for take-out! This dish is quick, easy, and packed full of flavour!
The sauce is a mix of water, coconut sugar, soy sauce, veg oyster sauce or stir-fry sauce, some dark soy sauce for colour, and vegan ‘fish’ sauce! The sauce mix is really savoury and trust me, it’ll be soo good with the noodles once it’s cooked down and absorbed well.
But wait, WHERE CAN I GET VEGAN FISH SAUCE?
This is actually a question I asked myself often and couldn’t find that answer to so I just opt to make my own vegan fish sauce from scratch! Making some from scratch is really simple and you’ll need a few really basic ingredients. It of course won’t taste exactly like real fish sauce because it doesn’t use any fish but I love the additional layer of flavour my homemade version gives to this dish.
You can find my homemade vegan fish sauce recipe here.
Now on to the noodles!
WHAT RICE NOODLES DO I USE?
I highly suggest using the thickest rice stick or noodles you can find in your local supermarket, asian store, or online! Mine were 10mm thick and are not the same as what you’d use for Pad Thai (which usually use 3 to 5 mm thick rice noodles)
HOW TO PREPARE RICE STICK OR NOODLES:
The thing with rice noodles is that soaking them in boiling hot or hot water will do the trick. This way, they won’t overcook! You don’t need to boil them in a separate pot of water so you can save up on the extra pot to clean up later one.
HERE’S WHAT I DO:
I simply place the dry rice noodles in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling hot water until they’re soaked.
The noodles will immediately turn a bit pliable so you can completely soak them in water using a fork or chopsticks.
After a good 8 to 10 minutes (shorter or longer, depending on the thickness of your noodles), the noodles will be white and no longer translucent. They’ll also be super pliable and chewy but still with a bite!
FRESH RICE NOODLES
You can also opt to use fresh rice noodles from an Asian store or make your own! I have a recipe here for fresh rice noodles!
NOW WHAT TO COOK WITH THE NOODLES:
Though Pad Kee Mao is commonly cooked with protein like chicken, I of course cooked mine with some tofu!
I seasoned my tofu with some of the vegan fish sauce too during cooking to give them some flavour.
I also prepared some scallion, onion, garlic, bell pepper, and of course some chilies.
Okay so here’s the deal with chilies: this dish is traditionally savoury and spicy so you wouldn’t want to skip on the chilies because they add that kick. But if you’d like to lessen the spice and just want that nice hint of it while still being able to enjoy your noodles without drinking heaps of water and sweating, you can remove the seeds form your chilies!
I used bird’s eye chilies which are really hot so I took the seeds out from mine.
Just be careful when removing them and don’t use your hands directly to handle the seeds and chilies when sliced because these can burn your face and eyes when you accidentally touch them (I learned this the hard way)!
THE FRESH BASIL
I used a mix of two basils for this Pad Kee Mao. I used both Holy Basil (on the left) and Thai Basil (on the right). They’re not the same thing though I understand that they’re often confused to be the same because Holy Basil can also be called Thai Holy Basil.
I know there are different variants of Thai Basil–some have purple stems and even purple leaves but the variety I grow here at home is green throughout.
In terms of flavour, Thai basil has a very sweet and somewhat citrusy note to them.
Holy Basil has a more distinct peppery and even ‘spicy’ flavour profile. It also has ‘hairy’ leaves with ridges on the edges, while Thai basil has smooth leaves to the touch.
My Holy basil plant has seen better days though and the leaves started curling inwards due to the heat. But they were still packed with all the flavour!
SO WHICH BASIL SHOULD I USE?
This comes down to which type of basil you have access to, but if you have access to Holy Basil, I highly suggest using it over Thai Basil! I used a mix of both because I didn’t have enough holy basil.
Now that’s we’ve covered the sauces, veggies, and herbs,
LET’S COOK THE PAD KEE MAO!
You’ll only need one pan for this recipe and trust me when I say it’s so easy and SO GOOD!
I had to stop myself from finishing this whole pan before I even got to shoot it for this recipe.
I ended up sharing this with my sister and she loved it too! She said it’s one of then best noodle dishes I’ve cooked and that says a lot because she’s tried a lot of my noodle creations.
Find the recipe for these noodles below!
You can also check out my other vegan noodle recipes:
- Mie Goreng (Indonesian Fried Noodles)
- Chili Garlic and Black Bean Eggplant Noodles
- Easy Sweet, Spicy, and Saucy Noodles
- Stir-Fried Tofu and Basil Noodles
- Tantanmen (Vegan Ramen)
- Yaki Udon
- Chinese-Style Bolognese
- Ginger and Scallion Noodles
- Chili Garlic Oil Noodles
Are you looking for more delicious, vegan recipes?
Check out my latest Vegan Kitchen eBook, that has over 95 recipes (and a whole section for Asian recipes!) that are packed with flavour and made with simple and easily accessible ingredients! Also, two trees (instead of 1!) will be planted for every download of my eBook through non-profit organisation One Tree Planted.
Find out more about my reforestation initiatives here.
Vegan Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
- 200 g tofu or other protein of choice sliced
- 3 tbsp neutral oil divided
- 1/2 medium onion sliced
- 2 green onions sliced in to 2” long pieces
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small red bell pepper sliced
- 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce to season the tofu or protein (see homemade recipe here)
- Pinch white pepper to season the tofu or other protein
- 2-3 bird’s eye chili deseeded and sliced (see notes)
- 1 cup fresh Thai or holy basil leaves, packed (40g)
- Simply mix everything together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved and then set it aside. Feel free to adjust the measurements depending on your desired taste.
- If using tofu, press the tofu for 8 to 10 minutes to drain out excess water. I like to do this by wrapping the tofu in a towel and placing a heavy board or surface on top.
- Afterwards, slice into 1”x2” (2.5 by 5 cm) strips or other shape of choice.
- Place the dry rice noodles in a heatproof bowl. Pour in boiling hot water until the noodles are completely submerged.
- Leave the noodles to soak in the water for 8 to 10 minutes or until they’re not longer translucent and still very chewy. The noodles will turn chewy, white, and pliable. Drain from the water and set aside. I usually like to soak them in the water right before I start cooking so I can directly transfer the freshly soaked noodles in the pan.
- If using fresh rice noodles, simply carefully separate these. You may need to run them through some water to separate them easier. If purchasing fresh rice noodles, check with the package instructions for any preparation methods, if any.
- Heat a large pan or wok over high heat. Once hot, add in 2 tbsp oil. Sauté the onion, green onions, and garlic for 2 minutes or until tender and translucent.
- Add in the bell pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until tender.
- Move the veggies to the side of the pan. Add in the remaining 1 tbsp oil.
- Over high heat, add in the strips of tofu.
- Pour in the vegan fish sauce and white pepper, to season the tofu. Flip over the tofu once golden brown to cook the remaining side.
- When the tofu is golden brown, mix it in with the bell peppers and onions.
- Move that aside and then quickly add in the chopped chili and fresh basil. Lower the heat to medium high and then mix everything together. Cook for 2 minutes or until the basil is slightly wilted.
- Add in the rice noodles noodles to the pan. Then over medium heat, pour in the sauce mixture.
- Mix well to completely coat the noodles.
- Leave the noodles to simmer over medium high heat or until the sauce starts to boil. Mix every 30 seconds or so to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The chewy noodles will continue to cook and absorb the flavours from the sauce!
- Turn off the heat and feel free to mix in more fresh basil leaves and chopped chili if you’d like!
- Serve hot and enjoy!
- Veg Oyster Sauce
- You can also use vegetarian stir fry sauce from Lee Kum Kee.
- Find the thickest rice noodles in your local stores. I have access to 10mm thick rice noodles, which are great for Pad Kee Mao. 3 to 5mm ones are usually for Pad Thai but if that’s the only ones you can find, then that’s not problem too!
- I also have a recipe here for homemade fresh rice noodles if you want to try that out for this recipe.
- IF USING FRESH RICE NOODLES, carefully separate these. You may need to run them through some water to separate them easier. If purchasing fresh rice noodles, check with the package instructions for any preparation methods, if any.
- Fresh rice noodles are already cooked so you’ll just need to separate these and cook them down with the sauce later on. So unlike dry noodles, they’re also a lot more fragile and can easily break apart.
- Bird’s eye chilies are very hot so I prefer to remove the seeds. Be careful not to use your hands directly when handling chili because it can burn your face (or even eyes) when you touch the chili and then parts of your face. I usually only touch the stems of the chili and carefully slice them open with a sharp knife before using a small teaspoon to scoop out the seeds.
- You may also use other chilies and adjust accordingly depending on your desired spice level.