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pad kee mao recipe?

I would like to make pad kee mao, a.k.a. drunken or drunkards' noodles, at home. My attempts have largely been failures. Although I have access to good-quality fresh rice noodles, thai chiles, and thai basil, and I get the noodle texture right, the flavoring is always off. In particular, it's usually too salty, and I'm not sure what to use to balance the saltiness.

Oddly, Thai cookbooks (like David Thompson's) and pan-Asian noodle cookbooks (Nina Symonds, etc.) never seem to have pad kee mao recipes. Pad thai and pad see u, sure, but not pad kee mao. I wonder if it's either too basic or too varied to include in cookbooks. At any rate, I'd love a recipe. Thanks.

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  1. Epicurious did a story on Sripraphrai a while ago, and included their recipe for drunken noodles: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

    8 Replies
    1. re: Missyme

      Awesome link. That's a staple for me every time I go to Sri. Definitely gonna try it.

      1. re: Missyme

        What is Gold Mountain sauce? I see they call for light soy as a substitute, but just looking at the proportions makes me wonder if it would be too salty with light soy.

        1. re: david kaplan

          Golden Mountain Sauce is a brand of a type of very strong flavored soy sauce. It can't really be substituted. When I make pad kee mao I just add a few shakes, perhaps about 1-2 teaspoons. And then I also add light soy sauce or fish sauce. I would recommend a trip to the Asian market to pick up Golden Mountain sauce. You'll also need a 'dark' soy sauce, the salty version, not the sweet one.

          Do you mind telling us what recipe you've been using? It'll help loads.

          1. re: cee

            I pretty much followed the Epicurious version posted above by Missyme, substituting the light soy for Gold Mountain as suggested in the recipe. The rest I followed to the letter, including the salty dark soy. Eyeballing the recipe, no wonder it was too salty: 3/4 cups of saltiness (soy & fish sauces), and only 1 tbsp of sugar and nothing sour.

            Eager for your advice.

            1. re: david kaplan

              That Sri Praphai recipe is for a huge amount of noodles (2lbs or something). Unless you're cooking for a family, I'd stick with smaller amounts. When you cook in a pan, only cook a little at a time, perhaps a cup or two of noodles. For a portion that small, you're looking at adding soy & fish sauces in the 1-2 tablespoon range, not the 1/4 cup range.

              Thais season noodles additionally at the table. Usually noodle stalls provide vinegar (with pickled chilies inside), fish sauce, chili powder and sugar. You then personalize the dish to your taste. So, when you cook Pad Kee Mao you generally don't add the vinegar in the wok -- the person who eats it will add it to their taste. But when I cook for myself, or for people who don't know how to season themselves, I'll just season in the pan. I'm too lazy to make a nice presentation. I'll probably include the 'lazy' recipe on the website.

              I need to run to the market to buy the rice noodles & basil. I'll test my 'rough draft' recipe today and post it soon, perhaps today if it comes out well. I have a few people waiting for the recipe, but I want to test it a few times before posting it. I will let you know when I do!

              1. re: cee

                When I tried the Sripraphai recipe, I made a one-person batch, around 1/3 lb of noodles -- I wasn't going to subject anyone else to my first attempt at the dish! Adjusting other quantities accordingly, I used around 2 teaspoons each dark soy, light soy, and fish sauce, and a little bit of sugar. I'll wait to try again until I see your post. Thanks!

          2. re: david kaplan

            Golden Mountain Sauce is the same as Maggi Seasoning. To me, it tastes totally different than light soy.

            1. re: david kaplan

              Per 1 lb of fresh noodles. First, saute any onion/bell pepper in some hot peanut oil. Then add a small red chili(or chili paste- as hot as you like) and some crushed garlic(a couple of cloves).Then add a small amount of shrimp or chicken. Cook through. Add scant 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp. salt. Cook 1 min. Then add a mixture of 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, 2 tsp. soy sauce. Cook 'til boiling. Add noodles. Cook 'til absorbed. Eat. Yum!

          3. The correct basil to use is Holy Basil (bai ga-prao), not Thai basil. Most restaurants in the US substitute for Thai basil, but the flavor is really different. See if you can get your hands on Holy Basil instead. See pic.

            As for the too-salty, did you try to just use less soy/fish sauce? Are you adding sugar? Do you have a recipe which you are using which you could type in here for me to take a look at? Generally if something is too salty, there's not much you can do. You can try adding more sweet & sour but it won't totally fix it. Try adding a dash of white vinegar and some more sugar if it's already too salty. But the best advice is to use less saltiness next time.

            Also, what brand(s) of soy sauce & fish sauce are you using?

            I'm working on the recipe now to put up on my site. It should be up hopefully this week.


            2 Replies
            1. re: cee

              Holy basil is essential, and I've never seen it fresh in any market. Fortunately, it grows like a weed. Get some from a nursery and stick it in the ground or in a pot. It does tend to bolt, so watch it daily and pinch the buds off. Soon you will have more holy basil than you can handle.


              1. re: Jim Washburn

                Thai markets in California often have both Thai & Holy Basil and lots of other Thai produce. At the local Wat Thai there is a lady that sells the stuff growing in pots out of her van!

            2. David, if you are interested, there are excellent Thai cooking classes available in Oakland. I've mentioned it before, but if you search for 'Kasma' on google or on chowhound you will come up with many references. Disclosure: I have no connection with her other than taking her classes, and I'm one of quite a few of her groupies.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Louise

                Thank you. Someone else mentioned her classes. I'm on what I think is a very long waitlist.

                1. re: david kaplan

                  If you are on a waitlist, it is probably long. When you are notified for a class, reply that very nanosecond. I waited a few days one time and now I'm waitlisted and wish I could kick my own a** for knowing better.

                  The classes are really great, I have one tonight and my mouth is already watering.

                2. re: Louise

                  Since this old thread has been revived, I have taken Kasma's classes and had made pad kee mao successfully from her book "It Rains Fishes." The trick is to have ultra-fresh rice noodles and to cook them at high enough heat on the wok to get them a bit flecked with char before adding any liquid seasoning. This version is better than any I've ever tasted in a restaurant and has joined the list of dishes that I'd never order out because it's better at home and not difficult.

                  1. re: david kaplan

                    Thank you for the post. I live in northern VA and there are many Asian markets but I have not been able the correct basil yet. I have tried several recipes and just found one that was similiar to what it is suppose to taste like from one of my favorite places in Sterling VA. But, it was somewhat salty and i added some brown sugar and toned it down. I am going to look up what you provided. I have been on a Thai quest for wonderful food but keep messing up some how. I am so glad you were able to get into the class and discover your niche for good cooking.

                3. "Real Thai" by Nancie McDermott has a recipe for Kwaytiow Paht Ki-Mao, she uses Grapao (holy) basil, but suggests if unavailable (even on the east coast most viet namese and cambodiam grocers will have grapao) thai basil or mint. No "golden sauce" in her version, just a mix of Dark Soy & Fish Sauce. Her recipes are rarely too salty for me, but occassionally I do find them a bit too sweet. Anyway, overall I find her book more comprehensive than Thompson's for basic recipes, and very true for taste/flavor.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: qianning

                    I very much like the McDermott recipe- I find it gets the slightly wok charred noodles just right with adding a little bit of sugar to the noodles when frying.

                    1. re: qianning

                      Thanks for mentioning the McDermott book, I just requested it from the library!

                      A good source for Thai Groceries in NY is Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco.

                    2. I know your post is old, but you might not have been given the right instructions. The secret to Pad Kee Mao is Sweet Soy sauce you get in Asian markets. The brand my local market carries is Kwong Hung Seng Sauce, on the back it just says Sweet Sauce. And if you can find fresh rice noodles, they make all the difference in the world.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: gatorboy69

                        Is the sweet soy something that I can use all the time? I think I have a well-stocked chinese kitchen (light and dark soy) but there are some bottles (like black rice vinegar/pat chun sauce) that I've used once and are sitting at the back of the cupboard. Same thing for the Golden Mountain sauce.

                        1. re: neighborguy

                          yes, it's good in stir fries and marinades. splash some into noodle soup, too.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            So now I have a bottle of the sweet soy. It is, indeed, different flavourwise from light and dark soy sauces. However, it is VERY salty (having read the nutritional info panel on the side) and I'll be using it sparingly.

                            1. re: neighborguy

                              hmmm, i don't recall my sweet soy being any saltier than regular soy, ounce for ounce. i also use an indonesian kejap manis, so it may differ from the chinese "sweet soy" but i can't recall right now. mine kejap manis looks similar to this: http://www.amazon.com/ABC-Kecap-Manis...

                              this says http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictiona... it is flavored sometimes with either garlic or star anise. i don't think my brand is. now i'll have to check.

                      2. Try "importfood.com". They have anything you could want to buy for Thai cooking, plus tons of recipes. They even have videos of Thai street vendors cooking dishes. I traveled around Thailand for a while, and took cooking classes there and this is the best website for getting everything I need to make authentic dishes. The rest is up to you. Tweak recipes to your liking. Experiment, and have fun with it!!!

                        1. David,

                          I realize your posting regarding pad khee-mao is almost 3 years old and you have probably already found a solution to your frustrations.... However, I went thru similar frustrations with this dish some time ago and finally achieved satisfaction.... I am attaching a recipe which I perfected to my taste as well as other associates who had also travelled to Thailand and experienced the real think... I actually prepared the dish last night and generated cheers from the wife!!!! Here it is.... Give it a try....

                          Pad Khee-Mao

                          We have long been a fan of this simple Thai noodle dish which can be found on the menu in most if not all Thai restaurants. It combines a rather complex sweet/sour/tangy/spicy sauce with “chewy noodles”. Our problem in reproducing the dish has always been locating the noodles which are traditionally used by the Thai restaurants. After recently coming back from New Jersey where I, once again, experienced the satisfaction of this dish, I had a passion to reproduce the dish. I scanned all available references in Mary Jane’s “Cook Book Library” and added a few of my own twists to come up with this formula which satisfied my passion and had Mary Jane asking for more. I concluded it was close enough to document and share. Please enjoy! As with may Thai dishes, leftovers are great when heated in the microwave.

                          1 lb. package good quality Farfalle pasta (Lasagna noodles can also be used)
                          2 tbsp. vegetable oil
                          3- 4 tbsp. sweet black soy sauce (any soy sauce can be substituted)

                          12 oz. ground beef or sausage (I prefer sausage with sage)
                          1 small yellow onion or 1 bunch green onions – coarsely chopped
                          8 cloves garlic – minced
                          1/4 cup cilantro stems – chopped
                          1 tbsp. curry powder
                          1 tsp. red pepper flakes or Thai chilli paste (adjust to your “heat” level)
                          1 tsp. white pepper
                          3 tbsp. brown sugar
                          4 tbsp. Thai fish sauce
                          1 cup chicken stock
                          2 tbsp. catsup
                          1/2 cup cilantro leaves – coarsely chopped
                          1 – 1 1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
                          Juice of 1 small lime

                          Noodles: Remember -- The noodles are “key” to the authenticity of this dish!!!

                          Cook the pasta/noodles per instructions on the box until they reach “done but chewy” state. Rinse in cold water to end cooking and prevent them from sticking together and drain. If using lasagna noodles, cut in bitesize 1 – 1 ½ in. squares. Add vegetable oil to hot “non stick” skillet and rotate to coat bottom and sides. Add and toss the noodles slowly in the hot oil to insure they are all coated to prevent sticking. Stir fry over medium heat until the noodles are heated through and show slight browning. Add the soy sauce and toss noodles to insure they are all coated. Transfer skillet and noodles to a warm holding oven while preparing the meat sauce.

                          Meat Sauce:

                          In a second skillet, cook the ground beef or pork while breaking it up with a spatula. Drain most of the accumulated grease. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro stems, curry powder, red pepper flakes, pepper, and brown sugar. Stir fry 3 - 5 minutes until onions soften. Add fish sauce, chicken stock, catsup and frozen peas (if desired) and continue cooking 3 – 5 minutes until the peas are done.

                          Remove noodles from oven. Combine with the meat sauce. Add cilantro leaves and lime juice and toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: FoodEngr

                            Hi there - I'm wondering why you're using Italian pasta for this dish rather than the more authentic rice noodles, which are pretty easy to find these days?

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              Based on my limited research, most of the Thai restaurants use "fresh" rice noodles which have the nice chewy texture.... They were not easily available in my hometown in central Illinois..... Tried the dried rice noodles reconstituted and was repeatedly disappointed..... Decided to try something which was always available and in my pantry at most times.... Good rice noodles would certainly be the preferred route if available...

                              1. re: FoodEngr

                                That's not my experience of travelling in Thailand at all. I did a cooking class and we used the dried noodles to make Pad Thai. If you're finding the noodles too soft and not "al dente", then it could be that you're using hot or boiling water to soak them rather than cool or lukewarm water, which is what I wsa taught to use in Thailand. Fusilli pasta especially (the curly stuff) seems like an odd choice, but hey, if it works for you....

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Appreciate your experienced comments......As we all know, Pad Thai is not to be confused with Pad Khee Mao. Both are excellent Thai noodle dishes but each has somewhat unique flavors. Both are routinely made with rice noodles. However, my experience suggests Khee Mao is usually made with considerably wider and thicker noodles. Just to clarify, I did not use Fulilli (curly) pasta for my recipe...... but rather Farfalle (bowtie) pasta..... Actually the lasagna noodles were slightly better due to being a bit thicker and more chewy..... However, due to the required cutting after cooking, was more work..... Thanks for the exchange of ideas!!!

                                  1. re: FoodEngr

                                    Hi FoodEngr. Greedygirl has a good point on the rice noodles. I've taken Kasma's class and one of her tips is to just soak the dried rice noodles in warm water until just limp enough, not to actually boil them or cook them -- they tend to get super soggy/sticky/etc. Also, as one of her tips she sid that the soaked noodles will absorb some of the sauce more easily than boiled noodles.

                                    Good luck!

                                    1. re: FoodEngr

                                      In Pad Thai, the dried rice noodles absorb the sauce, whereas the thicker sauce on Pad Kee Mao coats the noodles rather than getting absorbed into them as much. I think that's why it's possible to substitute even dried Italian pasta for the fresh rice noodles in Pad Kee Mao and still end up with something delicious -- I have even seen "spaghetti pad kee mao" on Thai restaurant menus though never a version of Pad Thai with wheat noodles.

                                      If using dried Italian pasta for pad kee mao, my inclination would be a long strand shape rather than farfalle, fusilli, or another shape with lots of crannies that would catch the sauce. For some Italian sauces those small shapes that catch sauce are ideal, but the sauce for pad kee mao is, in my opinion, too intense and works better as a thin coating spread evenly, as it does on fresh wide rice noodles and would on long Italian strands like spaghetti or linguini.

                                      1. re: david kaplan

                                        The former owner of my favorite Thai restaurant came up to me with her dinner plate and said "You want to try my Thai spaghetti" as she stuffed a big bite into my mouth a while back. While it wasn't pad kee mao, it sure was tasty, very tasty!!!