Well…this summer I’m filling requests. This is another one that I have been waiting for just one ingredient for many months and just got now. The dish is called Guay Tiew Pad Kee Mao, or “Drunken Noodles” (Guay Tiew = noodles, Pad = stir-fry, Kee Mao = drunkard. This dish should have been called “Drunkard’s Noodles” for a more accurate translation), long, wide rice noodles stir-fried with meat, eggs, some vegetables, holy basil (what I’ve been waiting for) and chilies.
There is no alcohol in the ingredients, so why “drunken”?
Well, you have to understand the different drinking habits of the typical drunkard in Thailand. At least to be able to drink comfortably while you’re visiting the country, you know. The Thais do not drink before meals like Westerners. They drink as a meal…oops…too much information too soon. Let’s try again. They have a meal while they’re drinking, or at least a snack, and in general they don’t drink without food, unlike Americans and Europeans.
If you consider someone who drinks every day an alcoholic, then I had an alcoholic father. From what I remember, my entire time that I was living at home, my dad had stopped drinking for only a two-week period right after my graduation–that’s it. He was a happy drinker, very much the opposite of the moody, sober boss that everyone knew at work. (He was a CFO of a huge organization, about 25,000 or more employees, in Bangkok.) His personality was that of a perfectionist. Extremely intelligent, very demanding, organized, straightforward and strict (someone said he rather break than bend) but quite melancholy.
This, together with his power in the company, made people generally intimidated by him. But he turned into a very funny, lovable, and relaxed person after the first sip of alcohol.
My dad would go out drinking with his friends on the weekends, or they would have a small party at our house or one of the uncles’ houses. If the party was at home, there was an array of dishes that came out from the kitchen, either prepared by our cook (my mother doesn’t cook) or brought in from the street vendors or restaurants.
They ate, drank and chatted, and all three acts had to go together all at once. You couldn’t miss one element. If the whiskey was gone, I (yes, me from 6 – 12 years of age, before my sister had gotten old enough to accept the baton from me) would run to the nearby convenience store and get more whiskey for them. If the food was gone (didn’t happen very often) then I had to get the cook to make more dishes. If they became too drunk and stopped talking, then they would disband and go home, but I never saw that happen.
Most likely, they would do it from mid-afternoon until midnight, and my mother had to cut if off at midnight because their wives or their kids were calling for them to go home, or they would be too loud, disturbing the neighbors. So when they reached that unreasonable hour my mother had to chase them back to their homes.
You know drunkards’ tastebuds are impaired due to the alcohol suppressing their brains, right? So the food that they would like to eat usually has much more intense taste, saltier and spicier. “Drunken noodles” is the ultimate example. It was their favorite noodle dish, even over Pad See Ew (that you already know how to make.) This was the “untouchable” dish for me back home due to the level of spice in it. It’s surely an “adult” noodle dish.
So, to wrap up after five paragraphs of personal background, this dish is called drunken noodles because it’s the drunkard favorite, what they usually eat while they drink. Yes, there is alcohol in the mix, you just have to drink it on the side. I would NOT recommend a glass of wine. This one goes with whiskey and soda!
Ingredients (for 2)
Big flat rice noodles (Sen Yai or Ho fun) separated, about 1 cup
Protein of your choice 1/2 – 1 cup (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, shrimp fish or tofu for the vegetarian or vegan all work)
Tapioca starch or Cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon (use to marinate the meat only)
Chopped garlic 1 tablespoon
Slice Jalapeño peppers, 2 pods (about 1/2 cup–you can use other kinds of chili peppers that might be spicier than Jalapeño, like Serrano or Thai bird eyes chili, too)
Onion, sliced 1/4 cup
Tomatoes, cut in wedges 1/2 -1 cup (source of your liquid in the stir-fry)
Holy basil, leaves only, not stems 1/2 – 1 cup (You can use Thai basil or even Italian basil)
Egg 1 – 2 eggs
Fish sauce 2 tablespoons (substitute it with light soy sauce for vegetarian or vegan)
Sweet soy sauce 2-4 tablespoons
Oyster sauce (optional)
Maggi sauce or seasoning soy sauce (optional)
White ground pepper (optional)
Vegetable oil or lard 2 – 4 tablespoons
1) Marinate the meat. I used pork, so I sliced
and marinated it in soy sauce or oyster sauce and, the secret to making the meat tender, added about half a teaspoon of tapioca starch or cornstarch per a cup of meat into the mix. Tapioca starch or cornstarch will seal the surface of the meat and won’t let the water escape. You can do this marinade just right before you start cooking.
2) Separate the flat rice noodles, prep the vegetables: either sliced, cut, chopped or picked leaves, and get them all ready to go in the wok.
3) Add 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok, set on high heat and wait for the oil to be really hot, smoking is allowed. The key is to get the wok really hot, and then you add the chopped garlic and toss it around a few times, then add onion,
then chilies, and cook until the onion is translucent.
4) Add the meat,
tossing it around to cook it, making sure that every piece of meat is seared to seal in the juice. We will be cooking some more so you don’t have to thoroughly cook the meat, just the surface.
5) Add the tomatoes to the wok, stir-fry until they release their juice.
6) Add the noodles as soon as you see the tomatoes releasing juice.
Also add the sauces.
You might want to add only half at first and see if you need the rest of the sauces. Toss the contents around the wok.
If you like some burn spots on the noodles, stop tossing for 5 – 10 seconds at a time to let the noodles burn, then toss them again, alternatively doing that for a few rounds, and you will get nice, fragrant burn spots on the noodles.
Don’t forget to taste it! Adjust the taste to your liking, don’t just follow my recipe. I didn’t even really measure mine (REALLY?…Yes, really. Who has the time? The wok was freaking HOT! I can’t burn my dinner for a blog, you know). I tell you the approximate amounts. Then you taste it and see if this is the amount you like, then you have your own recipe. 😉
The noodles shouldn’t be too dry. The tomatoes are the source of liquid in this stir-fry but if it isn’t enough then add water, a tablespoon at a time. We don’t want a wet drunk. It’s nasty.
7) Push the noodles to one side of the wok,
add more oil, then crack the egg in the oil
and break the yolk with the spatula.
Flip the noodles back on top of the egg,
then count to fifteen. (Normal speed, not the super-fast way. If you want to count super-fast, then count to fifty!)
The counting is the time the eggs need to set a little. If you crack the egg and start to stir-fry right away, the egg will just disappear and leave the fishy smell and fishy taste behind…yuckkkkk! This is how I get the eggs to look like I just scrambled them and added them to the wok.
I’ve seen a lot of recipes out there on the internet that attempt to cook Pad See Ew or Pad Kee Mao or even PadThai with “scrambled egg” listed in the ingredients…Nope…It isn’t done that way amateur, NEVER.
Once you’re done counting, starting to push the noodles around the wok again. Sample it for the final taste adjustment.
8) TURN OFF THE HEAT and add the holy basil in the wok,
tossing it to mix with the noodles. The heat left over from noodles is going to cook the delicate basil leaves. If you are using Italian basil, which has bigger, thicker leaves, you might end up with a slightly uncooked basil but it’s ok. It’s going to wilt down further anyway, but you can also continue the heat if you want to really cook the life out of the basil. Your choice.
You are not going to eat the noodles right out of the wok, are you? Even barbaric me doesn’t do that! Plate it and don’t forget to put ground white pepper on top and mix whiskey and soda for your drink. Let’s see if the noodles are drunk or you are 😉