Drunken Noodles

Pad Kee Mao is a versatile dish. It can be made with noodles, spaghetti, without noodles and served on rice, with seafood… you name it. Essentially you can make anything ‘kee mao’ by including a lot of chilies, fresh peppercorns & holy basil. In Thai, ‘pad’ means to stir-fry, and ‘kee mao’ means someone who likes to drink too much. ‘Kee’ literally means ‘shit’, and adding ‘kee’ in front of any verb means it’s a bad habit. ‘Mao’ means drunk. So, a ‘Kee Mao’ (shit drunk) is someone who has a bad habit of drinking! What this has to do with this dish, I’m not 100% sure. I’ve heard that this is a common drinking food, and also that it’s a good cure for a hangover. Your guess is as good as mine.



  1. Separate the noodles by peeling them apart one at a time. Set aside.
  2. Prepare your ingredients: Slice the baby corns into 1/2 lengthwise. Crush the garlic and chilies, and set aside. Pick off the leaves & flowers of the basil, and set aside. Chop the large chili into rings.
  3. If you’re using tofu, pre-fry it in hot oil until browned. Set aside.
  4. Add the oil to a pan, and heat on high until it’s dancing around. Then add the garlic, chilies and green peppercorns. Keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.
  5. When the garlic turns light brown, add the veggies & meat/seafood if adding. Keep stirring and cook until finished, about a minute. You may need to add a few tablespoons of water to help things not stick.
  6. Add the tofu (if adding), then the noodles. You may need to add a bit more water if the pan gets too dry. Don’t add a lot, or the noodles will get mushy.
  7. After frying for a minute or two, add the soy sauces, sugar and oyster sauce. Stir well to mix.
  8. Add the basil & vinegar. Stir to mix. When the basil is wilted it’s done.


It's common in Thailand to eat this with spaghetti (yes, from Italy) which has been pre-boiled for a few minutes to just before al-dente. You can leave the noodles out all together (you might need to lower the amount of sauces and spices) and serve with rice.

Tofu can be substituted with bite-sized sliced pieces of seafood (mussels, clams, white-meat fish, shrimp or squid), chicken, pork or beef. Throw it in before you add the vegetables.

You can add chinese cabbage, carrots, white onion or thai rice mushrooms instead or in addition to the baby corn. It's up to you!

If you cannot find fresh peppercorns, substitute with 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper powder. Add it at the end when you add the vinegar.

In the US, when I ordered this dish, it usually came out with a lot of sauce, not quite that spicy, with the wrong basil, no fresh peppercorns and bell peppers in place of thai chilies. This version here is authentic, using the correct basil (holy basil - 'bai ga-prao') and orange chilies instead of bell peppers. I would totally NOT recommend using bell peppers in this dish. The flavor is really strong and overpowering, and not 'Thai' at all. A lot of cooks outside Thailand substitute spicy chilies (prik chee faa, prik leung, prik kee nuu, etc) with bell peppers. Better to leave them out! You can, however, substitute the orange chili with jalepenos, if that's all you have.

Thais season their noodle dishes at the table with a 'kreung brung' รขโ‚ฌโ€ a small seasoning container which contains a separate cup each of chili powder, vinegar (with pickled chilies), fish sauce (with yet more chilies) and sugar. You then season your noodles to your liking. I added vinegar to this recipe, to make it easier. Normally you wouldn't add vinegar in the wok, you would season at the table.



Peel apart the fresh noodles

Garlic & Chilies

Smash the garlic & chilies


Prepare the ingredients


Fry the garlic, chilies & pepper


Add the baby corns

Add the noodles

Add the noodles, and keep stirring


Add the sauces, sugar & basil

68 thoughts on “Drunken Noodles

  1. I thought it was called ‘Pad Kee Mao’ because the ‘Kee-Mao’ cooked it. That’s why he put a lot of chilies. But I think you’re right. It’s good a cure for a hangover ^^

  2. One of my favourite Thai food (even im not a kee mao myself….. eieie)
    .Love ur Version as well so Authentic!!!

  3. My waitress at a Thai restaurant told me the origin of the name (from Thai folklore): There was a woman whose husband always came home at night “kee mao” (see discription at top of page), and she would then feed him supper. She always cooked the same thing and he always complained about how bland it was. One night, she decided to give him what he wanted. She threw all kinds of spices in the dish, making it really hot. When her husband ate it, he proclaimed that he loved it! That’s the story.

  4. A Thai-born server at my favorite Thai place says that the name comes from the fact that in Thailand, the dish is eaten when one is inebriated, because the spiciness sobers you up. Sounds like more fun than black coffee.

  5. I am such a huge fan of Kee-mao at my local Thai restaurant, however, I am very bad with spice. Is this dish extremely spicey, and if so, how could I augment it to make it a bit more managable for myself?

    Also, could you add any other kind of vegeatbles you’d like; i.e onions, broccoli, carrots, etc? As that is what is in the Kee-mao I have had.

    Thanks for the responses ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Hi Austen,
      In the US (and probably elsewhere outside Thailand) Thai cooks substitute hard to find or expensive imported vegetables with common local veggies. Unfortunately, I think many times they don’t really think how these new vegetables play a part taste-wise with the dish. (see my bell pepper rant above!) ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think they think “Foreigners like these vegetables, let’s make Thai food with them, it’s cheaper and more easy for them to recognize”… But if you get a chance, check out what the staff eat. I have a Thai friend here in Bangkok who studied in England. She’d go in to Thai restaurants at staff mealtimes and eat with them because they were actually eating food cooked for Thai taste.

      I would say, leave out the broccoli for a try. See if you like it better. Try it with just a bit of meat or seafood, and just baby corns. Carrots are ok, the flavor won’t ruin the dish. If you want to try adding other veggies, see if you can get your hands on Chinese long beans. Those would be OK too.

      Also, if you’re bad with spice, no problem. Just add as much chili as you can take. This dish is supposed to be extremely spicy, yes. Just adjust the amount of chilies to your taste.

  6. I had Drunken noodle at my favorite Thai place and it was made with Thai Brandy.
    Had it at another place and it was incredible bland with just some spice. I like my Thai with a sauce. I must say even though it may not be authentic to use the brandy, it has become a favorite dish of mine! This recipe looks good and I am eager to try it!

  7. I always thought it was called “drunken noodles” because it is such a spicy dish that you will need quite a few drinks to beat the heat while you eat. Just an alternate take on it, I guess. Anyway, the recipe is awesome. I couldn’t find anything but regular basil, so I can’t wait to try it again with good stuff.

  8. I’m in VA and sometimes it’s hard to find fresh wide rice noodles so I use Linguine or Rotini instead and they always go well with other ingredient. I agree with you that I’ll not add much veggies in this dish, it’s ruin the taste. The must ingredients for me are garlics, basil leaves, chilli peppers, soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce. I sometimes throw dice onion and peper corn in it if I have, but not necessary. I don’t add sugar but I’ll add rice vinegar only if I cook it with rice noodle. I agree not to use bell pepper, but I’ll not recommend to use mexican pepper neither, they smell differently. I’d buy thai peppers or red peppers and freeze them in the fridge so I’ll always have them in hand when I want to use them. Make this menu in authentic taste and make it spicy, everyone will love them!

  9. What’s the serving size for this recipe? I loved this recipe, but I didn’t pay attention to how much fresh noodles I was using and it came out a bit dry. Can’t wait to try it again!

  10. I agree with the bell pepper rant totally. I’ve been searching for a good recipe for this dish on the internet, and most call for bell peppers and don’t call for the fresh peppercorns. Bell peppers don’t have any place in Asian dishes, IMHO. A few Chinese dishes call for them, such as the ubiquitous beef tomato, and you can find them in restaurants in China, but they add a flavor that is much more compatible with Mexican or Italian flavors. I’m heading to the Asian grocery store to get my noodles right now! Unfortunately, since it’s just a small “mom and pop” type store and they cater to Hmong/Laotian customers, I probably won’t find the fresh chow fun so I’ll have to get dried, and I probably won’t find the fresh peppercorns either. Oh well…thanks for the recipe. I grew up in a city where there were many Asian immigrants and restaurants, and now I live in a small Midwestern town, so I’m forced to cook my own noodle dishes to satisfy my cravings. This is a simple recipe, but very authentic.

  11. I am an american kid who grew up in Thailand in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Needless to say, I am hopelessly addicted to thai food. When I was a kid, I don’t remember this dish, but I absolutely love it today. I asked around during my last visit there about the origin and the consesus is that the dish was made by a Thai wife for her husband who would come home after drinking with the boys until late at night. She would scold him to eat his “Drunken Noodles” before he turned in.

  12. I love Pad Kee Mow. Been to Thailand loads but on the last visit we met some cool dudes from Bangkok and they introduced us to this dish – amazing! Luckily we can get all the fresh ingredients here in the UK so I’m making it for lunch today mmmmmmm

  13. I made this last night for dinner and my boyfriend and I both LOVED it! We rate it as restaurant-quality, something I’ve been struggling to achieve with my Thai home cooking. Pad Kee Mao is my favourite thing to order out; now I have lots less reason to buy it when I can make it this good at home! Thanks so much for the recipe, now I’ll have to make lots more for this site.

    However, I was a bit unsure about something. How many people is the recipe meant to feed?

  14. I absolutely LOVE this recipe. I had the dish at my favorite thai restaurant in L.A. and have been craving it ever since. I took your advice on not using bell peppers (although the restaurant did) and was forced to use jalepenos because I could not find small thai or orange chilies. But it still turned out GREAT!!! I made the recipe on Sunday and I am making it again tonight (Wednesday). :o)

    P.S. I also love your KraTiem Recipe

  15. Is this a recipe for one person? Or is it two servings? Or more? I’d like to experiment with recipes like this, but I’d also like to know about how much food I’ll end up with at the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. A Thai family hosted me during my trip to Thailand, and I asked about this dish. When asked why it’s called “Drunken Noodles” they gave me a different answer than any I have seen here.

    They said that because the dish is SO hot and spicy, the level of heat intensity causes the eater to feel drunk! Let me tell you…the Drunken Noodles dish I ate there were so freaking hot, I had a chance to see what they were talking about. Yow!

  17. For those asking serving size, 2 people.

    Here’s the basis: 1 lb uncooked pasta usually makes 4 servings, or feeds 6-8 as 2nd dish servings.

    So… this calls for 1/2 lb fresh (‘cooked’) noodles, therefore… 2 people as a main dish. Since the noodles are pre-cooked, the serving size will be slightly on the light side or as I say ‘Thai sized’. So, add some veggies, Thai ice tea (or increase the recipe).

    For dishes where meat is prominent (such as stir-fry over rice), you can estimate 6 oz meat per person with 1 cup rice. Americans seem a bit predisposed to large piles of meat over rice, but 6 oz still holds, but reduce your estimate to about 1/2 cup rice per person.

    All of this reheats just fine, though. Place it in a skillet with 2 to 3 Tablespoons water, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. This should reconstitute the noodles to the correct consistency. Add more water, depending on how much the noodles dried out while stored in the refrigerator. Same with using a microwave, noodles need a little water to be happy and get to the right consistency.

  18. I had a question about all the sauces. If we want to make it vegetarian (no fish sauce) what should we use? Also, what’s the difference between all the sauces (golden mountain soy vs. black soy vs. white soy)?

  19. Yes, can you please clarify what golden mountain soy is? I don’t see it in the ingredients glossary under sauces. Thanks!

  20. Yash –
    To make it vegetarian, leave out the fish sauce and use white soy sauce.

    In the ingredients list it should link directly to the glossary, but that feature is broken since the most recent upgrade to this site. I’m working on it now.. In the meantime, click on the glossary to learn more. ** edit: fixed now!

    Anna –
    Golden mountain is a brand of soy sauce. You can buy it at most Asian groceries.

  21. I love this recipe! When my fiance (then friend) and I made it the first time, he got so “kee mao” that he smooched me…and the rest is history. Instead of using vegetable oil, I used peanut oil. I also omit the baby corn and add roma tomatoes and sprouts. Also, I found a great drunken noodle marinade for chicken and I use that instead of tofu and slice it then. It tastes amazing!!

  22. I live in Lowell, MA. We have a huge Southeast Asian population in our city so the ingredients are easy to track down.

    This recipe elevated pad kee mao to new heights for me. It was already my favorite thing in the world to eat. Now I’m afraid I’ll never be satisfied ordering it from a menu again. I’ve made it every day for the last four days. Partly because I have a lot of noodles to use up, but mainly because I can’t stop thinking about this recipe.


    1. Hi Eric,

      I’m from Amherst, MA…. and went to school in Boston! Not too far away from you! I’m always surprised when I go home how easy it is to find ingredients. Many things are easier to find than in New York!

      Thanks for saying hello!

      – Cee

    1. Ada-

      I don’t see why not. It’s really most common here to use the wide rice noodles, and second most common to use cooked spaghetti. But you could try rice vermicelli and see how it goes. You may need more sauce & flavorings because those noodles will soak in the flavor more than other types of noodles.

      1. One of the restaurants that I like a lot makes their pad kee mao with vermicelli. As you might have expected, it tases the same. However, I miss the wide noodles so much when I order it that I tend to get the pho instead.

  23. Thank you for posting such a fantastic recipe! The instructions were very clear and easy to follow.

    This is my husband’s favorite dish to order at Thai restaurants, so I have been searching for a good recipe… the search is over! I made the dish, he raved and I was walking around the house like a superstar :). This recipe is a keeper!

  24. I’ve always heard that it’s called “Drunken Noodles” because it’s traditionally served so hot that it leaves one feeling drunk.

  25. I have to join the chorus. Just found your recipe today and it worked out extremely well. I’d have to differ with the estimate (made by a reader) that the recipe is 2 peoples-worth. I doubled it and it fed my wife and I. And we’re not the typical American eaters – we’ll often share just a single entree at dinner.

    The only frustration for me was that the noodles (refrigerated section of my local Chinese market) were very hard to peel. Took forever and they broke a lot. So that’s my next task – finding good noodles (or learning how to unwrap them more effectively).

    So – big thanks for the recipe!

    I’m a cartoonist and a spice lover – which of course led to a cartoon that you might relate to:


    1. Hi Crow,

      Refrigerating those wide rice noodles is what kills them and makes them brittle. In Thailand they are made fresh daily to be eaten that day and sold unrefrigerated, covered in oil to not stick. If you can’t find fresh noodles where you are, I recommend trying a dried rice noodle or spaghetti, or perhaps serving over rice instead.

      I was able to find fresh rice noodles in Chinatown NYC (in Cantonese they are called “chow fun”). The vendor there got to know me pretty well!

      Thanks for the link to the cartoon too! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Cee – I just made a breakthrough. Take the hard refrigerated noodles. Dunk ’em in water and then put them in the microwave. Microwave them the right amount and they become soft and pliable. Only small downside is they’re also hot so you need to let them cool. But it transforms the borderline unusable noodles into ones that are just about as good as fresh.
        Toonfuly yours,

        1. You beat me to it, Crow! I was just coming here to spread the microwave solution. I don’t even dunk them in water first.

          One word of caution…

          Once they are pliable again separating them is just like it is when they’re fresh. Except the microwave has made them piping hot.

  26. Hey where can I find wide rice noodles. Really want to make this dish with those noodles. Fyi: I live in NYC. I know I could find it out here. Any leads? Cheers and many thanks!

    1. Hi Kiki,

      You’re lucky – I used to live in NYC. Two places in Chinatown I can personally recommend:

      1) northeast corner of Grand & Bowery map

      2) Mott street between Bayard & Pell (the one that says “hot taho”) map

  27. This sounds fab, but how many does it serve? This is a fantastic site but I can’t seem to see anything re portion size?

  28. Major, major win. And I’m sharing it here. I just went to an awesomely good Thai/California fusion restaurant and got motivated to whip up some pad kee mao. And I used my previously mentioned microwave trick to make refrigerated noodles into fresh. But it took my wife an age to separate them. So as and experiment I put some in water and left them for 4 hours. Nothing – no change.
    But then I thought – why not combine the idea of the microwave and the water with – gasp – boiling water. I.e. treat them like dry pasta. So I just did. Boiled the water and added the hard, unappetizing refrigerated noodles. And within a few second not only did they morph into “fresh” noodles but they unstuck themselves (with a little agitation from a fork). So the ridiculously time intensive separating process might be a thing of the past. Can’t be sure since I only had a small quantity to play with. But next meal I’m putting the whole slab into the boiling water. If my hunch is correct, it’s a new stage in “making fresh rice noodles from the refrigerated crummy stuff.”

    I’m thinking it’s a whole new chapter in Thai noodle cookery.

    Toonfully yours,


  29. Where can I find wide rice noodles for purchase online? I live in the Seattle area and have looked at several large Asian market, but they only carry the standard rice noodles for Pad Thai. I’d really prefer some Drunken Noodles to try this recipe.

    Please help me! Thanks!

    1. Most good size Asian markets in Chinatown carry the rice noodles. I usually buy the uncut type and cut the width according to my own liking. In fact, there’s even a rice noodles factory located in Chinatown. Ranch 99 should also have it.

        1. Oh no. Ranch 99 definitely carries them. At least those near me. They have packs of fresh noodles in the refrigerated section (under different names) and these are going to be ones you need to reconstitute by microwaving to soften them. And they also have packs of different sizes (labeled in a variety of ways but they’re all just rice noodles) in the vegetable section (for my store down at the end of the section, opposite from the herbs). They’re stacked on a free-standing display. That’s where the truly fresh, ready to use ones are.

          1. Which Ranch 99 are you referring to? I live near the one on Aurora in Seattle. I’ve seen the cold noodles, but they weren’t wide at all.

            If you can find a picture online I’d really appreciate it!

  30. Tired this recipe twice. Just as good if not better than the Thai restaurant that we eat at. My only advice be patient with the noodles.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this awesome recipe.

  31. I am excited to try this recipe tonight! I am vegan, so my version will be veganized. I am going to an Asian Supermarket for the first time ever to try to find some of the ingredients. Plus, I will be adding a lot of green and red peppers, mushrooms, and onions, because I LOVE veggies and I have accepted my American ways =)

  32. I am in Thailand right now and I just made this recipe for myself. One of the best dishes I have had here so far. Good work!!

  33. I’m really enjoying your website! Thanks for posting all these great, authentic recipes. My mom is Thai so I can cook some thai dishes but it’s fun to learn new ones. I made the pad kee mao recipe – arroy jung! I used spaghetti noodles and it turned out so good. I’m a fan!

    1. If you make this as a main course, it’ll feed at least one, possibly two.

      When I make it for myself, I eat the whole dish.

    1. I recommend trying with spaghetti… Dried rice noodles would be okay, but spaghetti may be tastier. If you do go the dried rice noodles route, soak in only cold water, never hot or warm.

  34. Not bad. I had to go to an asian market to find some of the ingredients. Couldn’t find the orange chilis but it works without it. Also, the rice noodles are actually called rice flakes, I don’t think you can find them at a regular grocery store.

  35. Love this dish! The name makes perfect sense!!! Where i live in sydney there is an amazing rock venue called the Annandale Hotel….it only fits like 300 people, is run down like hell, and has a tiny eatery attached to it who serve drunken noodles. We go, we eat, we drink LOTS and then go into the venue and watch a rock show!! Its awesome! Easily my fav dish EVER!!

  36. I love wide drunken noodles. I live in Richmond, VA and could not find wide rice noodles either fresh or dried or not even frozen. Can anyone suggest where I can find these kind of noodles in Richmond ,VA area.

  37. Your recipe sounds great. I regularly get kee mao at a small Thai restaurant here in southern California. It tastes wonderful even though they use bell peppers. There are plenty of large Asian markets nearby, but even so I have not been able to find some of the specialized soy sauces you mentioned. Also there seems to be quite a variation in the dish. I had pad kee mao in a restaurant in Seattle about a year ago and it was like eating a completely different dish.

  38. Just tried this recipe! It’s been the best at home recipe that we’ve had so far! We’re definitely going to stick with this,

  39. While working a contract in Thailand, the maid told me that Pad Kee Mau AKA explained perfectly above, was what Thai People had at night when they got home from the bar. Drunk of course and threw all the leftovers in the fridge, regardless of what it was…. into the dish with noodles. Traditionally it is never the same…. But I say if it’s good… do it again,

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