Chef John's Drunken Noodles


I did have a drink or three while making these, so I could enjoy them as the food gods intended, which is slightly drunk. At least that's the main theory on how this dish got its name. The other theory is that it got its name because at one point it was made with wine — but that's not as entertaining! Serve garnished with Thai basil and lime, if desired.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Additional Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
40 mins

I always love it when there's some sort of controversy regarding the origins of a recipe's name, and this amazing Drunken Noodles dish fits the bill. One theory is that this spicy, sweet, and very savory bowl of noodles was invented by drunk people, for drunk people. As someone who has enjoyed the occasional late night bowl of noodles to "soak up the alcohol," this origin story makes a lot of sense. It might be unscientific, but it does seem to help.

The other story, which isn't nearly as interesting, theorizes that at one time wine was used in the sauce. I mean, that's barely a story. And if that were the case, why did they stop using wine? So, I'm team drunk customer, although it's most likely to be a combination of the two. The good news is, none of this matters, since regardless of how "Pad Kee Mao" got its name, it is one of the easiest, and most delicious noodle dishes I know.

The big key here is to properly prep the rice noodles. No matter what size or thickness you're using, simply soak them in hot water until very flexible, but not soft. Do not use boiling water as many recipes suggest. I find that makes them soften too quickly, and they tend to get sticky and starchy, which I don't want happening until they're in the sauce. By the way, you can use any noodle or pasta with this sauce, and the results will still be incredible. So, no matter what you use, I really hope you give this a try soon!

a colorful bowl of wide rice noodles with chicken and vegetables
Pad Kee Mao. Chef John


  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles

  • ¼ cup oyster sauce

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cold water

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 cup shallots, thinly sliced

  • 6 teaspoons chile padi (bird's eye chiles), thinly sliced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips (Optional)

  • 1 pound Chinese broccoli, sliced (Optional)

  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves


  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Chef John's Drunken Noodles Recipe.


  2. Soak rice noodles in hot water until flexible, 10 to 15 minutes. Occasionally move the noodles around to separate them. Drain the water and cover with a wet paper towel.

    Rice noodles soaking in glass bowl with water.


  3. Combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, Asian fish sauce, maple syrup, sugar, and water in a small bowl.

    Oyster sauce, soy sauce, Asian fish sauce, maple syrup, sugar, and water in a small bowl.


  4. Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok, or large frying pan, over medium-high heat. Stir-fry shallots, chile peppers, and garlic until shallots are soft, about 2 minutes. Move the mixture around the outside of the pan to create a space and add chicken. Sear for 1 minute, then combine with shallot mixture.

    Vegetables and sliced chicken breasts in a wok.


  5. Add Chinese broccoli stems and stir-fry until tender, about 2 minutes.

    Vegetables and sliced chicken in a wok.


  6. Add Chinese broccoli leaves and stir-fry until wilted.

    Vegetables and sliced chicken in a wok.


  7. Add drunken noodle sauce and sliced green onions and mix. Cook until sauce begins to simmer.

    Vegetables, sliced chicken, and sauce simmering in a wok.


  8. Add soaked rice noodles and toss to coat until noodles have absorbed the sauce and are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

    Noodles mixed with vegetables, sliced chicken, and drunken noodle sauce in a wok.


  9. Stir in Thai basil leaves until wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.

    a colorful bowl of wide rice noodles with chicken and vegetables
    Pad Kee Mao. Chef John

    Chef's Notes:

    Any noodle or pasta can be used. Any hot pepper will work, or you can use sweet pepper and make up the difference with red pepper flakes.

    Regular basil will work, but Thai basil is preferred.

    Soaking and cooking time will depend on size/type of noodle.

    Any meat or vegetable will work, as long as it's cut thin, or pre-cooked.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

341 Calories
9g Fat
61g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 341
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Sodium 1393mg 61%
Total Carbohydrate 61g 22%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 5g
Potassium 268mg 6%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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