Drunken Noodles is a dish I always order in a Thai restaurant. Tara Thai, that venerable Thai place in Richmond’s Short Pump Mall makes a very good one, and I have been eating their version since way back when I was a carnivore. I just love Thai food but I find that it is easier to enjoy it when I cook it at home.
I used to think that they used some sort of alcohol in the noodles and that’s why they were called ‘drunken’. Then I thought they were called thus because they were soaked in sauce. But the actual story turned out to be different. Roughly translated, Kee Mao means drunkard. So these are actually ‘drunkard’s noodles’, made for people who have imbibed some, or maybe a lot. We all know our taste buds are dulled when we partake of the vino, and hence bar food is always over salted and over spiced because the patrons prefer it like that.
So Pad Kee Mao is strongly spiced and is heavy on salt and chili to cater to drunkard’s taste buds. Over a period of time, ‘drunkard’s noodles’ became drunken noodles. And the world got a lip smacking, tongue tingling spicy noodle dish.
My recipe for drunken noodles is vegan. I will not lie to you. Fish sauce is big in Thai cooking, and it does make a difference in taste. It is very hard to get the umami flavors without using fish sauce or shrimp paste. If you find Thai dishes exotic and can’t have enough of them, it is probably the fish sauce that gives them the WOW factor. Thankfully, vegan alternatives to fish sauce are available on the market.
If you are omitting fish sauce due to allergies of some kind, make sure to check the ingredients of the vegan fish sauce. They might be made of something else you are allergic to. And it is always better to play it safe!
Now we come to the noodles. Drunken noodles are made with flat, wide rice noodles. And yes, they are probably really great with this recipe. I did not have any this time so I used linguine. And it was fine, really. Linguini is very versatile that way and I love using it for veggie Lo Mein too. So use any kind of rice noodles if you have them. Otherwise use your regular Barilla pasta. Or whatever brand floats your boat.
I made a full batch of these using the whole 1 pound or 500g packet of noodles. This gave almost 6-8 very large servings. I can really eat those noodles, ya! I don’t skimp on my noodles, no sir!
This drunken noodles recipe uses loads of vegetables and tofu, and the most important ingredient here is my favorite Kikkoman sauce. Many recipes on the web ask for sweet soy sauce and oyster sauce. Unless you have a full Asian sauces pantry, you probably don’t have these. But I have provided some simple alternatives that will get you very close to authentic Thai taste and have you salivating for more.
Fresh basil is another important part of drunken noodles. Get the Thai Basil if possible, otherwise just go with any kind of fresh basil.
Make the sauce and cut the veggies, then saute them while the noodles cook.
Drunken Noodles Recipe
Drunken Noodles or Pad Kee Mao are Thai noodles that are sweet, spicy and bursting with flavor. Vegan recipe of drunken noodles uses no fish or shrimp.
- 500g linguini
- 8 oz extra firm tofu
- 2 carrots
- 1 red bell pepper
- 10 mushrooms
- 1 medium onion
- 8 green beans
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- ½ cup packed basil leaves
- 1 tsp (vegan) fish sauce (optional)
- ¾ cup Kikkoman soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp tamari or dark soy sauce
- 4 Tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 4 dry red chillies
- Salt to taste
- 1.5 cups water
- 2 drops toasted sesame oil
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- Peel the carrots. Chop or slice all vegetables in similar size and shape. Cut broccoli into small florets.
- Rinse and drain the tofu and set aside.
- Grate fresh ginger and chop or mince garlic.
- Mix sauce ingredients together. Finely snip or chop red chillies. Bring to a boil until sugar dissolves and set aside.
- Fill pasta pot with water and set to boil. After water boils, add salt and a dash of oil. Add the linguini and cook al dente to package instructions.
- Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add the carrots first and then the ginger garlic. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release some moisture.
- Add the pepper and cubes of tofu.
- Add tomatoes and mix them in.
- Add a ladle or two of sauce and stir on high heat until veggies are slightly softened. Do not add broccoli at this time.
- Add the chopped basil and mix it in. Switch off heat.
- After noodles are drained, add them back to pasta pot.
- Mix in the vegetable sauté and all the sauce.
- Cover on medium heat and let the noodles cook for 2 minutes so that sauce is absorbed. Continue tossing the noodles lightly until they are all well coated with the sauce.
- Switch off heat and serve after a few minutes. This will allow noodles to soak up more sauce.
- Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime.
Use any dry red chili available. You can use Thai chilies or even local ones. I used a dry Guntur chili which is moderately hot. Other Indian varieties are the Sankeshwari which is very hot and the Byadgi or Kashmiri which are milder but give good color.
So mark this one for the next time you are craving some hot Thai food or have a carb attack!