05 April 2010

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

based off of this recipe

I absolutely love Drunken Noodles (spicy basil Thai noodles). When I go out for Thai, this is the only thing I ever order. I know a lot of people don't like Thai food because they don't like either lemongrass or cilantro (these people are clearly crazy), but this recipe has neither! I went looking for a recipe and surprisingly, I couldn't find many and quite a few of the ones I found had really bad comments. This recipe looked pretty good. Annnnnd it WAS. It was exactly what I wanted it to taste like, exactly what it tastes like in restaurants!

Pad Kee Mao translated means literally "shit drunk stir-fry." I couldn't find a real explanation for the name but the general consensus on the internet is that it's really spicy so you have to drink a lot to cool your mouth! I put a lot of chilis in the recipe because I like my food hot. Whenever I order food, I always ask for it "very spicy" but servers see my pasty face and give me "hot for white people, mild for Asians." Making it myself, I got to make it so spicy! The recipe called for 1 Tbsp smashed chilis. I didn't really know what that would equal, but I used 12 small red Thai chilis, with seeds (these chilis are super small and wouldn't be worth seeding even if you wanted to). You could absolutely use less, or even more. The spice level was perfect for what I wanted, though I did drink almost 2 liters of water with one bowl of noodles... Cooking the chilis released a lot of capsaisin (or something) into the air and my roommates and I coughed a lot. So make sure to open the windows! And turn the hood on if you have one (we don't).

Some notes about the ingredients... A few of the recipes called for "Golden Mountain" sauce. This is apparently a flavored soy sauce and there is no substitute for it. I went to the Asian market and had to ask an employee to find it for me, but they had it! A lot of the recipes called for "black" soy sauce. I think this is technically different than regular old Japanese soy sauce (what you probably think of when someone says "soy sauce") but I didn't feel like buying it, so I used regular soy sauce. And, sorry vegetarians, this really needs oyster and fish sauces. I think there are vegetarian versions of those sauces, but I am a mere pescatarian so I used the real thing. I can't speak for veg versions. (Also, if you order this dish at a Thai restaurant, I would be willing to bet they used oyster and/or fish sauces even if you order it without pieces of meat in the dish! Ask if you aren't sure!) Finally, most recipes called specifically for Thai basil. But I didn't feel like looking for it, and I had a ton of Italian basil. This tasted perfectly fine to me! I suppose a more discerning palate might know the difference, but I wouldn't worry too much if you can't find Thai basil.

This took me an hour to prep and cook, from beginning to end. The actual cooking only takes about 15 minutes, but you want to have everything ready to go, measured, chopped, ready to be dumped in.

vegetable oil
8 oz. dry wide rice noodles
1 lb. tofu (or chicken or shrimp or pork or any combination), cut into 1/2" x 2" blocks
8 cloves garlic
thai chilis, the recipe called for 1 Tbsp, I used 12 chilis and this was HOT, judge quantity based on your spice preference
vegetables (I used 1 tomato, 2 stalks of celery, 1 cup of broccoli and 1 head of baby bok choy, but you can use whatever! I think you should have a total of 3-4 cups of veggies)
1.5 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tsp Golden Mountain sauce
2 Tbsp white sugar (possibly +/- 1 Tbsp)
1 large handful (~1/2 cup) basil (Thai or Italian), chopped into thin slices but not minced
splash rice vinegar
fresh ground pepper

1. Cook the rice noodles. The proper way is to soak them in cool water for an hour (or more) until they become soft and opaque. But I am lazy and boiled them instead. It's hard to overcook rice noodles. Make sure to rinse in cold water or they will get sticky.
2. Cook the tofu (or meat). You can dry fry if you'd like! I fried it in oil, which is basically exactly the same method as the dry fry, but I used olive oil. Make sure to drain out most of the water in the tofu before cooking!
3. Mince the garlic and chili peppers in a blender/food processor or by hand. You want the pieces to be just a few millimeters, but it shouldn't be paste.
4. Measure out the soy, Golden Mountain, fish, and oyster sauces into a small bowl.
5. Chop your veggies to desired size. I cut the tomato in quarters and then made wedges, cut the celery into 1/2 inch slices, cut the broccoli into 2 inch pieces, and left most of the bok choy leaves whole but cut the largest ones in half lengthwise. Put these in bowls according to how long they should cook. I put the celery and broccoli in one bowl and the bok choy and tomatoes in another.
6. Measure the sugar in a small bowl. Keep some extra ready in case you want it!
7. Chop the basil and put that in a bowl.
8. Have the rice vinegar and pepper on hand and fill a small bowl with water so you can add it to the wok as needed.

1. Heat 2-3 Tbsp oil in the largest skillet or wok you have.
2. Once it is hot and thin, put in the chopped garlic and chili. Stir constantly until garlic starts to turn brown. Remember, the air is going to get spicy!! Turn on the hood and open some windows and keep a glass of water on hand. Try not to cough into your food.
3. Stir in the veggies. Add ones that take more time to cook first, cook for a minute or two, then add the others. If the pan is getting dry, pour in water, a small bit at a time. You don't want things to get mushy, but you don't want them to burn either!
4. Stir in the tofu.
5. Stir in the noodles. Again, you might need to add some water to make things not stick, but use sparingly!
6. Cook 1-2 minutes or until everything is evenly coated.
7. Stir in the sauces. Add the sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time and taste. I prefer this dish sweeter, so I added about 2 Tbsp. The original recipe only called for 2 tsp. Also, the hotter it is, I would imagine the more sugar you will need for that flavor to come through.
8. Once everything is coated, add the basil, a splash of rice vinegar and a few grinds of pepper.
9. Cook, stirring, until the basil is wilted.
10. Serve and enjoy! Garnish with mungbean sprouts if you so desire.

no photos, sorry! my kitchen is TINY and I had too much going on to try and take a photo!

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