Courageous Kitchen’s special of the month is pad kee mow drunken noodles! This is a personal favorite of our team and popular with many of our guests. Today we take a deep dive into many of the questions you ask about this dish, providing you with our tried and true recipe below!

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Why do they call them drunken noodles?

Pad kee mow noodles are the quintessential Thai hangover food. The words ‘kee mow’ are a reference to someone who is regularly drunk. This dish is literally, a drunk’s stir fry, and if you’d ever had the full face numbing heat of the Thai version, you know exactly why.

You only need to decide if the drunkenness the dish’s name refers to is because of it’s hangover killing properties, or the magical stir fry sauce that coats and colors the noodles and meat so well. 

What’s the difference between pad kee mow and pad see ew?

While they are cooked similarly, the main difference between these two dishes is the spiciness from the added herbal ingredients. You can find our pad see ew recipe included in our Courageous Recipe Magazine.

In fact, the two dishes are so similar, that we refer to them as brother or sister dishes. Many of their commonalities are likely because both share Chinese origins, developed in woks of Chinese migrants to Thailand. Compared to the milder see ew, the version of kee mow that Thais know and love was born in a Chinese wok, but has all the fiery heat required to make the dish distinctly Thai.

In western Thai restaurants these dishes are adapted for local tastes and may be sweeter, and less spicy than what you find in Thailand. So when guests in our Bangkok cooking class request pad see ew, but mention loving spicy food— we usually try to catch it in time to upgrade their order to pad kee mow. We love teaching people to make an authentic version, because it seems to take guest’s existing romance with the dish to a whole new level. 

While the same stir fry sauce can be used for both dishes, pad see ew‘s signature egg is swapped out and the chinese kale (aka gai lan, a sturdier and less leafy bok choy) is down played. Instead, you find yourself in a love hate relationship with the intensity of young peppercorn, kaffir lime leaves, and the little known ‘krachai‘ root (aka fingerroot, more on this below). Those ingredients are enough to numb your face, while the chili included in the recipe serves to burn down the rest of the house. Contrarily, no fresh chili is usually included in pad see ew.

thai cooking class bkk-1

I tried making this and ordering it in restaurants, why isn’t it nearly as good as the version I’ve enjoyed in Bangkok?

First off, it’s tough to compete with the aunties and uncles slinging this dish in the streets of Bangkok. While you can grab a plate out of any made to order stall, the best shops making it are the ones who specialize in only a few dishes. Secondly, the mix of somewhat obscure ingredients can make this dish difficult to replicate abroad. Finally, there are a few small details about the dish vendors here you may have overlooked including:

  • The use of freshly made sen yai or wide rice noodles
  • Marinating the meats overnight
  • MSG
  • Flash frying the noodles over high pressure gas burners or charcoal for a smoky flavor

While we hope the recipe below can help cure your craving, we should all just admit that short of importing a Thai chef and a fireman, there will always be someway to improve the homemade version of pad kee mow.

What is the gnarly brown root used in authentic pad kee mow recipes? Can I use ginger as a substitute?

Foodies more familiar with Thai food, won’t be surprised that the use of a strange looking and little-known root is crucial. The krachai root, was previously known as Chinese ginger, but today is better known by English speakers as fingerroot. 

The skinny finger-like structure of the root from which the name originates, can make it difficult to peel. This is why we’re always impressed to see the love for this dish on display in the form of pre-made kee mow kits in our local market. This special little package significantly reduces your prep time, and while you can’t find it in the west, in Thailand’s markets the kit usually sells for less than a dollar.

Do I have to add sweet basil to the dish?

We strongly recommend you adding a Thai sweet basil (called horapa in Thai) if you can find it. We are encouraged to see more varieties of basil available in the US each year as demand grows. Unlike the more peppery Thai holy basil, this basil is fragrant, gently countering the intensity of the other ingredients. In Thailand many of your favorite curries are similarly complimented with a healthy handful of these delicious leaves.

Pad Kee Mow Ingredients

Portion: 3-4 people

  • 600g Fresh or Pre-Soaked Rice Noodles 
  • 150g of Chicken
  • 4-5 Chopped Chinese Kale Leaves
  • 2-3 Fresh Peppercorn Stems
  • 40g Fingerroot
  • 1 Large and Mild Red Chili (Serrano or similar)
  • 50g or 1 Handful of Thai Sweet Basil
  • 2 Sliced Jinda Chilies (Thai bird’s eye chilies can substitute)

Pad Kee Mow Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 tsp of Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp of Fish Sauce
  • 3 tbsp of Oyster Sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp of Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp of Palm Sugar

Pad Kee Mow Instructions

  1. Drizzle dark soy sauce on your noodles and mix evenly.
  2. Blanch kale and rest aside. 
  3. Mix stir fry seasoning in a small bowl, mince your garlic, and rest both near your stir fry station.
  4. On medium heat add your cooking oil, and when it’s hot, follow it with your garlic. 
  5. Add chicken to the wok and stir until cooked.
  6. Add kale, dark soy sauce coated noodles, and stir vigorously to prevent noodles from clumping.
  7. Add your fresh peppercorn, fingerroot, and chili.  
  8. To finish add your Thai sweet basil just before removing from heat. 
  9. Plate your noodles and garnish with a few large slices of chili, fresh sweet basil on top, and a lime for your guests to squeeze nearby.

Happy Cooking and if you enjoyed this recipe, make a donation to help us create our own cook book in 2019!


Dwight is director of Courageous Kitchen and a long term expat living in Bangkok, Thailand. A Thai speaker and astute lover of food, he enjoys teaching cooking, and using his passion for food to transform communities.