Kee mao is a noun (not adjective) in Thai language that translates to drunk or drunkard. Prepended with pad or pat, which means stir-fried, the full title of this dish translates to drunk stir fry or drunkard's stir fry. Somewhere along the road "drunken noodles" becomes the accepted translation and the name stuck.
The meaning of the name is typically interpreted in one of two ways. The most popular narrative indicates the stir fry was created to accommodate the appetites of drunken revelers craving spicy food. Another explanation is pat kee mao is a dish comprised of what a hungry drunk person may throw into a wok based on what's available.
Astute readers will have correctly noticed no mention of noodles thus far. That is because pad kee mao does not necessarily contain noodles. Tack kway teow (rice noodles) onto the front of the title, however, and you have a drunkard's stir fry with noodles as the main ingredient.
You need only do a Google image search for ผัดขี้เมา to get an idea of how varied pad kee mao can be (also note how popular spaghetti noodles are). Nevertheless, beyond Thailand's borders it's reasonable to expect an order of pat kee mao to arrive as a plate of stir fried sen yai (hor fun) noodles.
Kway Tiao Pat Kee Mao (Vegan Drunken Noodles)
- 250 grams fresh rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon Thai light/thin soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Thai seasoning sauce
- 1 teaspoon vegan oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sweet dark soy sauce or kecap manis
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1-3 bird’s eye chillies roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- ½ medium sized onion cut into 2-3 cm wedges
- ½ cup protein of choice tofu or mock pork are great
- A few cherry tomatoes optional
- Green peppercorns optional
- Handful of holy basil
- Seperate the noodles. If they have been refrigerated, steam them in a bowl for a few minutes until soft enough to separate.
- In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, seasoning sauce, sweet soy sauce, and sugar.
- Heat a wok to high heat. Add the oil. As soon as it smokes, add the garlic and chilli. Stir fry about 15-20 seconds, until garlic begins to brown. Add the onions and stir fry for thirty seconds before adding the protein and stir frying for another minute.
- Add the noodles, sauce, tomatoes, and green peppercorns, stir frying to coat every strand of noodle. Leave to cook for a minute or two, allowing the noodles to absorb the sauce. Flip and cook for another minute or two.
- Turn off the heat and add the holy basil, quickly stirring to wilt. Serve immediately with chilli vinegar.