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Drunken Noodles | Pad Kee Mao | ผัดขี้เมา

Last weekend, the boyfriend and I decided to check out some Thai grocery stores that we’d heard about across town.  We drove from one store to the next, excitedly finding all kinds of things that we can’t normally find closer to home, such as Thai holy basil (bai krapow/ใบกะเพรา).  Upon spotting this revered herb, I knew I would be spending the rest of the weekend perfecting recipes for drunken noodles (pad kee mao/ผัดขี้เมา) and stir fried chicken with holy basil (gai pad krapow/ผัดกระเพรา), two dishes whose star ingredient is holy basil.  

Holy basil is quite different from the regular Thai basil that has sweet leaves and purple stems.  Holy basil has green, fuzzy stems with soft, jagged-edged leaves.  It’s quite fragile and will wilt quicker than Thai basil if its stems aren’t in water.  The taste of holy basil is also very unique – somewhere between basil and mint with a really strong pepper flavor.

It’s this peppery flavor that makes holy basil work so well in drunken noodles.  These noodles are somewhat similar to pad see ew except that they’re much much spicier – so spicy, in fact, some say, it’s the perfect dish to eat when you’re drunk (this is just one of multiple theories on the origin of this dish’s name – who knows which one is correct).  The spice of drunken noodles comes from Thai chili peppers, red jalapeno peppers, and young green peppercorns.  The peppery flavor of the holy basil works well to mirror and enhance these flavors.

The first time I made drunken noodles, I used three Thai chili peppers and I would definitely classify that dish as “Thai hot”.  I managed to finish my plate, but it wasn’t without a few drops of sweat.  How did the boyfriend fare, you ask?  Well, I’d rather not embarrass him on this blog… (just kidding, he’s Thai, after all, of course he did fine!)  

My second attempt with two chili peppers was much more tolerable and what I’d recommend starting with if you’re unsure of your spice tolerance.  And after figuring out your prefered level of spiciness, it’s really quite simple to cook.  If you can make pad see ew, you’ll be a pro at making these drunken noodles!


Drunken Noodles | Pad Kee Mao | ผัดขี้เมา

Makes 2 servings

Drunken Noodles | Pad Kee Mao | ผัดขี้เมา


  • 8 ounces fresh wide rice noodles
  • 4-8 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Thai chili peppers
  • 1 cup Thai holy basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons young green peppercorns
  • 1 cup chicken
  • 1/2 cup baby corn
  • 1 red jalapeno pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar


  1. Prepare your vegetables. Chop the garlic and chilis very finely. Cut the baby corn into bite-sized pieces. Slice the jalapeno thinly on the diagonal. Remove the holy basil leaves from the stems.
  2. Prepare your sauce by mixing the sweet dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, thin soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar together.
  3. Prepare your chicken by slicing into thin pieces and blanching until cooked. Loosen your rice noodles by blanching for just a second or two and separate them gently with your fingers, if needed.
  4. Heat a few teaspoons of oil over high heat. Add the chilis and garlic and stirfry until golden brown.
  5. Then add the rice noodles. Stir fry together for a minute and then add the sauce mixture you prepared earlier and stir fry a little longer.
  6. Add the chicken, baby corn, jalapeno peppers, and peppercorns and cook for a minute or two longer.
  7. Then add the holy basil and cook just until wilted. Take off heat and serve immediately!

Recipe inspired by SheSimmers.com and RealThaiRecipes.com

30 comments… add one
  • Aparna October 16, 2015, 4:27 pm

    I know this is much later than your post, but I stumbled upon your blog post as I was looking for the difference between pad see ew and pad kee mao. I had no idea about holy basil being different, but now that i see the picture on your blog, just a bit of trivia – In India, we call this Tulsi, and it is considered a holy plant by a lot of Hindus. Its leaves are used in worship and it is not to be disrespected. Traditionally, Indian women would plan this herb in a pot the moment they get to a new home. To me, I know this as the plant to look for whenever anyone has a cold -Tusi leaves with warm honey helps relieve colds. I knew Tulsi and basil are somewhat related, but thank you for bringing them together :).

  • Dylan February 1, 2014, 11:47 pm

    I couldn’t find holy basil, so I used Thai basil and the recipe still turned out amazing. Thanks!

    • Rachel February 2, 2014, 3:10 am

      Thanks, Dylan! Glad to hear it.

  • Trevor June 2, 2013, 9:04 pm

    I have been trying to find a recipe for Pad Kee Mao for a while, but it never turned out nearly as good as in Thai restaurants. This is definitely the best it has ever turned out for me! I found the sauce slightly thicker and sweeter than my favorite restaurant, but I think I liked this even better.

    • Rachel June 2, 2013, 9:10 pm

      Awesome! Glad to hear, Trevor.

  • Bill B. February 1, 2013, 9:15 pm

    Only one ingredient in your list told me that this was an authentic Thai recipe. And no, it wasn’t the difference between Thai Basil and Holy Basil (though highly helpful and rarely found on other sites). No, not even the use of green peppercorns. Both are great recommendations. What makes this recipe more authentic than most others I’ve found on the internet is the use of vinegar! It’s one of the unique differences that makes this dish different from Pad See Ew. It’s what gives this dish its’ distinctive tang or bite. I am half-Thai and spent my childhood growing up in Thailand eating this wonderful dish. Thank you for the recipe. I was told by my Thai mother that this dish was named because it is a combination of a LOT of ingredients (not unlike rummaging through your fridge at 2:00 AM looking for something to eat and throwing a little of everything into the mix). You’ve inspired me to make this dish for dinner tonight.

  • Christine September 17, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Thanks for making my “OK” Drunken Noodles AMAZING!! My guests were raving!! Love your blog. Can’t wait to tackle Pad Thai next– if I dare!!

    • Rachel September 18, 2012, 1:38 am

      So glad you liked it, Christine!

  • Rachel July 19, 2012, 6:46 pm

    Hi Ashby! I’m not so sure about mature peppercorns… I’d probably skip them or substitute bell pepper strips instead.

  • Eatingpuertorico.wordpress.com July 19, 2012, 3:22 pm

    making this tonight! looks great! i couldnt find young green peppercorns, though–only mature ones…should i still use them? thanks!

  • Rachel July 3, 2012, 8:12 am

    Thanks Terry! I’m hoping my holy basil will survive the winter like yours!

  • Terry Harikul June 24, 2012, 4:29 pm

    Thanks Rachel. Your recipes are really great and are easy to follow. Best of all the results are very authentic. I am Thai so I know. I live in Southern California about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. I am able to grow the holy basil in my back yard from seeds last year. They all servive last winter. I wish I could give some to all these people.

  • Raven May 13, 2012, 6:35 pm

    What a beautiful dish. I usually use a few different ingredients when I make my drunken noodles: http://www.cookeatdelicious.com/pasta-recipes/thai-drunken-noodles-recipe.html
    Hope to try this for dinner this week. Thanks!

  • XL @ 6 Bittersweets April 5, 2012, 6:14 pm

    I just made this with quite a few substitutes (I had to use Thai basil…I know…but it was still so delicious!). I used fewer cloves of garlic but my cloves were pretty large. I know this is totally inauthentic but I also added a splash of Chinese cooking wine at the very end and it was a nice twist. Thanks for posting this recipe! I’ll definitely make this again.

  • Rachel March 26, 2012, 10:03 pm

    Hi Kay – I’ve seen some restaurants use bell peppers instead of the peppercorns. This tastes great too, but definitely gives a different flavor than the peppercorns.

  • Kay March 24, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Hi Rachel, what is your recommendation for substituting the fresh peppercorn. can’t find them anywhere where i live!

  • Rachel March 14, 2012, 10:27 pm

    Hi Olivia, thanks for your comment! I’d say the flavor is right in between pad see ew (noodles stir fried with soy sauce) and pad grapow (dish stir fried with holy basil). In any case, it’s delicious :)

  • Olivia (Mostly) Happy Homemaker March 13, 2012, 12:00 pm

    Hi Rachel! I just found your blog while searching for a recipe for drunken noodles. I love Thai food but have never attempted to make it myself. Yet! Your pretty pictures and recipes make me think maybe I can give it a try! Is the sauce for drunken noodles the same flavor as what you would get on a thai basil dish?

  • Rachel February 23, 2012, 7:11 pm

    Hi Laura, distilled white vinegar is the best. Good luck!

  • Laura K February 22, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Hello – I can’t wait to try this. What type of vinegar do you reccomend using?

  • Rachel January 4, 2012, 5:34 pm

    Thanks, Beck! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Beck January 4, 2012, 2:08 pm

    This was totally delicious Rachel! I had to use regular Thai basil but other than that followed the recipe exactly. The flavour was beautifully balanced and we scoffed our bowls of this in shamefully record time – thank you so much for posting your recipe!

  • Rachel August 9, 2011, 8:41 pm

    Khun Pom –
    I do get inspiration from several different Thai blogs to make dishes that are as authentic as possible, but my words are my own. Some of my current favorites are ChezPim, ThaiTable, SheSimmers, RealThaiRecipes, and ImportFoods. My boyfriend also kindly translates recipes from several Thai websites for me.
    Since I’m not Thai, I find that I have to do a lot of researching and learning from others to recreate good Thai food. I try to pass along the best of what I learn on this blog in hopes that others will find it useful.

  • khunpom127 August 9, 2011, 9:57 am

    Great dish although I have to say it’s getting clearer and clearer to me every day which blog you’ve gotten your inspiration and words from. I know because I’m a fan, too.

  • Rachel August 8, 2011, 10:24 pm

    Love the saying, Fiona… I was fortunate enough to find both the holy basil and the green peppercorns in one stop, but I know it’s not so easy for a lot of people. The good thing about the peppercorns is that the jar lasts for a long time – I’ve made countless drunken noodles and still have 3/4 of the jar left!

  • fiona August 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

    amazing that you’re able to find all the ingredients! i always have problems finding the green peppercorns. just not the same without them, much better flavor – that slight numbness.
    not spicy, not sour, not delicious – as the thais said :)

  • Rachel August 8, 2011, 7:21 am

    Thanks, Peachie – let me know how things turn out for you!
    Stella – I’m so jealous that you have holy basil in the garden! I was hoping that some of mine from the market would sprout so I could plant it, but no luck this time.
    Thanks for the feedback Jessamin! Since starting to cook Thai food, I’ve been amazed at how easy and accessible many of the dishes really are – it’s just a matter of having a good recipe and stocking your pantry with a few good essential ingredients…

  • Jessamin August 7, 2011, 3:33 pm

    I made this tonight after stumbling onto your blog from Tastespotting. It was delicious, and I’ll be trying plenty of your other recipes. I love Thai food, but many Thai food blogs are not that accessible for Americans shopping in the regular grocery chains, too many ingredients are difficult to find. Your recipes seem doable!

  • Stella August 7, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Bookmarked. I’ve been dying to make this at home and my husband’s growing holy basil in the garden. I’m ready to rock, thank you!

  • Peachie August 7, 2011, 1:11 pm

    Am so glad I chanced on your blog! I love Thai food but somehow I can’t get the flavours right when I try cooking it myself! Am looking forward to trying out some of your recipes!

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