Why do they call it drunken noodles? (Pad kee mao)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Why do they call it drunken noodles? We will discover the many theories that surround this dish, and give you a simple recipe for easy to make vegetarian “drunken noodles.”

Why do they call it drunken noodles?

Drunken noodles (Pad kee mao) earned their name not because they are made with alcohol, but because the creator of the food was a man who came home drunk and hungry. With what he found in the pantry, he began to cook some noodles, which later became popular in Thailand. Although this story is most likely not true, the fact is that these noodles are delicious!

Pad kee mao combines different flavors, which on the palate translate into a delicious explosion.  Eating a plate of pad kee mao is nutritionally very positive. These noodles are made based on rice flour, that is, they do not contain gluten. People with celiac disease can enjoy this tasty dish without problems. Additionally, rice noodles are high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and low in fat and sodium.

Pad kee mao is a popular stir-fry noodle dish in Thailand. Mao means “drunk” in Thai, however, the dish can certainly be enjoyed without drinking too much Chang or Singah. But you might want one of Thailand’s big three beer options if your pad kee mao was prepared authentically spicy!

Don’t expect noodles similar to those found in pad thai or you might end up disappointed. They both implement rice noodles, but pad kee mao is generally made using wide noodles rather than the familiar width used in pad thai. The noodles are surprisingly thick too, creating a chewy, rubbery texture.

Lots of holy basil provides an herbal sweetness; Soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and hearty chili mix for an addictive flavor.

Pad kee mao is often made with vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, corn, bell peppers, and bean sprouts. For protein, you can choose from common tofu, pork, chicken, beef, or seafood options.

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao) Recipe

This drunken noodle recipe is a simplified, vegan version of pad kee mao Thai noodles that you can make in minutes for a quick and delicious lunch or dinner.


  • 150 grams of medium or thick rice noodles
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large or 3 medium shallots, chopped
  • Half a red pepper, sliced
  • Half a green pepper cut into slices
  • A small head of broccoli cut off
  • One medium carrot, sliced
  • 15 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 ½ tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce can be substituted for light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons sriracha or other Asian chili sauce adjust to taste
  • A small bunch of holy or Thai or Italian basil whatever you have, in pieces
  • A small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges to serve


  1. Soak the noodles in warm water until al dente. Drain and wash with cold water. Drain again and reserve.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of water (or oil) and the garlic and shallots. Fry, stirring occasionally, until soft.
  3. Add the peppers, carrots, and broccoli together with another jet of water if necessary and fry until soft.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauces, chili sauce, and sugar in a bowl.
  5. Add the cherry tomatoes and rice noodles to the wok and pour in the sauce. Mix for a minute or two until the noodles are hot. Remove from the heat and add half the basil. Divide into two bowls and garnish with the remaining basil, coriander, and lime wedges.


Can Vegans eat rice noodles?

Yes, vegans can eat rice noodles, since they are made of rice – a plant. A vegan person follows a 100% vegetable diet, that is, a diet that excludes all types of meat, fish, and shellfish, dairy products, eggs, and honey, and rice does not fall into this category.

Rice noodles have a long history. They originated in China during the Qin Dynasty (259-210 BC) and have been consumed for more than 2,000 years in China. The Qin dynasty was the first of the reunified China, it seems that in the southern area they preferred wheat noodles, since they were not so used to eating rice.

 To adapt, they began to make noodles with rice, and little by little this dish spread around the world. The ease of preparation of these noodles has made them a regular part of the diet for millions of people in China. In the US you can find them without problems in supermarkets (medium type or large stores).

They are consumed as an ingredient in soups or stews and as a main dish stir-fry or as a garnish for other dishes. 

The bottom line

So why the name “drunken noodles”? Current theories suggest that it is because the dish often varies from place to place; the chefs throw away the vegetables they have left. Think of how someone with the sandwiches would come back from a night out and improvise, filling the food by gathering whatever is available!

As with all popular Thai noodle dishes, different restaurants have their own interpretations. In general, if you order pad kee mao, expect a spicy, filling dish with more veggies than usual. 

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