Pad Kee Mao
A very common way to greet a friend in Thailand is with the phrase “gin khao yung?” which roughly translates into “have you eaten?”. It is the equivalent of “how are you doing?” in the west. So I guess it is fitting that is would start my blog with a favorite Thai dish. The literal translation for pad kee mao is “shit drunk noodles”. No one is really sure how they came to be called that but there are two popular theories. One may be due to the fact that they make for some great hangover food, the other suggests that they got the name from their popularity of party goers enjoying them from the ever popular street food vendors after a night of drinking. They are spicy and full of flavor. They consist of thick chewy rice noodles, vegetables, and meat, stir fried in a rich dark spicy sauce with Thai basil. This dish requires a visit to the local Asian grocer. Look for the fresh chow fun style rice noodles if possible. You wil also need a couple condiments you probably don’t have in your refrigerator.There are probably as many recipes for pad kee mao, as there are cooks in Thailand. I take some liberties with my choice of vegetables in the dish, but the seasoning and technique are correct. In addition to to rice noodles, you will need to pick up some oyster sauce, Golden Mountain soy sauce (or Maggi seasoning sauce), black soy sauce, and fish sauce. You will also need to get some Thai basil. You can substitute with Italian basil, but it won’t be the same. Thai basil has a distinct flavor that is sweet with a licorice like overtone. It has a purple stem with long dark green leaves. If you like to grow your own, you can save the stems, and root them in a little water, to plant later in the garden.
- 1 lb. package of wide fresh rice noodles (chow fun)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- 2 small Thai chilies, chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños, sliced
- ½ red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 medium firm tomato or zucchini, sliced
- About a cup of Thai basil leaves
- 1 lb. of beef, chicken or shrimp
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup of oyster sauce
- ¼ cup Golden Mountain sauce (or Maggi seasoning)
- ⅛ cup fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons black soy sauce
- ⅛ cup sugar
- Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Slice, chop and prepare all the vegetables as needed and set aside. Slice the meat very thin. Today I am using lean flank steak.
- Prepare the noodles. They are much easier to deal with if they were never stored in the refrigerator. It is always better to buy them on the day you plan to use them. You will need to separate them into a bowl. The easiest way to do this is to pop them in the microwave for about a minute, check on them, and continue in 15 second intervals until they easily separate. You can also do it in warm water, but if they soak up too much water, they with get mushy.
- When you are ready, heat the wok, add the oil, and when it is hot, add the garlic and Thai chilies. When they begin to turn golden add the beef and stir fry. When it is cooked, add the bell pepper, onion, and jalapeños when they soften a bit, add the tomato. Don't over cook at this point, the vegetables need to be cooked, but crisp. Next add the noodles, they are cooked already, so you just need to heat through, and they begin to soften, and the sauce. Stir the sauce in well, but don't over do it, you don't want the noodles to get mushy and fall apart. Stir in the basil leaves at the end.
- You are now ready to plate and serve.
I didnt find this to be overly spicy at all. I think it is alway better to be a bit cautious with the chilies. You can always add a little more heat later. You would find some various condiments on a Thai table to adjust the seasoning to your taste. Dried chili flakes, siracha sauce, and hot green chilies in vinegar are all great ways to enhance your noodles.
Note: I found that almost any vegetable is great in this dish. When tomatoes are not in season, I like to use zucchini. I also like a little baby bok choy in my noodles.