There are many similarities between the two Thai food dishes of Pad See Ew and Drunken Noodles. Both hold Chinese origins as noodles were believed to be carried over to Thailand by Chinese workers in the 1700s. Both are sizzled up in the pan stir fry style and both are dreamily delicious as they call on wide rice noodles and both have a speedy prep time when it comes to cooking. The wide noodles are an important part of this dish as they provide a larger surface area for mopping up all that amazingly rich and flavorsome sauce.
But there are big differences too. The main difference between Pad See Ew and Drunken Noodles is the fact that Drunken Noodles are spicy whereas Pad See Ew has a sweeter meets salty profile. There are some other differences too; for example, Pad See Ew is heavily based on Chinese Broccoli whereas Pad Kee Mao invites other vegetables into the mix too. Both are hugely popular and staples of any Thai restaurant or street food delight. Let’s take a closer look at the delights and differences of Pad See Ew and Pad Kee Mao.
What are Drunken Noodles (Also Known as Pad Kee Mao)?
Spicy meets sweet in a simmering bowl of beautiful sticky Pad Kee Mao. Taking its fun nickname from the fact that street hawkers would tempt late-night partygoers with this dish, Drunken Noodles have everything you need to bring you back into balance. The combination of heat, vegetables, protein, and charred flavorings just boosts all your senses. Wide chewy noodles meet a sticky garlicky sauce crafted from oyster, fish, and soy. Top with chicken, green onions, perhaps some Thai basil and as much chili as you can handle and you have a life jolting dish that your body will thank you. This dish is lighter in color than Pad See Ew and doesn’t have as much sweetness thanks to the high level of spice.
What is Pad See Ew?
These chewy pan-fried noodles are so full of fragrance, you cannot help but fall head over heels. Thailand’s famed noodle dish is non-spicy but it doesn’t skimp when it comes to flavor. These noodles are flat and wide to make the most of that chewy texture. The soy sauce comes laced with molasses for a deeper more complex flavor, and there’s Chinese broccoli and mushrooms to bring bulk and texture, not to mention a fabulous finish of scrambled egg too. Pad See Ew is dark and savory and can be saucier than the other two dishes.
Authentic Pad Thai
Pad Thai is from a similar family as Pad See Ew although Pad Thai can be made with thinner rice noodles instead of the wide and flat variety. Pad Thai also calls on Tamarind as its main player when it comes to flavor rather than soy sauce. Authentic Pad Thai can also be topped with crunchy peanuts, bright squeeze of lime juice, and brown sugar which brings a vibrancy of sweetness and savory to the end result. You can chow down on this Thai noodle dish with whatever protein you love – it can be chicken, shrimp, or tofu. Pad Thai tends to be nutty and sweeter and lighter in flavor than the other two dishes.
Pad See Ew Recipe
It’s super easy to make a home version of Pad See Ew and it doesn’t take a ton of time either. As long as you have some good quality noodles, a hot wok, and a good blend of dark and light soy sauce you have all that you need. It’s important to have both the light soy and the dark soy as that’s what will help bring the balance and complexity of flavor to the dish. You should also try and get the right kind of broccoli as Chinese Broccoli has more stalks and leaves rather than florets which don’t work as well in this dish. If you can’t find Gai Lan you can use broccolini stalks and baby spinach as a substitute. Pad See Ew is supposed to be a speedy and satisfying flash fried dish so it’s perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or when you are craving a bowl of belly-busting comfort food.
- 1 pack Nona Pad See Ew noodles
- Choice of veggies and protein
- Cup of Chinese broccoli (also called Gai Lan)
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of sweet dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon of light sugar
- Mix together the sauce ingredients with a whisk
- Prep your noodles according to package directions
- Put the wok on a high heat and cook whatever protein and vegetables you are using
- Add two tablespoons of the sauce and cook the broccoli until tender
- Throw in the spinach, add the noodles, and tip in the remaining sauce
- Bring the heat to medium-low and cook everything together, tossing frequently to get a good even coating of sauce and noodles.
- Serve sizzling hot.
Drunken Noodles Recipe
Don’t let the heat intimidate you! You can totally make Drunken Noodles at home (and you don’t even need to be tipsy to do so). Another awesome element about making Pad Kee Mao at home is that you get to control how much heat goes into the dish. For those who want less tongue-tingling, you can simply reign in the chili. Again, Drunken Noodles should be quick and easy especially once your wok gets going, you can go from pantry to plate in just a few minutes – which is why it’s such a good late-night snack! Take a look at this simple home recipe for delicious Drunken Noodles.
- 1 pack of Nona Lim Pad See Ew noodles
- Choice of veggies or protein (chicken is popular in this dish)
- Half an onion sliced
- 2 Thai chilis or birds-eye chilis (be sure to deseed)
- 3 cloves of garlic finely minced
- 2 green onions cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil for cooking
- Thai or Holy Basil to finish (you can get this at most Asian grocery stores)
- 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- Prep the noodles according to packet instructions
- Whisk up together the sauce ingredients in a bowl
- Heat the oil on a high heat in a heavy wok or skillet
- Throw in the garlic and chili and flash fry for 10 seconds (don’t inhale)
- Add the onion and cook for a minute
- Add your choice of protein or vegetables along with the fish or soy sauce and fry until the protein is cooked.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and throw in the green onions, the noodles, and the sauce and cook for a minute or two until the sauce reduces and the noodles are coated.
- Remove from the heat and throw in a handful of Thai basil or Holy Basil. It will wilt with the heat.
- Serve and enjoy!
Both these dishes are fast and easy and don’t call on complex methods or ingredients when it comes to whipping them up at home. For those who want a heady spicy delight, go for the Drunken Noodles or if you are looking for something savory and rich then it has to be Pad See Ew. Of course, we invite you to play around with both kinds of noodle dishes and see which you prefer.
Have you tried Pad See Ew or Drunken Noodles before? Are you going to be whipping any of these speedy noodle dishes up at home? We would love to know how you get on so please share your success (and failures) with us in the comments.