Thai Tuesday: Pad Kee Mao (Faux) Gai

Weaved with heat and Thai, or holy basil, amongst wide rice noodles, Pad Kee Mao is one of my go-to menu choices when I’m dining at a (hopefully) veg-friendly Thai restaurant. Also known as Drunken Noodles, the presence of those fresh herbs and chili makes it that much more likely that your vegan option is not just omitting the fish sauce and forgetting the rest of the flavor. The version below has become the basis for Pad Kee Mao in my own kitchen, altered from recipes and restaurant versions I’ve tried throughout the years. Thanks to VeganMoFo for making me open a google doc and actually jot down what I’ve been doing.

In my trials, I have become insistent on the use of fresh wide rice noodles and if you can find it, lemongrass. If you’re in the Portland area, check out an Asian market, supermarket (such as Fubonn and Uwaijimaya) for both ingredients, or stop by JC Rice Noodle Shop on SE Foster & 84th for its namesake alone.

Pad Kee Mao Faux Gai (aka Drunken Noodles with Seitan)

Makes 2 generous servings

  • 6 ounces wide rice noodles – fresh, or prepared as instructed and set aside, run under cool water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch lemongrass, outer layers pulled away and thinly sliced or minced 
  • 1 inch galangal (or ginger) minced
  • 2 Thai chiles or 1 large jalapeño, minced> use more or less depending on your heat preference
  • ½ lb sliced seitan>the above dish uses the No-Cluck seitan from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day
  • vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced vegetables, such as bell peppers, broccoli and carrots (note: if you’re using onion, add right after the seitan is taken out)
  • One small, diced tomato


  • 2 tablespoons bottled Nước Mắm Chay (vegetarian fish sauce), or make your own
  • 1 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon palm or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red chili paste (optional – you could also add some Srichacha if you crave heat)


  • handful of torn Thai basil leaves
  • lime wedges for squeezing
  • fresh bean sprouts
  • dried chili 


Whisk together the sauce in small cup or bowl. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pan and pan-fry the seitan pieces on both sides until just-browned. Set aside on paper towels and lower the heat.
Add the garlic, lemongrass, galangal, optional ginger and chili peppers to the pan you just used. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes, increasing the heat to medium again, until quite fragrant. Lower the heat if it’s too much.
Add in the sliced vegetables, stir fry for one minute, and then add the seitan back to the pan. Quickly add the sauce, noodles, and tomato and gently toss everything until the sauce is well-dispersed and warm, ideally, another 30-45 seconds. Plate, top with fresh bean sprouts and serve with plenty of fresh lime wedges and dried chili, if desired.

My most recent trip to Fubonn: powdered agar agar, bean sprouts, fresh rice noodles, mushroom soy sauce, kaffir lime leaves, Thai beer and holy basil

Pad Kee Mao with Tofu and farmer’s market veggies from earlier this summer


  1. oh my goodness, that recipe looks amazing. It’s hard to find all that fun stuff here in Santa Cruz… like fresh wide noodles! What the heck!? That said, I do have a giant plant of lemongrass growing in my front yard, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. 🙂

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