Here in Baltimore we are lucky enough to enjoy a Thai restaurant with a fully vegetarian menu. They deliver, too! All of the dishes are also vegan unless they contain eggs, which they’ll leave out on request. They offer a variety of vegan faux meats as well as several types of tofu, and veggies galore. I am a sucker for their tofu larb, pineapple cashew fried rice, vegan sweet chili fried chicken, and veggie pad thai. But the dish I order more than anything else is the spicy basil noodles. I love spicy, I love basil, I love noodles. I have probably mentioned this before, but I kind of have a tradition of getting Thai food for dinner after my races. And sometimes after my long training runs, too. So that’s been a lot of noodles lately. =]
I learned that “spicy basil noodles” is a name the restaurant gave to their vegetarian drunken noodles. (I stuck with that name for this recipe because it sums things quite nicely). The dish consists of stir-fried, flat noodles with veggies, holy basil, and a sweet and savory sauce. The version at this Thai place is seriously delicious but it’s also very, very rich. Think food coma – not quite something I could eat every day.
So I decided to recreate a spicy basil noodles dish at home. I bulked it up with lots of veggies to make it more balanced for everyday eating. I had to make a few changes due to ingredient availability, which actually resulted in a dish that’s even more simple to make. The first big change is the type of basil. As I mentioned above, drunken noodles call specifically for holy basil, which I have never seen here, even at the Asian market. I can get Thai basil, so I used that instead. Italian basil will also work (see the recipe notes).
We wanted an easier sauce that used ingredients we already have on hand, so I made a simple mixture of soy sauce and coconut sugar, plus a hint of lime and tamarind for a bit of sourness. We went with these Thai stir-fry noodles, which don’t need to be pre-boiled. They just go straight into the pan. I wouldn’t recommend buying them on Amazon, as they are way way cheaper in the store.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this spicy basil noodles recipe is not very authentic. Let’s just call it “distantly inspired” by drunken noodles. But it tastes great, it’s healthier than takeout, and it’s pretty easy to make. 🙂
Spicy Basil Noodles (Vegan Drunken Noodles)
- 2 shallots diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 red chili peppers diced (plus more to taste)
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 and 1/2 tsp coconut sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 tsp tamarind extract (optional but recommended)
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper (to taste; or black pepper)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
- ½ white or yellow onion quartered
- 8 cherry tomatoes quartered
- 2 cups trimmed snap peas halved
- 1 bell pepper cut into small strips
- 1 zucchini sliced into quarter moons
- 14 oz. stir-fry noodles cooked (unless packaging directs otherwise)
- 1 cup Thai basil leaves loosely-packed (see notes for substitution), roughly chopped (measure before chopping)
Use a blender or a mortar and pestle to blend or mash the shallots, garlic, and chilis into a paste.
Whisk together the soy sauce, coconut sugar, lime juice, tamarind paste, and white pepper, and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat some oil over medium-high heat. Add the paste from step 1, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture has softened and thickened slightly.
Add the pieces of onion and tomato and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the onion is slightly soft.
Add the sauce ingredients, green beans, bell pepper, and zucchini, and stir. Partially cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir occasionally.
Add the noodles, stir, and cook for about 2 more minutes, still over medium-high heat, until the noodles are hot and coated in sauce.
Turn off the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Partially cover the pan and let the basil wilt, about 1 minute.
If you can't get Thai basil, you can use Italian basil. Reduce to only 3/4 cup instead of a full cup. (Optional) Add 1/4 cup of chopped green onion, cilantro, or a mixture.
Note the package instructions on your noodles to determine whether they need to be boiled first.