Pad thai may have all the fame, but Thai food lovers know that pad see ew is where real noodle bliss is at. With almost 2 million views on YouTube, this pad see ew recipe is tried and true, and I promise it'll rival anything you've had at Thai restaurants! It's a quick and simple dish, but you need to know some tricks to achieve perfectly seasoned, not-broken rice noodles with that smokey wok char. Let's dive in!
Watch The Video Tutorial
All my recipes come with video tutorial to ensure success. If you've never made pad see ew before, I highly recommend watching the video first as this dish goes fast, and you'll need to know exactly what to do once the heat is on!
What is Pad See Ew?
In Thai, pad means to stir fry and see ew means soy sauce, so...soy sauce stir fry? The unspoken word is guay tiew or "noodles," so it's full name is guay tiew pad see ew. It's a popular Thai stir-fried noodles that you can find all over Thailand, but it has its roots in Chinese cuisine which came to Thailand with the millions of Chinese immigrants.
It's a homey dish of fresh rice noodles seasoned primarily with soy sauce, and stir fried in a hot wok along with slices of meat and Chinese broccoli. In Thailand, pad see ew is a quick solo lunch, so you often find it sold at food courts and by street vendors. They're kind of like the sandwiches of Thai cuisine!
Pad see ew ingredients are short and simple, but using the right noodles and the right sauces are key.
- Fresh wide rice noodles. These tender rice noodles with a slight chew are what make dishes like pad see ew and drunken noodles (pad kee mao) so lovable. These are called sen yai in Thai, but here they are commonly called ho fun noodles (Cantonese). You can buy these at many Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated section, usually close to the tofu. If you can't find them, you can also make your own. Dried wide rice noodles also exist and can be used if necessary, but they are quite different and not as good as the fresh ones.
- Protein of your choice, thinly sliced. This can be chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or seafood such as shrimp. In Thailand, pork is the most common.
- Soy sauce for marinating the meat, omit if using shrimp or tofu which do not need to be marinated.
- Vegetable oil or another neutral oil of your choice
- Garlic, chopped
- Chinese broccoli, also known as gai lan. Choose smaller stalks if you can as they are more tender and are less likely to be bitter. If you cannot find gai lan, broccolini is a good substitute, or even broccoli. I don't suggest using bok choy as it is much more watery and lacks the crunchiness of gai lan stems.
- Sugar. White sugar is fine, but brown sugar will also work.
- Ground white pepper, to taste
- Prik nam som, Thai-style chili vinegar that is a classic condiment that I highly recommend. Pad see ew is sweet and salty, and drizzling a little spicy vinegar really brightens the dish and makes a more balanced flavour. It is made simply by adding some sliced hot peppers of your choice to some white vinegar. Jalapenos, serranos or Thai chilies are all great options.
Pad See Ew Sauce
A good sauce it key to great pad see ew flavour, so I suggest measuring ingredients properly and not eyeballing this one! Here's a video where I go through all the different sauces used in Thai cuisine.
- Oyster sauce. Check out my post for how to choose a good oyster sauce.
- Soy sauce. Use Thai soy sauce if you can for the right flavour, but otherwise regular soy sauce such as kikkoman, or Chinese light soy sauce will also do.
- Fish sauce. See this post on choosing a good fish sauce.
- Golden Mountain Sauce. This is a type of Thai soy sauce with a flavour that is slightly richer than the Thai soy sauce. Maggi Seasoning would be a fine substitute, but you can also substitute an equal amount of soy sauce.
- Thai black soy sauce or Chinese dark soy sauce. This gives pad see ew its characteristic dark brown colour. Black soy sauce isn't very salty, but it is used in small amounts to give a dark colour and slightly richer flavour.
How to Make Pad See Ew
If it's your first time, I highly recommend watching the video tutorial to ensure success. The cooking goes fast, so it's good to know exactly what you need to do before you turn the heat on.
Most important tip: Cook 1 portion of noodles at a time for maximum noodle char and prevent mushy, broken noodles. There's a reason street vendors do it this way! (All of the meat can be cooked in one batch.)
- Stir the meat and soy sauce together well, then add a little bit of oil and stir to coat the meat. The oil will help the meat separate from each other more easily when you go to cook it.
- Combine all sauce ingredients together and stir to mix.
- Heat the oil in a well-seasoned wok or a large non-stick skillet over high heat. When hot, add all of the protein and toss just until the meat is done. Remove from pan and set aside. If there is meat juices left in the wok, wipe it with a paper towel.
- From this step onward, I recommend cooking 1 portion at a time for best results. Add vegetable oil and garlic to the wok and sauté over medium high heat until the smallest bits of garlic starts to turn golden.
- Add the egg and scramble briefly.
- Add the Chinese broccoli and toss to coat it evenly in the oil, about 10–15 seconds.
- Add 1 portion of the rice noodles (8oz/225g), 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (35 ml) of the sauce mixture, and 2 teaspoon (10 ml) of sugar. Turn the heat up to high and toss to coat the noodles evenly in the sauce.
- Spread the noodles out and let them sit without stirring for about 15-30 seconds until some of the noodles have charred. Flip the noodles and let them sit again to char the other side. You may flip the noodles again a couple more times to get more toasting if you wish.
- Add 1 portion of the cooked protein back in, being careful not to add any meat juices that has accumulated in the bowl, and toss briefly to mix.
- Plate the noodles, then quickly wipe the pan clean with paper towel and cook the next serving.
Common Problems and How to Avoid Them
After many years of teaching this recipe, I've noticed there are a few things that commonly trip people up. Read these carefully to avoid the same problem!
- Broken noodles. You're likely stirring too aggressively. Fresh noodles are delicate, so you want to flip and toss rather than stir when possible.
- Mushy noodles. You might be crowding the pan and trapping too much moisture, which overcooks the noodles. In the recipe I stress that you should cook one portion at a time, this is so that you have ample space to create charring on the noodles, but it also prevents trapping too much moisture under a pile of noodles. Remember these noodles are already fully cooked, so it doesn't take much additional moisture for them to become over cooked and mushy! You can get away with 2 portions if you have a large wok and a high BTU stove.
- They don't taste right. Did you eyeball ingredients? Did you measure everything? Pad see ew is one of those dishes where the ratio between sauce and noodles is everything. So if you put too much noodles, they're going to taste bland. If you put too little, it's going to be overly salty.
- Noodles stuck to the pan. Fresh rice noodles love to stick. Make sure your wok is well seasoned or use a nonstick pan.
- There is no wok hei. Wok hei is that smoky wok flavour that many people consider a key ingredient of a good pad see ew. To get wok hei, you need a carbon steel wok on very high heat so the noodles can char and the oil can smoke. Not crowding the pan is also key. Sometimes, this just isn't possible to create given our home equipment, but I think it's still good without it!
How to Use Dry Rice Noodles Instead
If you don't have access to fresh rice noodles, it is possible to use the dried version. However, cooked dried rice noodles do not have the same texture as fresh, in the same way that cooked dried pasta is very different from fresh pasta. I much prefer fresh, but I'll happily eat the dried version if that's all there is.
Don't follow package instructions for cooking the noodles, those can be unreliable. Here's what o do:
Soak the noodles in hot off the boil water for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. The noodles are now partially cooked and ready to go into the wok, and they will finish cooking in the wok.
When cooking, I suggest tasting the noodles when you think they're done, and if they're still a little too firm, add a splash of water and keep cooking for another minute.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! In Thailand we actually make pad see ew with a few different noodles. The other common one is made with rice vermicelli, so check out my vermicelli pad see ew recipe. In Southern Thailand I grew up eating pad see ew with egg noodles.
Some have asked if pad thai noodles can be used instead, and while it is not done in Thailand, you can certainly try. Follow the soaking instructions in my pad thai recipe, and you'll need to add about 2 tablespoon of water per portion when cooking.
Yes. I would recommend chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces, but chicken breast will also work if that's what you prefer.
You can use tofu instead of meat. Use firm or extra firm tofu and fry them first until golden to firm up the surface. Then add them to the noodles at the end. You can use vegetarian oyster sauce instead of oyster sauce (read more about vegetarian oyster sauce here) and substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.
Pad see ew, like all rice noodle dishes, does not keep well. So the best thing to do is to not make anymore than you can eat today. Reheated rice noodles never have quite the same texture.
However, if you must, store it in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave until the noodles are piping hot. Rice noodles turn hard when cold and will not regain their soft texture unless they're thoroughly heated.
I recommend keeping it for no longer than one day.
More Thai Stir-Fried Noodle Recipes
Once you've mastered pad see ew, here are a few other Thai recipes to satisfy your noodle cravings:
- Pad kee mao or "drunken noodles". If you love pad see ew and you love spicy, this is a must try. You can think of this as the spicy sister of pad see ew, or a noodle version of pad gaprao.
- Rad na sometimes spelled as lad na, this is one of the most underrated Thai noodle dishes! The same fresh wide rice noodles are charred in a wok, and served with a pork gravy over them.
- Pad See Ew with Vermicelli. If wide noodles are not available, try going the other extreme and make PSE with the thinnest of noodles! It's also a very quick and easy dish!
Chewy-tender fresh wide rice noodles are stir fried with a savory sauce and crunchy Chinese broccoli. There's a reason pad see ew is a cult favorite, and a personal favourite street food dish of mine!
Note: I recommend making 1 serving at a time to maximize noodle toasting, so you may want to split the ingredients in half when doing your prep. All the protein, however, can be cooked all together.
- 170g (6oz) protein of your choice, thinly sliced (see note 1)
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce for marinating meat, omit if using shrimp or tofu
- 3-4 tablespoon (45-60 ml)vegetable oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 4-6 stalks (150 g) Chinese broccoli, aka gai lan, stems thinly sliced on a bias, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 lb (450g) fresh wide rice noodles (ho fun noodles), store bought or make your own (see note 2)
- 4 tsp granulated sugar
- Ground white pepper, to taste
- Optional condiment: Prik nam som or chili vinegar (see note 3)
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) oyster sauce
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) soy sauce
- 1 ½ tsp (7.5 ml) fish sauce
- 1 ½ tsp (7.5 ml) Golden Mountain sauce, or sub Maggi Seasoning or soy sauce
- 2 tsp (10 ml) Thai black soy sauce or dark soy sauce
For descriptions of all these sauces, see this video
- Mix together the meat and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce, then add about 2 teaspoon (10 ml) of oil and stir to coat the meat; the oil will help the meat separate more easily in the pan.
- Separate the noodles into individual portion - 8 oz (225 g) per portion.
- Combine all sauce ingredients together and stir to mix well, divide the sauce evenly into individual portions - each portion is 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (35 ml)
- Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil in a wok or a large non-stick sauté pan over high heat. When hot, add all of the protein and toss just until fully cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- From this step onward, I recommend cooking 1 portion at a time for best result: Add 1½ tablespoon (22 ml) oil and the garlic to the wok and sauté over medium high heat until the smallest bits of garlic starts to turn colour.
- Add the egg, break the yolk, let it set just about halfway, then scramble briefly.
- Add the Chinese broccoli and toss to coat it in the oil, about 10–15 seconds.
- Add 1 portion of rice noodles, 1 portion of the sauce mixture, and 2 teaspoon of sugar. Turn the heat up to high and toss to coat the noodles evenly in the sauce. To prevent noodles from breaking, push the noodles
- Once coated, spread the noodles out to cover the entire pan and let them sit without stirring for about 15-30 seconds until some of the noodles have charred. Flip or toss the noodles and let them sit again to char the other side. You may flip the noodles again a couple more times to get more toasting if you wish.
- Add 1 portion of the cooked protein back into the pan without adding any meat juices that has accumulated, and toss briefly to mix. Turn off the heat.
- Plate the noodles, then quickly wipe the pan clean with paper towel and cook the next serving.
- Serve with chili vinegar, and enjoy!
Note: Cooking 1 portion at a time is a bit more work, but it is well worth it. If there are too many noodles piled in the wok, it'll trap a lot of steam which can overcook the noodles. It'll also prevent the noodles from charring, which adds an iconic toasty flavour.
- Beef, chicken, pork and shrimp are common. If using tofu, I recommend using fried tofu which is firmer and can hold up in the wok well. You can buy tofu already fried at Asian grocery stores or fry your own extra firm tofu until a golden brown crust forms.
- If your rice noodles come cold and stuck together, do not try to peel them apart cold. Divide them into smaller chunks best you can then spread them on a plate and microwave them for 1 minute. Divide them further, if possible, then microwave them again for another minute. Repeat the heating and separating until the noodles are hot and soft enough to be individually peeled apart.
- To make chili vinegar, slice any spicy chilies and let them sit in white vinegar for at least 15 minutes before using. Alternatively, you can also blend the chilies and the vinegar together.