When you're in the mood for a dish that's so spicy it can cure a common cold, look no further than drunken noodles -- also known as pad kee mao, or sometimes simply Thai spicy noodles. This stir fry can be made about a thousand different ways, but the staples are Thai basil, chili, garlic, fish sauce, and rice noodles.
Despite the name, drunken noodles aren't cooked with any alcohol; it's more of a suggestion as to the state of mind to be in when you consume them. Malee's Thai Bistro even offers that the dish is a "Thai wife's revenge on drunk husbands."
The dish does double-duty, also making an excellent hangover cure. Regardless of where the name comes from, for this Battle of the Dishes, we picked two Thai places that use the hilarious moniker "drunken noodles."
Where can you sate your spicy Thai craving? Find out after the jump.
In One Corner: Malee's Thai Bistro
7131 East Main Street, Scottsdale
The Set Up: The restaurant is spacious and comfortable with lots of natural light. There are touches of Thai decorations, but it isn't overdone. Their Dragon Drunken Noodles are only served with minced chicken, and the menu clearly states that they "cannot be served mild." That's what we like to hear.
Pros: When the waitress asked the desired level of spice, our reply was, "Medium...y'know, for drunken noodles." She got what we were saying. The heat was perfect - spicier than many can handle, but not so spicy that it killed the actual flavor of the dish. Overall the spice level was about a 7 of 10. The minced chicken was also a nice touch because it guaranteed some protein in every bite.
Cons: The ingredients were minimal, so there weren't a lot of vegetables mixed in, only bean sprouts, thin slices of red cabbage, diced tomato, and Thai basil. The noodles were thinner than are typically used for this dish, but that actually worked out ok.
In the Other Corner: Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine
17 West Main Street, Mesa
The Set Up: Located in a strip mall in downtown Mesa, this restaurant isn't decorated in any special way, but they do have some great touches of Thailand adorning the place. They offer an affordable lunch special: a small entrée, yummy appetizer, and soup for $7.50.
Pros: The drunken noodles were served with lots of vegetables: carrots, mini corn mushrooms, etc. They also use the wide, flat rice noodles that have a nice texture.
Cons: This dish was not spicy; the heat was a 0.5 out of 10. Instead, it was extremely peppery, and otherwise, it was fairly bland. We picked Nunthaporn's because many Yelp reviewers have raved about their drunken noodles, including mentions like, "I got the drunken noodles, ordered a 3 star spicy out of 4, aaand I could barely eat it let alone taste it." Sure enough, Nunthaporn's lunch menu lists the dish as "mild," and the dinner menu says it's "medium." The server didn't even ask about the spice level we wanted.
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The Verdict: Since Nunthaporn's Drunken Noodles were ultimately disappointing because of a distinct lack of spice, Malee's Thai Bistro is the clear winner. And honestly, if we tried drunken noodles, or pad kee mao, at every Thai place in town, Malee's would probably still be the supreme victor.
(It should also be mentioned that a busboy at Malee's accidentally tossed our leftovers when we asked for them to be boxed up. The server was more than accommodating and had the kitchen make full servings of both of our entrees to take home. Plus, the manager came to apologize. Talk about service!)