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BEST BITES: Drunken Noodles take the sting out of a dismal week

A look at a dish that is a true fusion of different Asian cuisines
Drunken Noodles. Lynn Broughton photo

To be perfectly honest, the words drunken noodles were precisely what was needed last week. It was yet another cold day in May and we were still in a state of lockdown. Thankfully, Andy Phoung was about to deliver some much needed relief.

Drunken noodles à la Taste With Andy is a stir-fry made with fresh, wide rice noodles, tofu, meat — in our case, shrimp — or veggies, basil, bean sprouts, cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic and a wonderfully flavourful sauce. Different from the more familiar pad thai in some subtle ways, it was savoury and salty, and packed with a ginger and basil punch. Peanuts placed on the side as an option were a nice touch for both flavour and crunch.

These noodles were introduced in Laos and Thailand after Chinese immigrants crossed the borders into surrounding countries. The dish is a true fusion of different Asian cuisine and possesses all the characteristics of what is loved about Thai food: it’s spicy, fragrant and fresh.

That which we call drunken noodles — or its proper Thai name, pad kee mao — by any other name would taste as fine (thanks for that, Juliet Capulet). Phàt or pad means stir-fried food and kee mao translates to a drunk person in Thai.

But where did the idea of drunken come from?

There are a number of theories. One suggests that a man came home tipsy and very hungry one night and proceeded to throw together all the ingredients he could find in the kitchen. You see, the traditional street fare pad kee mao is believed to be so spicy that even very intoxicated people can taste the flavours in it. Yet another theory suggests these noodles are so spicy that those feasting on them can get drunk in an attempt to quench their thirst. They are, without a doubt, a natural accompaniment to a cold beer.

The gist of it here is that this spicy, salty and starchy feast should sober you up, or at very least stamp out your hangover. But don’t let that be your only motivation.

Taste With Andy is located on 45 Cork St. E. in downtown Guelph and serves Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine. Nothing compares to home cooking for Andy. He likes to say, “It’s not what you cook, it’s how you cook.”

His long history in many areas of hospitality — from running a kitchen for others, to catering his own food and developing his cooking skills — offered him clarity on what he wanted his own restaurant to be. The focus at Taste With Andy is on fresh, colourful, flavourful and simply good ingredients. He’ll happily adjust the spice level on your Drunken Noodles too, so do not be daunted. This is one dish you cannot miss, with the addition of alcohol or without.

It certainly took the sting out of our dismal week.