Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

This is my rendition of a classic dish served at Plia’s Kitchen, a Hmong restaurant in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They serve wonderful South Asian cuisine. The widely-reputed silver bullet for curing a hangover, or just a late-night snack after an all-day bender, this mind-numbingly spicy recipe is a much-loved Chinese-inspired favorite in Thailand.

My wife cannot tolerate anything remotely hot, which is a real shame. To compensate, I improvised this recipe by adding only a seeded jalapeño pepper. For the authentic version, you should use fresh hot Thai red chilis, crushed in a mortar. Thai holy basil is impossible to find in my area – if you are lucky enough to source or grow some, by all means use it — it has an unmistakable peppery, complex flavor that is all but absent in Thai sweet or lemon basil.  Enjoy!



1 large chicken breast
1 tbs. cornstarch
2 tbs. water
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper


4 tbs. canola oil, divided
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a mortar
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
4-5 fresh red Thai chilis, stemmed, cut in pieces and crushed in a mortar
OR – one seeded, sliced jalapeño
1 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1” square sections
1.5 cups fresh Thai holy basil leaves
2 large scallions, trimmed and cut at a bias in 2” sections, with greens
4 oz. rice flake noodles (1/2 8 oz. bag), soaked for one hour and then boiled for two minutes


1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tbs. oyster sauce
1 tbs. fish sauce
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. Tamari soy sauce
1 tsp. Gold Plum® brand Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock



Cut the chicken into small pieces (1/2” to 1”).
In a medium-sized work bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, white pepper and dark soy sauce. Add the chicken and coat well. Set aside for one hour on your counter until it warms to room temperature.

Prepare the rice flake noodles by soaking them in warm water for one hour. Drain, then add to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Time them so they are ready to add to the wok after draining.

Prep the vegetables so you have them at hand. Combine the Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, dark and Tamari soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, brown sugar and chicken stock in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat and add 2 tbs. canola oil, swirling to coat. The oil should start to smoke. Add the cut chicken pieces and stir with a long-handled Chinese metal spatula. Cook until seared on all sides, about three minutes. Quickly remove from the wok and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining canola oil and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the wok. Add the crushed garlic, ginger and chilis or jalapeno, and the Laoganma black bean chili sauce.  Stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add the minced shallot and continue to stir for another one to two minutes. Add the bell pepper. Stir to sear the vegetables, and then add the sauce ingredients and the reserved chicken. Stir to coat. Drain and add the boiled rice flake noodles, the fresh basil and scallion. Stir well to coat the noodles and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Thai Dragon Noodles

thai dragon noodles prepared in a cast-iron wok

This is an amazing and economical dish that can be very spicy – control the heat by limiting the amount of hot chili used — but why would you want to?  The fish sauce is very traditional, but may be omitted if desired. Get everything measured and cut so you are ready to go, as the preparation only takes a few minutes.


1 8-oz. package Chinese wide Lo Mein noodles
6 cups of water
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbs. salted butter
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 dash of Asian fish sauce
1 tbs. packed brown sugar
1 tbs. Vietnamese “Rooster” chili garlic sauce or Sriracha, to taste
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Thai hot green chili, stemmed, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 scallion, trimmed and cut into 1″ chunks, sliced at a bias
1/2 cup trimmed and washed whole cilantro leaves
Lime wedges for garnish



In a heavy stock pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil for the noodles. Prepare 4 ounces of the Lo Mein noodles according to package directions, and cook until al dente; just over four minutes.
(One eight-ounce package is enough for two people – the recipe shown here is for a single large serving.) Drain and set aside, covered.

While the noodles are cooking, prepare the sauce ingredients by mixing the brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and chili garlic sauce or Sriracha. Set aside.
A note on the fish sauce: A little bit goes a long way! The flavor is very intense, so use it sparingly.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy wok or skillet and add the garlic; stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the eggs and stir constantly until cooked through. Shut off the heat and add the sauce, sliced green chili, noodles, scallion and cilantro. Toss until coated.

Serve with lime wedge as a garnish.


Serves 1-2

thai dragon noodles recipe ingredients

Beef Tips with Gravy

This easy-to-prepare meal is an excellent dish that is very economical to make. It’s a perfect example of great-tasting home cooking tailored for busy families that don’t have a lot of time to prepare gourmet meals.  I received the instructions for this recipe from my cousin. I have no idea where she got it from, but it’s been a family favorite for many years.



3 pounds cubed beef stew meat
2 10.75-oz. cans Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
2 10.75-oz. cans Campbell’s beefy mushroom soup
1 package Lipton onion soup mix
1.5 cups of water



Mix everything together and bake covered at 300 degrees for 4 ~ 4-1/2 hours. You can also prepare it in a slow cooker on medium-low heat for 6-8 hours. The meat will be done when it easily shreds with two forks.  Serve over egg noodles, or shred and serve on buns with Provolone cheese and the gravy.

Serves 6

Buttered Fettuccini Noodles with Parmesan Cheese

This is a super-simple side dish that my family really enjoys. You can make the pasta as shown, or dress it up with steamed spinach or sauteed vegetables, parsley, red pepper flakes and garlic.

It is also a fantastic compliment to a variety of main course Italian favorites like grilled swordfish or broiled shrimp.


1 pound fettuccini noodles
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shredded hard parmesan cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste


Boil the noodles al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and add back to the pot. Melt the butter and add to the noodles. Add the sour cream, salt and pepper. Cover to heat through and stir lightly to incorporate. Add the cheese and stir one last time. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs | Culinary Compost Recipes

This recipe is a hands-down favorite in my family. My grandmother was Swedish, and her recipe was very similar to this. The kids request it about once a month. The key to making this a success is browning the meatballs until they have a really great crust, AND creating a proper roux for the gravy. If you rush it, the gravy will be flat and taste of flour and sour cream. Patience and a good eye are key. The recipe is a fair amount of work, but definitely worth the effort. Leftovers keep wonderfully.




For the Meatballs—
1-1/2 to 2 lbs. lean ground chuck
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tbs. dried parsley
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 egg, beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk
3 tbs. real butter
1 tbs. beef base

For the Sauce—
2-3 tbs. drippings from meatballs
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup flour (plus an additional 2 tbs. if necessary)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 cups water
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tbs. beef base
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet browning mix

3/4 package large egg noodles



Mix the meat ingredients well by hand in large mixing bowl. Pat out into medium sized meatballs. Brown well in a large, heavy cast-iron skillet, working in batches. Drain fat off and reserve. Place meatballs aside in Dutch oven, covered on low heat.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Reserve 2-3 tbs. of the meat drippings in the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. DO NOT burn the flour in the next step, or it will taste bitter. Add the butter until melted, then add the flour and mix well with a large flat spatula to form a paste. Keep mixing constantly, and increase heat to medium for about 10-15 minutes to form a golden roux as a base for the gravy. Add the paprika, salt, pepper, water, beef base. Bring the mix up to a simmer and add the sour cream. Add the Kitchen Bouquet while stirring constantly. Check the seasoning and add to the Dutch oven when gravy is the desired consistency. (I keep mine a bit thick as it seems to thin out after baking.)

Bake covered for 1 hour, stirring once at 1/2 hour.

Remove from oven, stir and let stand for five minutes. Serve over egg noodles.

If you are delayed and need more time, you can reduce the heat of the oven after one hour to 200 degrees or less, with the same fantastic results.

Serves 6.

Swedish Meatballs | Culinary Compost Recipes

Brown the meatballs by working in batches. Two pounds of ground chuck will yield about three pan’s worth of one-inch meatballs; roughly forty to forty-two. Note the nice browned crust, which really adds to the flavor of the gravy made in the next step.

Authentic Swedish Meatballs - preparing the roux for the gravy

Time and patience are needed to prepare a proper roux. The dark color comes from the browned flour and crusty bits left over from the meatballs and onion. The rendered fat is liquid gold, so make sure you save a few tablespoons for the gravy. Wait to season it until you prepare the gravy, so you can check and adjust the flavor.

Authentic Swedish Meatballs - preparing the gravy

Leave yourself about a half hour to prepare the gravy. It should be reduced slightly and have a velvety sheen.