Jet Tila's Secret To Amazing Drunken Noodles - Exclusive

No one has ever doubted Jet Tila's ability to cook, and perhaps nothing of his has garnered more fanfare than Tila's drunken noodles. As Tila explains, "drunken noodle really is a beautiful mashup of Thai and Chinese food. You get the comfort from the rice noodles — it's chewy and warm — but you get that spicy basil, hot, sour, salty, sweet hit of Thai food. The perfect drunken noodle must be savory, must be sweet, must be spicy, and have a beautiful basil flavor over the top." 

Recently, Tila has become a partner at Pei Wei, where he is re-imaging the menu and bringing his classic drunken noodles to the fast-casual chain; however, it is hard to beat homemade. So for those who have been trying to get this noodle dish just right, then good news. Tila shared his tips about drunken noodles in an exclusive interview with Mashed at the 2023 South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

It is all about the noodle

Jet Tila's recipe is no secret. It is posted online and can be found in Tila's cookbook "101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die." Even with this, getting drunken noodles just right can be hard, which Tila noted directly. That is because the secret to drunken noodles does not lie solely in the measurements of ingredients; it lies in the quality of them as well.

Tila also says that the secret is in the rice noodle specifically. At Wazuzu, Tila uses fresh rice noodles, but this is not always practical for home chefs and is definitely not practical for scaling up at a large chain such as Pei Wei. 

"Looking for the right noodles to scale across the country was probably the toughest part," Tila said. "We found a really great product, and we forced our distributors to carry it." The product was a dry rice noodle that would bring the right texture and flavor to the dish while still allowing it to be easily made.

Quality ingredients

Tila grew up in the restaurant and grocery industry, with his parents opening the first Thai grocery store in the United States. Therefore, he knows the value of high-quality ingredients. 

"I'm not just a chef, but I'm also an ingredient person," Tila said. "I also have been in the factories of every ingredient. I've also worked on fishing boats, and I've also harvested the meat. I have a 360 [-degree-view] understanding of where a lot of food comes from, and I appreciate it." With this understanding, Tila is able to tell not only what quantities of ingredients need to be included to make a dish successful, but he also knows what specific ingredients will help make the dish as good as can be. 

The next time one wants to make drunken noodles, try to opt for a fresh noodle. If those are not available, go for a high-quality dry noodle along with other quality ingredients.

Jet Tila's drunken noodles are available now at Pei Wei.