Have you ever tried Pad Woon Sen (a.k.a. Pad Woonsen)? If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat! This Thai glass noodle stir fry is a delicious and satisfying dish made with glass noodles, tender chicken, and crisp vegetables, all tossed in a savory sauce that’s bursting with flavor.
What Exactly is Pad Woon Sen?
In short, Pad Woon Sen is a Thai noodle stir fry with veggies and a protein of some kind.
What makes Pad Woon Sen stand out is its unique noodle. The Woon Sen noodle is called a glass noodle, or bean thread noodles. They are thin, translucent, and have chewy texture, making for a delightful bite in every mouthful. The vegetables, including onion, carrot, cabbage, and red pepper, add a pop of color and a refreshing crunch, while the chicken provides a protein-packed base.
The secret to bringing all of these flavors together is the sauce, made with a combination of oyster sauce and soy sauce. It’s savory, slightly sweet, and just a little bit salty, with a rich umami flavor that’s hard to resist. (If you love a good stir fry, you must also try my 3-Ingredient Stir Fry Sauce recipe).
Not only is Pad Woon Sen delicious, but it’s also easy to make. With just a few simple steps, you can have a flavorful and satisfying meal on the table in no time.
What is the difference between Pad Thai and Pad Woon Sen?
Two classic Thai stir-fried dishes, Pad Thai and Pad Woon Sen share some similarities, such as being stir-fried and including vegetables and meat, there are a few key differences that set them apart. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between Pad Thai and Pad Woon Sen:
- Noodles: The most obvious difference between the two dishes is the type of noodles used. Pad Thai is made with rice noodles, while Pad Woon Sen uses bean thread noodles, also known as glass noodles or cellophane noodles. Rice noodles have a wider shape and a slightly softer texture, while bean thread noodles are thin, translucent, and more delicate.
- Flavors: There’s also a difference in flavor profiles. Pad Thai has a more savory and tangy taste with a slight sweetness, thanks to the tamarind sauce and palm sugar used. Meanwhile, Pad Woon Sen has a richer and bolder flavor due to the oyster and soy sauce, with a slightly sweet note. Pad Woon Sen also tends to pack more heat from the use of chili peppers.
- Ingredients: While both dishes include vegetables like onion, garlic, and carrot, they differ in the types of proteins used. Pad Thai typically features shrimp or chicken, while Pad Woon Sen is usually made with chicken or pork.
In a nutshell, Pad Thai is a classic Thai noodle dish made with rice noodles, shrimp or chicken, and a sweet and tangy sauce, while Pad Woon Sen uses bean thread noodles, chicken or pork, and a bolder, spicier sauce.
What is Pad Woon Sen Made of? Gather Your Ingredients.
Are you ready to cook up a delicious and flavorful Thai dish? Here are the ingredients you’ll need for Pad Woon Sen:
- Oyster Sauce and Soy Sauce: These sauces form the base of the dish to create a savory and umami-packed flavor. You can use regular soy sauce or tamari.
- Bean Thread Noodles: Also known as Thai glass noodles, cellophane noodles, or bean thread noodles. They are made from mung bean starch. You could swap in Japchae, which is similar but uses sweet potato starch, or substitute rice vermicelli if you can’t find them. Make the recipe the same way whichever noodle you choose.
- Chicken Breasts: Tender chicken strips provide a protein-rich foundation to make the dish more filling.
- Cornstarch and Salt: Coating the chicken in a mixture of cornstarch and salt makes the meat crispy and flavorful.
- Eggs: Scrambled eggs provide an extra source of protein and add a delicious texture to the dish.
- Onion, Carrot, Cabbage, Red Pepper: These colorful and nutritious vegetables provide a crispy and sweet contrast to the richness of the sauce.
- Garlic cloves: One of the key aromatic ingredients, garlic adds a fragrant and savory note to the dish.
- Green Onions: Sliced thinly and sprinkled on top, green onions add a bright and fresh finish to Pad Woon Sen.
Variations and Substitutions
- To make a vegetarian or vegan version, swap out the chicken for one pound of firm tofu. Cube it, pat it dry, and prepare the recipe as written. You’ll also have to get your hands on some vegan oyster sauce.
- Swap in bagged slaw mix for the cabbage and carrot to make this recipe even faster.
- You can also add more veggies, like sliced mushroom, red bell pepper, bok choy, or tomatoes. Add extra authentic Thai flavor with a sprinkle of white pepper if you have it on hand, and/or a splash of fish sauce.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you like.
Grab these Tools
Ready to create a delicious Pad Woon Sen? Here are the tools you’ll need to make cooking a breeze:
- Wok or Large Skillet: Either can be the right tool for stir-frying everything together, with their large surface areas ensuring even heating and delicious flavors in every bite.
- Chef’s Knife and Cutting Board: You’ll need to chop up some onions, carrots, and other veggies, so make sure you have a sharp knife on hand.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: Ensure you’re adding the right amounts.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula: The perfect tool for stirring everything together in the wok or skillet is a non-abrasive one that won’t scratch the bottom of the pan, ensuring your vessel stays nice and non-stick!
How to make Pad Woon Sen: Step-by-Step Directions for Preparing the Dish
Ready to cook up some delicious woonsen? Follow these simple steps to create a flavorful and satisfying meal that’s sure to impress:
- Soak the noodles. Soak the bean thread noodles in cold or room temperature water until they’ve softened, then drain and set aside. This will make the noodles pliable and ready to soak up all the delicious flavors of the dish, without over-cooking them. I love this trick for perfect noodles.
- Coat and cook the chicken. Cut the chicken into small strips, then coat with a mixture of cornstarch and salt. Add oil to a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the chicken on all sides until crispy and golden. Set it aside on a plate.
- Make scrambled eggs. Whisk the eggs with salt and scramble in the same wok. Once cooked, remove them from the pan and set them aside with the chicken.
- Stir-fry the vegetables. In the same wok, add more oil and stir-fry sliced onions, carrots, cabbage, and red pepper until they’re slightly softened but still crisp-tender. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.
- Add the chicken back. Add the cooked chicken back to the wok.
- Mix the stir-fry sauce. Mix together oyster sauce, soy sauce, and water in a small bowl to create the base of the sauce.
- Pour in the sauce. Pour the sauce into the wok with the chicken and vegetables and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.
- Add the noodles and eggs. Add the drained bean thread noodles and scrambled eggs to the wok with the chicken and vegetables. Toss everything together to combine with the sauce and vegetable mixture.
- Continue cooking and serve. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the noodles have absorbed most of the sauce and are heated through. Then transfer the Pad Woon Sen to a serving dish and top with green onions.
In Thai cuisine, “Pad” is a popular way of cooking that involves tossing together a variety of ingredients with a savory sauce in a wok or skillet. “Woon Sen” refers to the type of noodles used in the dish. These noodles are also known as bean thread noodles, glass noodles, or cellophane noodles and are made from mung bean starch.
Despite being made from mung beans, Thai glass noodles don’t offer much protein or fiber, meaning they may not keep you feeling full for long. They do happen to be gluten and grain free, but have nearly as many carbs as spaghetti. So as far as being healthy, don’t be fooled by the fact that they’re made from beans to choose them over rice noodles or other options.
How to Serve it
You’ve done it! You’ve created a delicious and mouth-watering Pad Woon Sen that’s sure to impress. Now, it’s time to serve it up and dig in. Here are some tips to make your Pad Woon Sen even more delectable:
- Garnish with Green Onions: Don’t forget to top your Pad Woon Sen with thinly sliced green onions. These little guys provide the perfect pop of color and add a bright, fresh finish to the dish.
- Serve with a Kick: If you’re a fan of heat, you can kick things up a notch by serving your Pad Woon Sen with some sliced red chili pepper on top. It will add an extra spicy element and really take the dish to the next level.
- Pair with a Cold Beverage: This dish can pack a lot of heat, so be sure to pair it with a cold beverage to cool down your taste buds. Try a cold beer, iced tea, or a refreshing glass of water with lemon wedges.
- Leftovers for Days: If you find yourself with leftovers (which, let’s be real, is a win in itself), don’t fret. Pad Woon Sen is a dish that reheats well and can be enjoyed for days to come. Plus, the flavors only get better as they meld together over time.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Are you a meal prep wizard who loves to plan ahead? Or maybe you just want to make sure you can enjoy your Pad Woon Sen for days to come. Whatever your reason, we’ve got you covered with some tips on how to make and store this delicious dish:
- Make Ahead: If you’re short on time during the week, you can prepare some parts of this dish ahead of time. Cook the chicken and vegetables, and store them in separate containers in the fridge. Mix up the sauce and store it separately as well. Then, when it’s time to eat, you can quickly stir-fry everything together and add the cooked noodles and scrambled eggs.
- Reheat Carefully: When reheating your leftover Pad Woon Sen, be sure to do it carefully to avoid ending up with mushy noodles. It’s best to reheat in a wok or skillet with a little bit of oil, rather than in the microwave. This will help keep the noodles from getting too soggy.
- Store Properly: To store your Pad Woon Sen, make sure it’s cooled completely before transferring it to an airtight container. You can keep it in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to three months.
- Freshen it Up: To freshen up your leftovers, you can add some fresh veggies like cucumber, bean sprouts, or shredded carrots. You can also squeeze a little lime juice on top for a bright flavor.
Other Noodle Recipes You’ll Love
If you enjoyed this Pad Woon Sen recipe, you’ll also love these noodle recipes:
- Veggie, Tofu + Shrimp Pad Thai – A super-flavorful veggie-packed tofu and shrimp Pad Thai piled high with fresh, crunchy toppings. A perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour.
- Chili Oil Ramen – a quick and easy recipe with ramen noodles and easy chili oil.
- Thai Noodle Salad with Sweet Chili Dressing – A light and refreshing noodle salad with a sweet and spicy dressing. Perfect for a summer day.
- Spinach Gomae Noodles with Sesame Sauce – A healthy and flavorful noodle dish with spinach and creamy sesame sauce.
And if you adore Thai recipes as much as I do, you must also try my Red Curry Chicken, Thai Curry Fish, Peanut Sweet Potato Soup, Sweet Chilli Noodles Salad, Thai Scallops, Meatballs in Sweet Chilli Sauce, and Thai Basil Pork. Lovers of Pad Thai will swoon for Pad Woon Sen. Maybe we should call it Pad “Swoon Sen“? Now pull out your chopsticks (or let’s just faceplant some noods).
Pad Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodle Stir Fry)
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- ¼ + 2 tbsp cup soy sauce
- ¾ cup water
- 300 g bean thread noodles
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb chicken breasts
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 cup sliced carrot
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 thinly sliced red pepper
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
Make the Sauce
- Prepare the sauce mixture by mixing together oyster sauce, soy sauce, and water. Set aside.
Soak the Noodles
- Soak bean thread noodles in cold water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside.
Cook the Chicken
- Cut chicken into small strips, and coat with cornstarch and salt.
- Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add coated chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Cook the Eggs
- Beat eggs with 1/4 tsp salt and cook in a wok to make scrambled eggs. Remove from the wok and set aside.
Cook the Vegetables
- In the same wok, add more oil and stir fry onion, carrot, cabbage, and red pepper until slightly softened but still crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more until fragrant.
Mix Everything Together
- Add the cooked chicken back into the wok with the vegetables and pour in the prepared sauce mixture. Cook until chicken is cooked through to 165ºF internal temperature.
- Add drained bean thread noodles and eggs to the wok and toss to combine with the sauce and vegetable mixture.
- Continue cooking 1-2 minutes until the noodles have absorbed most of the sauce and are heated through.
- Transfer to a serving dish and top with green onions.
Last Updated on August 30, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD