Photo: Kate Bernot

Every few days, someone I follow on social media posts about Andrea Nguyen’s umami garlic noodle recipe. I own a copy of her new cookbook, Vietnamese Food Any Day, and I finally found a night last week to cook the recipe myself. Looking over the ingredients, I was already enamored: butter, mushrooms, fish sauce, oyster sauce, MSG. Oh hell yes, we’re on an express train to Savorytown.

The methodology is simple, but the flavors are layered. Fish and oyster sauces combine with butter for a rich, shrimp scampi-esque sauce, made creamy and viscous by just a bit of cornstarch, clinging to thick, satisfying noodles—I used udon, but Nguyen notes that ramen would work as well. I served this with a side salad, but if I had bok choy or baby kale on hand I would have thrown those into the sauce along with the noodles.

I wouldn’t call this a delicate or refreshing noodle dish; it’s earthy and luxurious and unctuous and my god I just might make it again less than a week later. You should try it too.


Umami Garlic Noodles with Shiitake Mushroom

Recipe from Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Food Any Day. Serves 4, takes about 40 minutes.

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  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
  • 10 oz. dried Chinese wheat noodles or Japanese ramen
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. MSG, scant 1/2 tsp. chicken stock base, or 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. salted, European-style butter
  • 8 fresh shiitake mushroom or crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, stems included
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. minced shallot

Fill a large pot with four quarts water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, put the garlic in a small cup or dish and add about one tablespoon water to just barely cover. Set aside and expect the garlic to absorb most of the water; there is no need to drain it before adding later.

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After the pot comes to a boil, add the noodles and two teaspoons salt. Boil the noodles until just chewy-firm; they’ll soften more later. Ladle out 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the noodles in a colander, rinse with cool water, and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, fish sauce, cornstarch, MSG, sugar, and reserved cooking water. Set aside.

If the pot that you cooked the noodles in is wide enough to comfortably sauté the mushrooms, set it over medium-high heat and melt two tablespoons of the butter; if not, use a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, season with 2 or 3 pinches of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown. Turn off the heat and transfer the mushrooms to a plate or bowl.

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Return the pot to the hot burner. To prevent scorching, keep the heat off as you add the remaining two tablespoons butter, the shallot, and garlic. As the butter melts and sizzles, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and some pieces are golden. Add the seasoned cooking water and mushrooms, stir, and increase the heat slightly.

When the sauce starts bubbling, add the noodles. Using tongs and a spoon, combine and coat the noodles in sauce. If the dish looks too thick or tastes too salty, add a tiny splash of water. Turn off the heat and let rest for a minute.

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Serve the noodles in individual pasta bowls.

Notes: Accent, in the spice section, is a popular brand of MSG. You can find nutritional yeast in health stores. For a vegetarian version, replace the oyster sauce and fish sauce with two teaspoons soy sauce and two teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos (or Maggi Seasoning sauce).

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Reprinted with permission from Vietnamese Food Any Day. Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Nguyen. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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