Garlic Butter Noodles

There are secret recipes and there are secret recipes.

Ever since I moved to Northern California, I’ve heard rumors about the famous recipes prepared in the secret kitchen at the An family’s Thanh Long Restaurant. (They also own two branches of the upmarket Crustacean restaurants).

The key to the An Family success story, the secret kitchen is a completely enclosed space within the main kitchen that is off limits to all employees except An Family members where they prepare their money-making recipes such as their much-talked-about garlic noodles.

garlic noodles 008

Butter and garlic are just 2 ingredients that go into making this an unparalleled dish!

As matriarch Helene An explains on their website, her family recipes, her culinary legacy, are her daughter’s inheritance. In much the same way that Coca-Cola® company stowed their recipes for Coke® in a vault, the An Family Secret Kitchen was created.

I have to admit that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try these legendary noodles. However, the noodles have been written up numerous times with varying riffs on the supposed recipe. There’s a thread on, and recipes concocted by bloggers Bee of Rasa Malaysia and Andrea of Viet World Kitchen. This fact has not been lost on me.

So when I saw a recipe for garlic butter noodles in Jaden Hair’s just-released Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, I figured it was about time I tried it.

After perusing several garlic noodle recipes inspired by the An family version, I deduced that the recipe’s secret just might lie in Maggi Seasoning, a culinary throwback to my childhood. I can still remember the TV commercials where the smiley-faced, motherly-type on screen would add a dash of Maggi Seasoning to just about every dish she was making, be it scrambled eggs, soup noodles or fried rice.

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Like magic, Maggi Seasoning adds tons of flavor to any dish!

I’d always assumed Maggi was an Asian brand but after a quick Google search, I found it quite to the contrary. Plus a couple of other interesting facts about Maggi Seasoning.

1. Maggi GmbH was actually founded in 1897 by Julius Maggi in the German town of Singen where it is still established today.

2. Maggi Seasoning is a dark, hydrolyzed vegetable protein-based sauce that doesn’t actually contain soy although it tastes similar to soy sauce. Wheat, and its derivatives, seems to be the main ingredient.

3. It was introduced in 1886 as a cheap substitute for meat extract (flavoring?) and is very popular in Switzerland, Austria and especially in Germany.

I haven’t researched how Maggi Seasoning became a pantry staple in Southeast Asia but the wave of nostalgia it brought on sent me tumbling back to my childhood. “Maggi mee, fast to cook, good to eat!” ring a bell? Funny how my fondest memories of Maggi mee is eating them raw in my primary school canteen!

Anyways, I’m glad for the reintroduction. I feel like Jaden’s recipe reacquainted me with a long lost childhood friend AND I have found a new addition to my kitchen repertoire: her absolutely delicious rendition of garlic noodles.

Garlic Butter Noodles
Adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

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I honestly don’t have a comparison to the original but these noodles are sure darn good! Be forewarned, you mustn’t be afraid of fat. I can’t wait to try out more of Jaden’s recipes. For more blogger interpretations of The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook recipes, go to White on Rice Couple. Incidentally, they featured the garlic noodles as well, with their own take on the recipe.

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

7 oz dried egg noodles
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maggi Seasoning or soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Bring a large pot of  water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain noodles and wipe the pot clean. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the butter. When the butter is sizzling and bubbling a bit, add the green onion and the garlic. Fry for 1 minute or until very fragrant; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the brown sugar, Maggi Seasoning and oyster sauce and stir well to mix everything evenly. Add the noodles and toss vigorously to get the good stuff evenly distributed throughout the noodles.


29 thoughts on “Garlic Butter Noodles

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  2. ! We’re just had some of that garlic noodle at the food truck place! Thanh long right! Seriously !!!! The noodle over cook! Lacking garlic flavor! Big box of noodle and little tinny beef skewer for $9! I rather have them cook the noodle better and small portion w some veggie and better beef! OMG ! We never gonna eat at this place again! Too much carb too much oil and not good as people’s said! Don’t try! Waste of money

  3. someone asked about the butter not being an Asian ingredient:

    Vietnam was once colonized by the French, which is where the butter as well as the (supposed to be pasta) noodles comes from. It was considered a delicacy in Vietnam, because these ingredients were expensive to get. Thank you, France.

    1. Hi Thu H., thanks for clarifying. Growing up in a former colony, I’m fascinated by how colonial cuisine evolved. And each former colony has its own distinct characteristics. Cheers, Pat

  4. I’ve made this recipe many times and it is so simple and so delicious – it’s hard to believe that something so easy can be so great! Maggi makes the difference IMHO…

  5. I’m just throwing this out here If for the secret ingredient, what if somebody used Vegamite (or Marmite) instead of the Maggi seasoning. Its got a flavorful distinct, cant put your finger on taste. A little goes a long way so just a smidge could add something to the dish. I’ve neither tried the dish itself or your recipe. It does sound close to the concoction I throw together(I like to add some parmasan cheese, cream cheese, parsley or cilantro and maybe a few drops of lemon or lime)

    1. Hi Angela, I have to admit I’m not a fan of Vegamite or Bovril (the beefy version) but I know some friends who love them! I’d say if you are a fan, it would be very tasty indeed. I’m going to have to try your version of the noodles. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers, Pat

  6. Your recipe has now become a staple for me. Sometimes I substitute the egg noodles with misua (, blanched for 10 seconds in boiling water. I also add some thinly sliced eggplant and some creamy scrambled eggs. The eggplant and misua absorbs the seasoning so well.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. I’ve had those garlic-butter noodles not at Thanh Long but at another restaurant across town that people on the Chowhound SF board think is better, La Vie. They were quite tasty, but I was surprised to find them garnished with Parmesan cheese of the green can, sawdust texture variety!

  8. I don’t get it – factory made noodles with nothing but butter, garlic and soysauce. How do you say: “no thanks” in Vietnamese? This “recipe” is akin to throwing soysauce and chopped cilantro over white rice then calling it a dish.

    1. Hi SinoSoul,

      You do have a good point there but seriously, if you love garlic, you’ll love this dish. Besides, recipes don’t always have to be complicated, just tasty!

  9. wow pat, the story of your grandma’s life is really awesome. look forward to reading more in your book. the generation that lived through the jap. occupation in asia really had it tough, my grandparents as well.

    1. Hi Lin,
      Thanks and I agree with you. The Japanese Occupation was a hard time for everyone who lived through it. Our history textbooks didn’t do the life experiences justice. Have you recorded/learned about your grandparents experiences too?

  10. Don’t forget that the Maggi Brand, now owned by the Swiss conglomerate Nestle, also sells a seasoning sauce frequently referred to as “European” style Maggi, as it is produced in West Germany, not China, like the “Asian style sauce, and does not have the same pronounced soy flavor.It’s label is blue and yellow, primarily. Another version, made in the Phillipines, has a smoke flavoring. I used to cook in a mushroom centric restaurant here in Oregon, and we used Maggi regularly, because it adds depth and enhances the “umami” quality of many mushroom dishes and sauces. In manyAmerican restaurants, Maggi has replaced a similar American product called LeGout, which I believe was developed as a Maggi imitator in the 1920’s, but which is no longer being manufactured. And to Gastronomer, if the secret to the buttered noodles is MSG, then Maggi seasoning is the perfect addition, since it contains MSG as a major ingredient.

    1. Hi Dianne,
      You’d be surprised! Butter in Asian dishes is definitely a new phenomenon that is spreading. There’s a noodle recipe (Vietnamese as well, incidentally) in my cookbook that uses butter too, and butter crab and butter pork chops are very popular in Singapore. It’s obviously a colonial influence.

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