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.
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 Yelp.com, and recipes concocted by bloggers Bee of Rasa Malaysia and Andrea of Viet World Kitchen. This fact has not been lost on me.
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.
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
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.