These San Francisco-style Vietnamese garlic noodles, originally made popular at Thanh Long, are an easy, satisfying stir-fry dish made with plenty of garlic, pasta, fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, butter, and Parmesan cheese.
Adapted from Kenji López-Alt | The Wok | W.W. Norton, 2022
The garlic noodles on their own are extraordinarily simple and delicious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fancy them up a bit. They go very well with seafood, and some raw, shell-on shrimp stir-fried along with the garlic right from the start would be an excellent addition.
Recently I’ve taken to adding a few spoonfuls of tarako or mentaiko—Japanese salted pollock roe. Sushi-style flying fish roe (tobiko) or salmon roe (ikura) would also be a great addition, as would chunks of crab or lobster meat, or even Western-style caviar (if you’re feeling flush).–Kenji López-Alt
Vietnamese Garlic Noodles FAQs
What is an alternative for a mortar and pestle?
For soft ingredients such as garlic cloves, place your peeled garlic onto a cutting board and smash it with the bottom of a sturdy coffee mug or other weighty, flat-bottomed object. A coffee grinder works wonders if you’re dealing with dry, hard ingredients like peppercorns.
Does oyster sauce contain shellfish?
Yep, unless you can source a vegetarian version. Oyster sauce typically contains oysters, water, salt, sugar, corn starch, wheat flour, and some coloring. Vegetarian versions are available online and at local markets – and instead of oysters, they’re made with soybeans, brown sugar, and mushrooms.
Why does fish sauce smell so bad?
Fish sauce is made from sardines that are fermented in salt for anywhere from 3 to 12 months. After that, the liquid produced during the fermentation process is extracted. That’s fish sauce. It’s stinky, fermented fish. Don’t let the odor put you off – the taste is out of this world, and it makes a huge difference in recipes.
Can I use a different type of noodle in this recipe?
Yes. Vietnamese garlic noodles are often made with chow mein or other Asian types of noodles.
San Francisco-Style Vietnamese Garlic Noodles
Garlic, pasta, and classic Asian flavors collide in this easy, popular Asian-inspired noodle dish.
In a 12-inch (30-cm) skillet, bring 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir a few times to make sure it’s not clumping, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente (about 2 minutes short of the recommended cook time on the package).
While the noodles are cooking, melt the butter in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
If you choose to add shrimp, as suggested in the headnote, stir-fry them with the garlic. This may increase the cooking time by a minute or two.
Using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta to the garlic sauce, along with whatever water clings to it. Increase the heat to high, add the cheese to the wok, and stir and toss vigorously until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, about 30 seconds. (If the sauce looks too watery, let it keep reducing. If it looks greasy, splash some more cooking water into it and let it re-emulsify.)
Stir in the scallions, if using, and serve immediately.