French culture butter and Maggi spice powder may not be one of the most classic mashings, but it is a combination of dear to the heart of the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen.
Before Mrs. Nguyen and her family left Vietnam in 1975 to emigrate to the United States, the mother would scrape small butter flakes – imported from France into cans – on pieces of baguette, and then sprinkle the Maggi powder on top. The Normandy cultivated butter, which was already salty and a little funky, became even more of the spices.
When the family settled in California, Mrs Nguyen's mother asked spaghetti in lots of butter and added Maggi to the mix. The complex, creamy and very comforting, its intense umami character was exactly what Mrs Nguyen tried to capture in this garlicky noodle recipe, adapted from her latest cookbook "Vietnamese Food Any Day" (Ti Speed Press, 201
It's a more sophisticated version of what I grew up eating, "Nguyen said.
Instead of Maggi powder, the key to the recipe is the layering of flavors: the fish sauce, the sponge, the oyster sauce, all give it depth The cultivated, salted butter, unexpectedly in most fried noodle dishes, provides both acidity and cream, coating the noodles in a velvety sauce
What really pushes the dish's taste over the edge is a monosodium glutamate (MSG) sprinkler. Not an ingredient often seen in cookbooks published in the United States since the 1970s, when it received a since poor reputation for making people sick.
But it is traditional in many parts of Asia , including Vietnam, where it is called bot something (sweet powder), said Mrs. Nguyen. "It gives a sweet loving note to food that we are always looking for, a sweet expression as opposed to salinity."
For All who doesn't want to use straight MSG (which is available Available in Asian markets and sold as Accent Flavor Enhancer elsewhere ), Mrs Nguyen recommends replacing nutrient or chicken stocks.
I tested Mrs Nguyen's noodle recipe with all three, and the one made with MSG was the richest and the best, even though the other two were still consumed.
And while I fried all the noodles, I made a few changes. I doubled the mushrooms and stirred mustard green and coriander in the pan for freshness.
When I told Mrs Nguyen about the added vegetables, she gave her approval. "It's an adaptable bowl," she said. "There is enough umami to walk around."