Garlic Noodles are one of the most satisfying comforting foods on the planet, and are so incredibly fast and easy to make! This recipe adds roasted mushrooms to the Garlic Noodles to up the umami factor and make it into a meal. Shall we?
What are Garlic Noodles
Garlic Noodles are exactly what their name indicate—a tangle of noodles doused with a garlicky, buttery sauce. But what takes the Garlic Noodles far beyond just a bowl of pasta with garlic and butter is a blend of not-so-secret ingredients that are known for their undeniable umami in different cultural cuisines.
Where are the Original Garlic Noodles From?
While there is no single definitive origin story for Garlic Noodles, it is widely recognized as the invention of chef Helene An in San Francisco. Chef An combined flavors from her Vietnamese background and original home with the Italian American influences in her surrounding San Francisco neighborhood when her family immigrated there in the 1970s.
In essence, the origins of garlic noodles are a testament to the power of culinary fusion and cultural exchange. Noodles and pasta cross all cultures, and Chef An brought the flavors of fish sauce and oyster sauce from her personal background to the garlic, butter, and parmesan cheese of the Italian-American surroundings. This dish represents the creativity and adaptability of immigrant communities and their ability to craft new, flavorful dishes that appeal to a wide range of palates.
Garlic Noodles are now famous at both Chef An’s original Thanh Long restaurant in San Francisco as well as sister restaurant Crustacean in Los Angeles, where my family and I have eaten on countless special occasions. Chef An's Garlic Noodles recipe has been kept a secret since its invention in the 1970s, with the restaurants going as far as building a custom "secret kitchen" in which only a few cooks who have been sworn to secrecy make the dish.
How This Garlic Noodles Recipe is Similar/Different from Original
The recipe as printed below is about as close as you're going to get to the original dish, though my version has a little more garlic.
The restaurants also has a whole Roasted Dungeness Crab on the menu and insiders know that the pro-move is to order the crab and noodles together. We are skipping the whole roasted crab in favor of mushrooms for a similar rich, umami flavor. Specifically, lion's mane mushrooms have a texture that "shred" apart similar to the way crabmeat does, and some say lion's mane mushrooms have a very subtle seafood flavor!
What Ingredients You Need for Garlic Noodles
- Long pasta or noodles
- Olive oil
- Tamari or soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Oyster sauce
This recipe includes mushrooms, specifically Lion's Mane! To make just the Garlic Noodles, leave the mushrooms out! The noodles will be the same.
Scroll down to recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for How to Make Garlic Noodles with Mushrooms
Prep all of the ingredients and have them ready when you start. The basic instructions for making Garlic Noodles are fairly straight-forward, and the process doesn't take long! There is, however, a little bit of timing and finesse involved, i.e. it all moves kind of fast!
Pan-roast Mushrooms: Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the shredded lion's mane mushroom strips in the pan, DRY, i.e. without oil. Dry sautéing will draw out some of the excess moisture from the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to brown at their edges. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a plate, wipe out pan with a damp paper towel, and set aside to cook sauce and pasta later.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add noodles and cook noodles according to package directions until al dente. Depending on the type and brand of noodles, the cooking time can be anywhere from 90 seconds to 12 minutes.
Save 1 cup of the cooking water for the sauce later, then drain the noodles. Do not rinse the noodles.
While the noodles are cooking, in a small bowl, combine tamari, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and finely grated parmesan cheese.
Heat olive oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add butter and stir until melted into olive oil. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Do not allow garlic to brown.
Stir the sauce mixture into the melted butter in the pan.
Add the cooked noodles to the pan and toss with sauce to coat the noodles, about 1 minute. If the noodles and sauce become too dry in the pan, add reserved cooking water to pan a few tablespoons at a time to loosen the noodles.
Pro-tip: Make quadruple the amount of the soy-fish-oyster-sauce-parm, add a few tablespoons of fresh minced garlic, and keep it in an airtight jar in the fridge to use as an all-purpose umami Sauté Sauce!
What Kind of Noodles Should You Use for Garlic Noodles
If you have access to Asian-style fresh noodles which you would find in the refrigerated section, use them! Fresh noodles have a subtle bouncy texture. But to be honest, you can make Garlic Noodles with whatever long, thin noodles are available to you, and even regular spaghetti noodles work, which is what I most often use.
Here are the best noodles to use for Garlic Noodles:
- Asian fresh, lo mein-type noodles, made with wheat flour and egg
- Spaghetti noodles (pasta)
- Ramen noodles
- Udon noodles
- Rice noodles - see Tips and Tricks for using rice noodles, as they are more delicate and require slightly different handling
The only type of noodles I would avoid are buckwheat soba, which are fairly delicate and may not stand up to the aggressiveness of the tossing technique and the intensity of the sauce.
What Kind of Mushrooms Should You Use for Garlic Noodles
Though any kind of mushrooms, or mixture of mushrooms, will work in Garlic Noodles, my preference is for varieties commonly associated with Asian cooking like maitake (hen of the woods), oyster, eryngii (king oyster), and shiitake. These are all pictured above.
In this recipe, I am using Lion's Mane Mushrooms, a specialty cultivated mushroom that looks like its namesake, a furry, fuzzy lions mane. Lion's Mane mushrooms have a texture that "shred" apart similar to the way crabmeat does, and some say lion's mane mushrooms have a very subtle seafood flavor. I personally haven't tasted a distinctive seafood flavor in lion's mane mushrooms, but I definitely taste umami. The umami might be what some people are identifying as "seafood," since ingredients from the sea like fish and seaweed contain a lot of umami compounds.
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Garlic. Use finely minced garlic, preferably fresh that you've minced yourself. Frozen, pre-minced garlic won't have the same intensity, and is sometimes preserved with other ingredients that change the flavor. Do not use dried/dehydrated garlic.
- Tamari or soy sauce. Tamari is Japanese-style soy sauce brewed without the use of wheat so it is gluten-free. I use this brand of tamari, which is organic. If you are not sensitive to wheat, the two are essentially interchangeable, though tamari has a slightly higher-toned tartness to it.
- Fish sauce is a liquid sauce made from fermented fish, used in cooking to add umami and salt to dishes. Though fish sauce has an intense fragrance directly from the bottle, the final dish does not actually smell or taste strongly of fish. You can find fish sauce in the condiments or Asian food section of grocery stores. This is the best brand of fish sauce.
- Oyster sauce is a thick sauce made primarily from the extract from cooking down oysters. Like fish sauce, it adds umami and a subtle sweetness to final dishes. Look for a brand that has “oyster” as the first ingredient. This "premium" brand is widely used.
- Parmesan cheese is a hard, aged cheese made from cow's milk. "Authentic" parmesan is called Parmigiano-Reggiano and is produced in only a few areas of Italy, making it fairly expensive. Use any strong, grating cheese that is available to you like grana padano, asiago, and pecorino.
- Olive Oil. I used this olive oil that's pretty widely available, though it is not organic.
All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
Making substitutions to accommodate availability of ingredients or dietary restrictions is fairly easy. Here are suggested substitutions:
- Tamari for Soy sauce. If you are avoiding gluten, use tamari, which is nearly interchangeable with regular soy sauce except that tamari is fermented without wheat, or liquid aminos. If you are avoiding soy products—soy sauce, tamari, and liquid aminos are all made from soybeans—use coconut aminos or additional fish sauce.
- More Soy or Miso for Fish sauce. If you cannot find fish sauce, have a fin fish allergy or other dietary restriction, substitute with additional soy sauce or 1:1 miso paste mixed with water.
- Oyster sauce. If you cannot find oyster sauce, you have several options, depending on whether you have a shellfish allergy or other dietary restriction or simply cannot find oyster sauce. If you have a shellfish allergy, you can substitute hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, vegetarian "oyster sauce" (I use this brand) usually made from mushrooms, or more soy sauce or fish sauce with an equivalent amount of sugar.
- Other Cheese for Parmesan cheese. "Authentic" Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, aged cow's milk cheese produced in only a few areas of Italy, making it fairly expensive. Use any strong, grating cheese that is available to you like grana padano, asiago, and pecorino, which is very similar to parmesan, but made from sheep's milk. The only cheese I would avoid is commercial, pre-grated parmesan in the green containers.
Substitutions for Dietary Restrictions
If you have a dietary restriction or allergy, here are suggested modifications:
- Vegetarian. To make vegetarian Garlic Noodles, use vegetarian “fish sauce” and vegetarian “oyster sauce.” Vegetarian alternatives for both are commonly made with mushrooms, which will perfectly complement the mushrooms in the recipe!
- Vegan. To make vegan Garlic Noodles, make the same substitutions for fish sauce and oyster sauce as above, make sure your noodles do not contain egg, use plant-based butter, and substitute Parmesan cheese with an equivalent amount of nutritional yeast.
- Dairy-free. To make dairy-free Garlic Noodles, substitute non-dairy/plant-based alternatives for the butter and parmesan cheese.
- Gluten-free. To make gluten-free Garlic Noodles, use rice noodles or other non-wheat based noodles and tamari or coconut/liquid aminos in place of regular wheat-brewed soy sauce. Read package ingredients labels on rice noodles to make sure there is no wheat included. Some rice noodles have a small amount of regular wheat flour to help with texture.
In all cases, make sure to read labels on bottles and jars of sauces as different brands contain different ingredients!
Recommended Serving Size for Pasta
The USDA states that one serving size of pasta is 1 ounce of dried pasta, or ½ cup of cooked pasta, which as we all know, is absolutely, comically unrealistic. One ounce of dried long noodles is about the amount you would hold that is the diameter of a Sharpie.
The commonly accepted serving size of pasta, which you will see on most nutrition labels on packages, is 2 ounces of dried pasta. However, that is only 1 cup of cooked pasta and we all know that that is also kind of unrealistic.
Here's the Pro-Tip: I normally allot 3-4 ounces of dried noodles per serving, especially in an Asian preparation in which the noodles are the main part of the dish. This recipe accounts for 3 ounces of noodles per serving, 4 servings, so 12 ounces of noodles total.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe, including Garlic Noodles. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Garlic Noodles from your pantry to plate.
- Mushroom brush
- Vegetable and fruit wash
- Chef's knife
- Garlic press
- Cast iron skillet
- Pasta pot
- Mini ¼-cup liquid measuring cup
- Glass mixing bowls for combining sauce ingredients
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids, perfect size for storing Bibimbap Sauce, and even transferring your gochujang out of the plastic container from the store into glass!
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
Leftover Garlic Noodles, with the sauce, can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a pan over medium heat with a little bit of oil to keep the noodles from sticking.
Leftover cooked noodles without sauce can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for three days. Re-heat by dropping into a pot of simmering water for 10 seconds.
Because Garlic Noodles come together so quickly, there really isn't much advance prep.
What Else to Serve with Garlic Noodles
Garlic Noodles by themselves are rich enough to feel like a "light" meal by themselves, especially with the suggested addition of sauteed mushrooms. However, you can take Garlic Noodles to the next level in a few more ways.
Here are suggestions and variations based on how I have cooked or ordered in a restaurant, and eaten Garlic Noodles over the years:
- Crab. Go down the path of the original Crustacean restaurant and serve along with the pulled/picked crabmeat of a whole Roasted Crab
- Shrimp/Scallops. Stir-fry large fresh shrimp or scallops along with the garlic before adding the cooked noodles. If you already have cooked shrimp, re-heat and toss into the pan with the cooked noodles.
- Egg. Top a bowl of noodles with either a fried or boiled egg. If you like runnier egg yolks, the yolk will mix with the garlicky sauce and create an almost creamy aioli-like sauce.
- Caviar. A different type of "egg," and a super luxe presentation, especially if plated particularly artfully, swirl the cooked noodles into a nest, then top with regular caviar, salmon roe, or other sushi style caviar.
If you like to have something fresh and green along with your Garlic Noodles, here are some great suggestions to pair with:
- Add refreshing spice with these Din Tai Fung Spicy Cucumbers, staying right in the theme of restaurant-inspired recipes!
- Oi Muchim are cucumbers that are even spicier and more garlicky!
- Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi for greens and heat!
- LOVE a roasted broccoli, or steamed if you want to keep all your cooking on the stovetop
Best Wine Pairing for Asian Garlic Noodles
As is the case with almost all food, wines with sharp acidity and lower alcohol levels are best for this dish. As far as specific flavors, you have a couple of directions you can follow for wine pairing with Garlic Noodles. Either take the lead of the garlicky, buttery, cheesy pasta, or follow the umami-rich flavors of the soy, fish, and oyster sauces.
To cut through the garlicky and buttery richness in terms of both flavor and texture, a sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava will always do the trick. Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine made from the Glera grape is a particularly fitting match with the dish's Italian-ish ancestry. Prosecco is light and dry, i.e. not sweet, though there is a perceived sweetness because the flavor is fruitier than Champagne. This is my favorite Prosecco, by an Italian producer named Bisson.
Acidic, Dry White Wines
Wine Pairing Summary
- high acid, lower alcohol
- sparkling wine like Prosecco, Cava, or a pétillant naturel
- herbal, aromatic white wines like Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc
- dry white wines like Riesling
- light bodied, high-acid red can work, like Gamay
Garlic Noodles with Mushrooms Recipe
- 12-16 ounces lion's mane, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms or any combination
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoons salt
For Garlic Noodles
- 12 ounces Asian fresh noodles or pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 head garlic , finely minced
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon premium oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan-style cheese
- ¼ cup sliced scallions
Roast the Mushrooms
- Heat a wok or large sauté pan over medium heat dry, i.e. without oil or butter.
- Add mushrooms to pan in a single layer and leave them undisturbed for 1-2 minutes. You may have to cook the mushrooms in a batches if they don't all fit in your pan at once.
- After the mushrooms start to sweat out some of their liquid, flip them over and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes. Once the mushrooms are golden brown, add a pat of butter, saute until deep golden brown, then remove the cooked mushrooms to a plate. Repeat batches if necessary.
- Wipe out pan or wok with a damp paper towel; you will use the same pan to make the Garlic Noodles.
Make the Garlic Noodles
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add noodles and cook noodles according to package directions until al dente. Depending on the type and brand of noodles, the cooking time can be anywhere from 90 seconds to 12 minutes. Save 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the noodles. Do not rinse the noodles.
- In a small bowl, combine tamari, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and finely grated parmesan cheese.
- Heat olive oil in a wok or large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add butter and stir until melted into olive oil. Add minced garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 90 seconds. Do not allow garlic to brown.
- Stir the sauce mixture into the melted butter in the pan.
- Add the cooked noodles to the pan and toss with sauce to coat the noodles, about 1 minute. If the noodles and sauce become too dry in the pan, add reserved cooking water to pan a few tablespoons at a time to loosen the noodles.
- Add cooked mushrooms to pan with noodles and toss to combine.
- Transfer the Garlic Noodles with Mushrooms to a serving platter. Garnish with sliced scallions. Serve immediately with additional grated parmesan.