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Oh yes, we're cooking with butter and garlic tonight. ARE YOU EXCITED?

Despite the name of this dish, this is more Vietnamese-American than traditional Vietnamese cooking. The linguine and butter should be a tip-off there. In Andrea Nguyen's book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors, the dish is called Nui Xào Maggi, or western noodles ("nui" is the Vietnamese phonetic equivalent of the French word "nouilles," or noodles) stir-fried (xào) with Maggi seasoning. From the book:

When my family lived in Vietnam, these noodles were considered special because Western noodles...and butter were expensive imports. Once we arrived in the United States, we indulged in them to the point that they were no longer dear. In fact, I forgot about them for years, only to rediscover their garlicky, buttery, nutty goodness at a Vietnamese French restaurant in Westminster, California. Nowadays, I prepare these noodles not just because they are a comfort food from my youth, but also because they are good.
The recipe I make and enjoy, however, is Nguyen's updated version of her cookbook Nui Xào Maggi recipe, which she calls Vietnamese Garlic Noodles on her website. The recipe is made to imitate the noodle dish prepared by some Vietnamese-American restaurants. For the most part, I have stuck to Nguyen's recipe, and my mouth couldn't be happier. Not to mention, this is a really easy dish to make if you want a quick dinner, as it only takes a few ingredients.

Let's get started! You'll need either fresh (obviously better) or dried linguine. If fresh, you'll want 10 ounces; if dried, 8 ounces. I'm using dried.

The very first time I made this dish, I saw Nguyen's instruction to "lightly salt" the pasta water, laughed, and said, "Lightly salt my ass!" I'm a big believer in dumping a handful or two of kosher salt into pasta water. As I quickly discovered, with the saltiness of the Maggi seasoning and considering we're going to use some of the pasta water for the sauce, the result is too salty even for my tastes--and you can ask my blood pressure about how much I love salt. So seriously, lightly salt the pasta water. You'll want to cook the linguine a little beyond al dente.

Now, about the garlic. Nguyen's original recipe calls for minced garlic, while the newer version calls for mashed garlic. I'm kind of compromising here. I'm mashing the garlic with the back of my knife, but not completely. I'm starting with 8 cloves of garlic.

Finely mince the garlic.
Then, sprinkle some salt over the garlic, which will both keep it from flying all over the counter and act as an abrasive element to aid in mashing. Use the back of your knife to rub and mash the garlic. I mashed to about this point:
If you'd like a more mashed garlic, keep working it with the back of the knife--or, you can skip the cutting board altogether and use a microplane zester.

Mix the garlic with 2 teaspoons of water.

Next, we're going to need the Maggi seasoning. If you don't know what it is, it is an amazing condiment somewhat similar to soy sauce--minus the soy.
In a bowl, add 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water to a scant tablespoon of Maggi seasoning (careful, it's salty and easy to go overboard on). To boost the flavor a bit, you should also add about a tablespoon of rice wine. Or, if you don't have that, dry sherry will work just fine. I'm using dry sherry this time because I already have it and I don't feel like making a trip to Chinatown for the good rice wine. Stir all of it up to make the sauce. Cute panda bowl is optional.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 1/4 cup of unsalted butter. Let it melt.
Add the garlic. Stir it for 1-2 minutes.
Add the sauce you mixed up in the separate bowl. Bring it to a boil.
Turn the heat up to high and add the drained linguine. Stir-fry the noodles until there is no liquid left in the pan.
Finally, add one last touch: an extra tablespoon of butter. And, if it needs salt, feel free.
And that's it! This is supposed to be a side dish, but I eat it as a main course. I like it with a piece of toasted French bread. Yes, I'm still losing weight--I love Weight Watchers, because I get to eat stuff like this guiltlessly.

Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate. Readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

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