Monday, January 16, 2012

Another New Year (and a Recipe for Long Life Noodles)

We're barely into 2012 and I have to start thinking about another New Year.  Lunar New Year is just around the corner and I am not remotely prepared.  Well..., now that I think about it, I am totally prepared.

Sweep out the old luck of the last year by cleaning your home?  My apartment looks like a bomb hit it.  Start the year fresh with a new hair cut?  I'm pretty sure the last time my hair was cut I was wearing shorts.   Eat traditional foods in celebration?  This post from last year will surely help, as will the recipe that follows.

This year is the Year of the Dragon.  In Chinese Astrology this year holds great significance.  The Dragon is the only animal in the Chinese Zodiac that isn't real.  It is believed to have mystical powers and represents power and wisdom.  People born under the sign of the Dragon are said to stand out from the crowd and great things are expected of them.  Boy, am I  happy I was born under the sign of the Pig.  No one expects much from a Pig.

As the years pass and I celebrate more Asian holidays with my husband's family I develop a greater appreciation for the deep-rooted traditions embedded in the celebrating.  Having been raised by a very superstitious mother I am all for traditions that are meant to increase my chances for good luck, a long life and prosperity.   Long Life Noodles are eaten at Lunar New Year to ensure your longevity.  The longer the noodles the better.  And, you should NEVER cut them lest you cut your life short. Slurping them is actually encouraged. Long life and an excuse for bad manners?  Bring it on.

I should caveat that this recipe will require a trip to an Asian Market or your nearest Chinatown.  I generally prefer shopping at the smaller more mom and pop markets but there are two larger "supermarkets" in Manhattan's Chinatown that will have everything you need to make this recipe: Hong Kong Supermarket and Kam Man.

If anyone is interested I am planning a trip in the next few weeks and always welcome company.  Hit me with an e-mail (mmarksshih at yahoo dot com) or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

In the meantime, Gong Hay Fat Choy.  May you prosper in the year of the Dragon.

My thanks to the always funny, witty and lovely Amy Kover for asking me if I had a recipe for Long Life Noodles and inspiring this post.  Check out her well-written blog and follow her musings on Twitter.

Long Life Noodles (aka Tossed Noodles aka Lo Mein)
Adapted from The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller
Yields - at least 8 servings as a side dish 

The thing about lo mein is that everyone has his or her own favorite version.  Mine is made with roast pork, shrimp, Chinese cabbage, bean sprouts, and something green and leafy (usually spinach); so that is the recipe I am including here.  But lo mein is a very forgiving "recipe" and you can use any ingredients you like.  When I prepare this each year for Lunar New Year at my daughter's school I make a simple version using only julienned carrots and bean sprouts along with the noodles.  It's really the method that is important.

In simple terms the method is as such:  stir fry your ingredients (aromatics, vegetables, meats until mostly cooked through); add in 1/4 c stock or water and heat; place parboiled noodles over the stir-fried mixture; add in more stock.  Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes to heat through over medium heat.  Sprinkle noodles with sugar and soy sauce.  Stir to combine and serve.

  • 1 lb long egg noodles (you can buy these in most Asian Markets and many larger markets with a good ethnic food section.  They can be dry or fresh.  I often buy the pre-cooked packaged noodles to save a step in the cooking process.
  • 2 TBS oil (peanut, canola, grapeseed - you want something with a high smoking point - not olive)
  • 1" piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 scallion stalks, thinly sliced (whites and greens)
  • 1 cup roast park, sliced (we love to get our roast pork from Big Wong (Yes, laugh at the name like a 12-year old boy) located at 67 Mott Street, New York, NY (low on ambiance but high on the quality of the roast meats and congee)
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined (depending on the size you might want to dice the shrimp)
  • 1 TBS sherry or Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts, blanched and cooled
  • 1 cup Chinese cabbage (shredded), blanched and cooled
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or water) divided into two even parts
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 TBS soy sauce
  1. If cooking the noodles you will need 8 cups of water and salt.  Bring the water to a rolling boil.  Add in salt and the noodles.  Stir the noodles from time to time and cook until barely done (you want some bite as they will be cooked again).  Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Coat with bit of oil to keep them from sticking and set aside. 
  2. In a wok or other large cooking vessel (preferably a wok, really), heat the oil.  Once it is shimmering, add in the ginger, garlic and scallions and stir fry to brown slightly.
  3. Add in the pork and move around the pan a few times (keep in mind it is already cooked).  Stir in the sherry.
  4. Add in the vegetables and stir fry for about 1-2 minutes, just to incorporate them and distribute evenly. 
  5. Add in the shrimp and cook an additional minute.
  6. Season with salt.
  7. Have the stock warm and add in 1/4 c.  Cook 2 minutes, covered, over medium heat.
  8. Add in the noodles,  the remaining stock and cover.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat, add in the sugar and soy sauce.  Test for seasoning.  Adjust, if necessary, and serve immediately.

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