Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Long-Life Noodles with Pickled Cucumbers

Chinese New Year - Spring Festival - is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The year 4707 - the year of the ox - begins on the 26th of January. Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Those born in ox years tend to be painters, engineers, and architects. They are stable, fearless, obstinate, hard-working and friendly. I'll bet they also love to eat. Food is an important part of the New Year celebration and certain foods are included for their symbolic value; noodles are served for longevity, oranges for wealth and prosperity and a whole fish for abundance and togetherness. Today's recipe is for long-life noodles that are like those made by vendors who sell their wares from pots that hang from shoulder poles. They are served at the very beginning or at the very end of the meal. Be aware that bad luck or a shortened life is the fate of those who cut them into more manageable lengths. We wish all who speak Cantonese, Gōngxǐ fācái and those who who speak Mandarin, Xīnnián kuàilè. Happy New Year to all.

Long-Life Noodles with Pickled Cucumbers

2 julienned English cucumbers
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 package (about 8-oz.) Chinese noodles or long spaghetti
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped (not minced) ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
12 to 16-ounces ground pork or turkey dark meat
Cilantro and scallions for garnish (optional)

1) Place cucumbers, red onion, rice vinegar, sugar red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Toss. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill.
2) Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender to the bite. Drain. Keep warm.
3) Combine sherry, broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, chili garlic sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
4) Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add bell pepper, ginger and garlic and stir-fry over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pork and cook until it begins to brown. Turn and cook for 3 minutes longer. Stir in reserved sauce using a fork to break up chunks of pork. Simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Arrange noodles on a platter. Spoon meat sauce over noodles. Garnish with cilantro and chopped scallions if desired. Serve each portion with a serving of pickled cucumbers. Yield: 4 Servings.

I'm sending this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights which is hosted this week by Haalo at Cook (Almost) Anything.


Mila said...

Wow Mary! Those are some looong noodles!

Anonymous said...

Happy Chinese New Year to you and your family! Noodles for long life! Perfect dish to celebrate :)

Anonymous said...

I love this Chinese tradition with the noodles, thanks for reminding me to get mine going!

Martha said...

A Happy New Year to You as well.


Cathy said...

Not cutting the noodles would be a slurpy challenge.

I love the flavors you've combined here, Mary. I'm definitely going to try this.

Anonymous said...

Oh what a lovely recipe. & thanks for that informative read. I had no idea how every month wignified an animal.We often have stir fired noodles. kids love it. Bookmarking this.

Pam said...

A great and informative post. The noodles look so tasty and the cucumbers sound really refreshing. A tasty meal!

Barbara said...

Mary, this dish sounds so delish with all the spices.
I think one of the most fun times I have ever had was celebrating Chinese New Year in Lake Charles, LA. You don't think about LA for Chinese New Year, but it was great with all the Chinese dishes, concerts, and Chinese film stars.

I think I will start tonight with not cutting my noodles!

Anonymous said...

Happy Chinese New Year to you too... may God indeed bless us all with long life, with or without the noodles :)... but of course, i would prefer to have it with your noodles... it does look delicious... :)

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the symbolism of foods in all culture. Nice recipe.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Barbara, it's my sincere hope I've given you all the opportunity to add decades to your life span.

Ruth Daniels said...

Happy Year of the Ox - Kung Hei Fat Choi!! And thanks for sharing this great dish with Presto Pasta Nights.

Christine Ho said...

I found your blog via Kalyn's post on "Chinese New Year Ideas to Help You Celebrate".
Happy year of the ox to you! Happy "Niu" Year!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Christine, I'm so glad you found us. Thanks for stopping by.

KimH said...

Yum, this sounds wonderful. I love some Chinese or Asian foods, but not others and Im horrible at trying to recreate them. Thanks for your posts and recipes here, they actually look doable for me@ ;)
Happy Chinese New Year!

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