Whatever You Do, Don’t Cut Your Noodles

Our daughter Julia, our delicious foodie, is Chinese by birth. I say by birth because we adopted Julia when she was 10 months old and, since then, she has lived right here in the good ole’ USA. The honest truth is that my girl is more comfortable noshing on a hot dog smothered in ketchup than eating dim sum with chopsticks.

When we adopted her, I had visions that we would celebrate every Chinese holiday. This was her heritage after all, and we were so fortunate to have her. I would give it all I had. But, then real life happened. Truth be told, it is hard to celebrate both Chinese AND American holidays and not go completely crazy. (One could argue, quite persuasively, that it’s hard to fully celebrate only one culture’s holidays and not end up in the loony-bin!) But, celebrating both would mean that there would be a holiday or a festival every other week! Just commit me now. So with my sanity on the line, we quickly cut it to Chinese New Year. Once a year I could pull out all the proverbial stops-or dragons, as it were.

Chinese New Year typically comes in late January or early February and marks the beginning of Spring. This year Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, began Thursday, February 3, a school night.

For the days leading up to the big day, I researched food. In China, all food served at the New Year feast has meaning for the year to come and a reason for its’ place on the table. Noodles- never cut and the longer the better- symbolize long life; oranges, wealth; chicken, happiness; spring rolls, wealth again; shrimp, happiness and good fortune; snow peas, unity; green vegetables, close family ties; whole fish, prosperity. You get the idea.

Anyway, as I searched cookbooks and the web, I was continually drawn to the noodle dishes. Given my family of eaters, the idea of a noodle dish seemed tremendously appealing. The noodles dishes held something for everything- my kids love noodles- whose don’t- and I could dress them up with some sort of chicken, sea food or fish and, of course, plenty of veggies. Yes, a noodle dish was the answer. It would anchor our family New Year banquet.

I was all set. I was ready- all I had to do was shop. Then the ice storm hit. (What was that about Chinese New Year symbolizing the beginning of Spring?) All my big plans for a feast, albeit small, slid- literally- down the driveway. We ended up having Spaghetti from the freezer and I considered myself lucky to have gotten the noodle thing in!

The good news is that Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days. I might have missed the first night, but I could make a fourth quarter recovery! And, while we have not had a traditional feast- we have had one fabulous dish! The results are below and are worthy of an Emperor’s table. Maybe if I start planning now, I’ll get that feast ready by the Year of the Dragon!

Long Life Noodles with Happy Shrimp
Adapted from Jaden Hair
Serves 4

1 lb of thin spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente
1 ½ lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 t sea salt, divided
1 t cornstarch
3 T grapeseed oil
4 t garlic, minced
2 ½ t fresh ginger, minced
1 ½ t red pepper flakes
1½ c snow peas, sliced thin on the diagonal
1½ c carrots, cut into matchsticks
6 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced thin
4 t soy sauce
3 t vermouth
1 t sesame oil
sesame seeds (optional)

Place shrimp in a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of salt and the cornstarch. Mix well and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse the shrimp well, washing off the salt and the cornstarch. Pat very dry with paper towels.

In a wok or a large skillet, heat the oil on high until very hot. Add the shrimp and cook until halfway cooked through, about 1 minute each side. Remove shrimp, keeping as much oil in the pan as possible, and set aside on a plate. Add a bit more oil to the pan if needed.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the carrots and snow peas. Fry, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until vegetables are cooked but still retain a slight crunch. Add the soy sauce, vermouth and scallions. Stir to combine. Add the noodles and shrimp. Toss well to combine. Let cook for 2 minutes until shrimp is cooked through. Toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Note: For kids, or picky eaters, halve the ginger and remove the red pepper flakes.
Note #2: This would be fabulous made ahead and served at room temperature or even cold.

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