Longevity Noodles


Noodles are a symbol of longevity and a must-have on birthdays throughout China—they carry the same symbolism as a birthday cake. Just as it’s bad luck to share your secret wish with others after blowing out your birthday candles, it’s forbidden to cut or break your noodles on your birthday, so cook the noodles whole instead of breaking them to fit the pot. (Guided by the same superstition, the Chinese traditionally get their hair cut before celebrations since cutting is a metaphor for shortening a life.) At banquets, a filling course of noodles or rice is traditionally served at the end of the meal so that your guests are not left hungry. By that time, I’m usually too full to eat, but I always make room for noodles on my birthday to ensure a long life.


1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles

½ cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon chili bean paste (doubanjiang)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, minced

¼ pound snow peas (about 1½ cups)

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the noodles, and cook until they are just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain well and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the chicken broth, soy sauce, chili bean paste, vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.

In a wok, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the snow peas and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, until they are bright green. Add the chicken broth mixture and stir to coat the vegetables. Then add the noodles and toss to combine with the other ingredients. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the noodles have absorbed the sauce. Turn the noodles into a serving dish and top with the cilantro.


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