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Monday, January 26, 2009

Kung Hee Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

I love noodles. I really do. Which is kind of odd because the noodle section here is quite lacking if I do say so myself. But there is always one day a year where my mom calls me just to say "Eat your noodles! It's for longevity and good luck!". What occasion would systematically and emphatically call--no, demand-- for noodles?! Chinese New Year. Actually, my mother calls me once beforehand to remind me to eat some noodles, and then she calls again the following day to ask if I did, in fact, eat said noodles as promised. She means business. When I was growing up, she also made sure to give us coins or a few crisp dollar bills in those pretty red envelopes with gold embossed writing on them. I loved these little red envelopes. I still love them.

This year, January 26 marks the start of a new lunar year, which is a pretty big deal in Chinese culture. It involves fifteen days of celebrations, family gatherings, parades, and, among other things, eating lots and lots of foods that have symbolic meaning for wealth, longevity, good luck and all sorts of good stuff that we all want in life.

When I was living in Sydney in 2006, I became fondly attached to this family-owned restaurant simply called Chinese Noodle Restaurant. If you are ever lucky enough to be there (and I really hope you are), the address is at 8 Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney, 2000. It's a bit of a foodie institution, really. They are famous for their hand-stretched noodles and homemade dumplings. And for good reason, too! Their noodles are the best noodles I have ever had. in my entire life. They come soaked in various distinctive sauces that linger with you until you've flown thousands of miles away and feel a little pain in your belly if you think too hard about how much you want to eat those noodles again. I mean, I feel a bit weepy even as I am writing this. It is a tiny little space where people are constantly milling around anxiously outside waiting to hear their name called. And when you finally get in there, things move so quickly you will barely remember who you had lunch with because you are still shoveling noodles in your mouth when the bill comes and then you are tossed out so the next guest can have their noodles too. It's not a place to linger and have conversation. It's a place to eat noodles. Oh, I wish I had a photo of said noodles to show you, but even if I did, I am afraid my writing would fall embarrassingly short of an accurate description of the taste.

I lived in the Chinatown district of Sydney so the produce market offered countless varieties of fresh egg noodles, vegetables and seafood to inspire me to make some noodle dishes of my own. I made these simple hokkien noodles (egg noodles) during my time in Sydney, but I am sorry to report that I didn't use a recipe. It was an experiment that involved a hot wok, some fresh hokkien noodles, fresh prawns, bok choy, and mushrooms tossed around in a mixture of oyster sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.

I thought it might inspire you to have some noodles. Or maybe you might be brave enough to fight your way through the crowds at a nearby Chinese restaurants. Or you could order take-out. Either way, I hope you get a chance to have some noodles. My mom would be proud.

Kung Hee Fat Choy!

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