January 25 marks the Chinese Year of the Rat, the first of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. If you were born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 or 2020, this is your year! The Chinese New Year banquet consists of foods which which symbolize good luck, fortune and long life. Noodles are one of the traditional dishes. The unbroken length of these noodles is a symbol of longevity. In a multi-course banquet, noodles might be served simply dressed, without additional toppings. To make this dish a complete meal, these are enriched with pan-fried tofu and edamame and welcome spring with the fresh flavors of baby spinach and thinly sliced fennel.
For the noodles:
1 lb Chinese dried wheat noodles (medium width) imported from Taiwan– if unavailable, may substitute fresh Chinese egg noodles
2 T toasted sesame oil
2 T oyster or vegetarian stir-fry sauce
2 T ginger, peeled and sliced into thin julienne
4 scallions, greens only, sliced into thin diagonal strips, about 1-2 inches long each
For the tofu:
1 block firm tofu, drained
1 T canola oil
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, defrosted
2 cups baby spinach
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 T gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) or crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
- Prepare the tofu: Drain tofu and wrap in 2 layers of paper towel. Sandwich between two cutting boards and place a heavy pot on top, and press for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, dry off the surface of the tofu, then slice into bite size pieces (1/2 inch-thick rectangles). Heat a large sauté pan with one tablespoon each of vegetable oil and sesame oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, fry the tofu slices until each side is browned and crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Do not salt the water, as the Taiwanese noodles are salted. Most importantly, do not break the dried noodles! Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes until al dente. Drain immediately and rinse in cold water, then drain completely. Return to the pot and toss with sesame oil, oyster sauce, ginger and scallions.
- Prepare the sauce by stirring together all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Warm another tablespoon of oil in the sauté pan over high heat, then add the edamame and baby spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.
- Stir in the noodles, using chopsticks or tongs to evenly distribute, then add the pan-fried tofu and fennel slices.
- Transfer to a serving platter, and drizzle on the sauce.
Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Gung Hay Fat Choy!