Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese New Year festivities start today – the year of the rat – the first year of the 12 year chinese zodiac, an apparant year of plenty, opportunities and good prospects.
I love Chinese New Year in London, Chinatown is just buzzing and there’s always a big celebration organised by the Mayor of London, this year on this coming Sunday. It’s an excuse to explore another culture and join in on the fun. After work I wandered down to Chinatown to grab some chinese pastries from Kowloon Patisserie and some ingredients to make some chinese food over the coming days. Lots were staples that I’ve run out of, and others random things I picked up after they grabbed my interest! Makes for a creative few days.
There were some
dragons lions wandering around, no – dancing and jumping to drums, and popping into local businesses, bringing good luck with them and receiving red envelopes, containing cash I believe, for their efforts. There was lots of drums and excitement and police ensuring that their journey was smooth.
The 15 day celebrations are days of feasting, beginning on the first day of the lunar month (today) and ending on the 15th. Many buddhists abstain from meat on the first day as it is believed to ensure longevity. Often noodles are consumed for the same reason, but never cut, as uncut noodles are believed to represent longevity and long life.
I’ve been craving noodles recently, it’s been ages since I’ve made them and they’re perfect for light meals like lunches. So, before I left today, I did a little searching online for a chinese noodle dish that might ensure a quick tasty bite after my chinatown adventure and meet the chinese new year requirements. The dish that caught my eye, I found published in a number of places, but the recipe appears to have originated at eatingwell.com – Long Life Noodles with Green Tea.
This really appealed, I have never had noodles with tea in them before for a start and it looks really light and healthy, a perfect counter to the Chinese pastries I was intent on consuming. Green tea tastes great and it’s healthy, so it looked like I might be on to a winner. The origin of the dish, or this type of dish, is said to be the Yangtze River valley where there are many tea farms and where it’s popular to serve noodles with ingredients like green tea and tofu in summer as they are perceived to be cooling. A little bit of a climate mismatch here really, in February in London, I am not looking to cool down, but I am looking for a new light noodle recipe so I thought that I would give it a go.
I made a few changes to the recipe as I had normal tofu, not baked, although I am sure that smoked would work well here too if I had found it. I couldn’t find a yellow pepper either so doubled the amount of red. My research said that egg noodles are not traditional for this day, but again, it’s what I had so I made do. It’s a really nice recipe, really light, healthy and delicious, the green tea is very subtle and the dressing flavoursome but not overwhelming. Nice hot or cold, I had it hot this evening and will be having it cold for lunch tomorrow! I will be making it again.
This recipe will serve 4.
200g udon noodles
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 teaspoon loose green tea leaves, preferably gunpowder
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
4 scallions, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and rinse with cold water until cold. Set aside.
Heat a wok over medium heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add tea leaves, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tofu and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook, stirring, until the peppers soften.
Stir in the noodles, scallions, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in sesame oil and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve warm or cold.