On the fourteenth day of New Year my mama said to me
14. long life noodles and jiao zhi
Noodles are very popular among Asians not just because of their taste but because they are symbolic of long life. The longer the noodles, the better. For most important events in a person’s life like birthdays and weddings, noodles are served.
For CNY, different types of noodles — egg, rice, beans and wheat — are cooked differently depending on location, climate and dialect group of the people enjoying them. The plate of noodles featured here, Ee-fu noodles, is served with mushroom, chives and bean sprouts. This is not an overly expensive dish but very satisfying (albeit carbohydrate/calories heavy). On other occasions, the noodles may be served with meat or prawns.
Another common food is jiao zhi. It took me a while to find the jiao zhi. To do that, I had to go to a Chinese restaurant that served China Chinese food and not Cantonese food (to do my China Chinese friends who are not Cantonese, justice). In the end, the place that was most convenient, location-wise, was Lao Beijing. One can’t go too wrong with a restaurant name like that. It was my first time there and I have to say that they serve pretty good Chinese food. We tucked into our chives and pork dumpling and ate them with vinegar and sliced ginger (the way the Chinese eat their jiao zhi). That was our only order that evening. The skin was thicker than the Japanese gyoza skin and the filling was rather tasty and hearty. The difference between gyoza (the Japanese got this dish from the Chinese) and the Chinese ones is the thickness of their skin. The Chinese like to make their own skins by hand and they are slightly thicker and more chewy. The Japanese have kind of perfected their gyoza skin to a certain thickness (across the country, like they are efficient with most things in Japan) and so their skins tend to be more mass produced and consistent. The Koreans also have their own dumplings and they too tend to make their skin by hand. And yes, they celebrate the lunar new year with dumplings as well.
One time, I was confused about the dumplings and asked for vinegar and ginger for my gyoza in a Japanese restaurant. They didn’t have them at all and I asked them why, forgetting that the Japanese do not eat their gyoza with vinegar and ginger. I have since updated my dumpling database. There are also many types of frozen dumplings as they are very popular. The dumplings may also be fried.
The reason why dumplings are served for CNY is because they resemble gold ingots. Some people even put a coin in one or two of the dumplings and it becomes a game that people play, i.e. find the coin in the jiao zhi, a reminiscence of the olden days. Dumpling making is also a common CNY tradition practised by many Chinese in China especially as preparation for their family reunion dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated before the 15 days.
Braised ee-fu noodles from Yu Zhen Xiao Chu, Hougang Mall #02-24, 90 Hougang Avenue 10, S(538766). Tel: 6387 9968.
Tea and Jiao zhi from Lao Beijing, Plaza Singapura #03-01, 68 Orchard Road, Singapore 238839. Tel: 6738 7207. (Lao Beijing has outlets internationally so readers from outside of Singapore may locate one and try their dumplings. The jiao zhi is served all year round, not just at CNY. Some readers may be curious enough to make some on their own. There is a Polish blogger who wrote down step by step how to make Korean dumplings here. I found the steps clear and easy to follow. One can get the tofu, vermicelli(white looking noodles) and kimchi from a local Asian grocer store. Kimchi is spicy so go easy on how much you want to put in your dumpling. If you are unsure of the noodles to get, download the picture to your smartphone and show that to the grocer at your Asian store and ask them for that item or a similar item to it if that particular one is not available.)