(CNN) — It is almost Lunar New Yr, and Johnny Mui is lastly smiling.
After looking at empty tables for the final two years due to the pandemic, the proprietor of New York’s Hop Lee restaurant says enterprise is slowly recovering.
Mui joined the 48-year-old Chinatown institution in 2005 as an worker — after dropping the whole lot to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans — and took over in 2018.
As of late, he is busy speaking to suppliers to make sure he is received all the mandatory elements to fulfill the demand for considered one of Hop Lee’s hottest Lunar New Yr dishes: Stir-fried Ginger Scallion Lobster Yi Mein — aka longevity noodles.
“Each Lunar New Yr, virtually each desk would order our longevity noodles,” he says. “Good trying and higher tasting, they symbolize luck, too.”
What are longevity noodles?
This 12 months, Lunar New Yr falls on January 22, however celebrations happen over a number of days — collectively known as the Spring Pageant. Conventional rituals, meals included, are stuffed with symbolism.
Longevity noodles symbolize lengthy life. In response to custom, the chef cannot minimize the noodle strands, and every strand must be eaten complete — no breaking it earlier than you eat it.
However that is the place the consensus ends.
Ask individuals of Chinese language heritage which kinds of noodles needs to be eaten, and you may possible get completely different solutions.
A well-liked dish in China, longevity noodles is perhaps thick, skinny, flat or crispy — however they’re at all times lengthy. In Hong Kong, the place the fried e-fu noodle is king, one manufacturing facility has ramped up manufacturing by 30% to fulfill the demand at Lunar New Yr.
At Hop Lee, longevity noodles are synonymous with yi mein, also referred to as e-fu noodles. These chewy and spongy Cantonese egg wheat strands are dried, deep-fried and consumed all 12 months lengthy, particularly on particular events like birthdays and through the Spring Pageant.
Hop Lee’s lobster longevity noodles recipe has been handed down for many years. The yi mein noodles are braised with seasonings and shiitake mushrooms. The lobsters are stir-fried with fermented salted black beans, eggs, minced meats, ginger and scallions.
“Then we put the lobsters on high of the noodles, and the juice trickles down. It is so scrumptious. Even my son loves it — he’d ask me to arrange the dish for his faculty events,” says Mui.
Over at Xi’an Well-known Meals — a humble Flushing, New York Metropolis restaurant that in underneath 20 years has swollen right into a profitable chain serving northwestern Chinese language meals — CEO Jason Wang has his personal view on longevity noodles, which he grew up consuming. In his opinion, any noodle that’s prolonged in size counts.
“Our biang biang noodles are positively amongst them,” says Wang.
Made with wheat flour and water, the dough is pulled and minimize into lengthy, flat and extensive belt-like noodles.
“Essentially the most conventional approach is definitely to only put aromatics like scallions and garlic, together with freshly-ground pink chili powder on high of the noodles, sear it with vegetable oil and gown it with soy sauce and black rice vinegar. We name these Spicy Sizzling-Oil Seared Hand-Ripped Noodles,” Wang tells CNN Journey.
Early Chinese language immigrants in america have been predominantly Cantonese, which explains why yi mein is usually what many Chinese language People contemplate longevity noodles.
However regional cuisines, like dishes from Xi’an, have been popping up and diversifying the choices in latest a long time.
“Yi mein are Cantonese noodles, so they’re completely different from what we might eat, however the symbolism of longevity is shared,” says Wang.
“The precise kind of noodles varies, however the concept stays ‘lengthy noodles for lengthy life,’ and any lengthy noodles serve that goal.”
Johnny Mui, proprietor and supervisor of New York’s Hop Lee Restaurant, says lobster yi mein is their hottest Lunar New Yr dish.
Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Yau Kee Noodles Manufacturing facility, based within the 1950s, is ramping up manufacturing forward of the Spring Pageant. Throughout this time of 12 months, the manufacturing facility’s proprietor says demand will improve by 20% to 30%.
“We’re busiest earlier than Lunar New Yr as a result of extra events and gatherings are occurring presently, and other people eat e-fu noodles, or longevity noodles, on these events,” says Tang Pui-sum, second-generation director of the household enterprise.
As for why e-fu noodles are a well-liked alternative for Cantonese, Tang says it comes right down to high quality.
“Within the Guangdong area, individuals use e-fu noodles to deal with their household and associates on particular events as a result of they’re thought-about higher — it takes extra steps to make, and the elements are higher. It is also distinctive as a result of e-fu noodles are deep-fried, which units them other than different noodles in northern China.”
The origins of longevity noodles
So now that the problem of what counts as a long life noodle is settled — quick reply: just about any noodle so long as it is, effectively, lengthy — an essential query stays: who determined that consuming lengthy noodles can prolong one’s life?
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