Traditionally, the Chinese celebrate birthdays with noodle dish, not cake. The long noodle symbolizes longevity.
Talking about noodles, oh boy, there are so many varieties of them and so many flavors that it is hard for me to know where to start.
Ok, let’s start with the thickness of the noodles. In one picture, you can see the noodles are as thin as hair; in another photo, you will see the noodles are as thick or wide as the belts.
The hair-thin noodles are from my grandma’s hometown in Fujian province (a southern place), all handmade. They are so thin that angel hair seems like a tree trunk compared to it (ok, I admit that I have exaggerated a bit). You cook this noodles in boiling water for only a few seconds.
I got a chance to visit the factory that produces this very special noodles. I was beyond belief to see those primitive, simple wooden or bamboo tools that were used to make these noodles! And we were told only a few very experienced and skilled workers can do the job and only certain days of the year they can be made successfully. The temperature and the humidity are crucial to the noodle making process and due to these the workers can’t make it year around which surprised me too. In nowadays technology, it is not difficult to measure the average temperature and humidity when it is a good time and then, set up a room with controlled temperature and humidity. Voila! You can make this high in demand noodles nonstop and year around.
This makes me think that preserve the traditions and progress to improve are a fine line to walk on. People are either refuse to change resulting in being unproductive, less competitive or too eager to change that we lose some skills and traditions that have passed down to us from generations before. Either way is sad and a loss.
Back to the very thick or wide noodles, the Chinese character for it has 56 pen strokes, most of the Chinese including me don’t know how to write it, see the photo. This kind of noodle you can only have them in the region of Shanxi (陕西), a northern region, its capital is the famous tourist destination – XiAn (西安) , where the stunning underground terra cotta soldiers buried thousands of years ago for China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_Shi_Huang) were found. We visited there last year and my son really liked this noodle dish.
The noodle I made here to celebrate someone’s birthday, is a typical northern dish, originated from Inner Mongolia and Shanxi province. You stir fry pork belly and green beans first and then add the dry noodles on top, add chicken broth to almost cover the beans. Cover your pan, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, make sure you stir up the beans and noodles so the noodles fully soaked in the fat, broth and bean juice.
Serve it hot and wish someone a happy birthday!