Happy Chinese New Year! Chinese New Year is a celebration of the lunar new year, and this year is the Year of the Dragon, year 4710 of the Chinese calendar. Amy has had an affinity for all things Chinese since she was a little girl and had Chinese neighbors who shared with her their language, culture and various celebrations. So of course we had to celebrate this new Year of the Dragon with a proper meal.
In Chinese culture, certain foods are symbolic, and this is especially apparent at the New Year's dinner which is meant to feature foods that will bring health, wealth and prosperity in the coming year. We kept our own hopes for the new year in mind when we thought up the auspicious ingredients of this dish, which we are calling Shanghai Chicken and Shrimp Stir Fry.
First are the noodles themselves, which symbolize long life, as long as they are left uncut, which we did. Slurping them from the bowl is a must. Next is the chicken, symbolizing happiness, marriage and prosperity. The word for prawn in Cantonese is "ha" which of course is reminiscent of the sound of laughter and happiness. (We are using regular shrimp, but maybe it's the thought that counts?) The color red is an especially important part of the celebration, so we chopped up a couple of dried red chiles to add color and spicy heat (like the fire of the dragon!) to the dish. Finally, we garnished the dish with chopped peanuts, which symbolize long life, good health, and good fortune. For dessert, we ate a couple of clementines, which are a variety of mandarin orange, and are considered to be good luck to the Chinese.
So here's to hoping this Year of the Dragon is one filled with all good things, including more delicious dishes such as this one!
Shanghai Chicken and Shrimp Stir Fry
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspooon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water to make a slurry
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 star anise
3 dried red chilies, chopped* (see cooks' notes)
1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/2 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cups snow peas, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Notes: we had "dragon" on the brain and bravely put in three (chopped) dried red chilis, which made this dish pretty darn spicy. We suggest doing 1 1/2 to 2 unless you love love love the heat.
Prepare noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water, drain well and toss with sesame oil to coat evenly; set aside. Combine soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch slurry in a small bowl; set aside. In a wok or large saute pan, heat vegetable oil over high heat. Add ginger, garlic, green onions, star anise, and chilies, and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add chicken strips and stir-fry until mostly cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and snow peas and continue to stir fry until shrimp turn pink and snow peas are cooked but still crunchy, about 2 minutes. Pour in soy sauce/slurry and stir for 30 seconds. Toss in noodles and stir until all ingredients are well combined and noodles are coated with sauce. Serve in large noodle bowls topped with chopped peanuts.