[A food bit from the Lawrence Journal World that was too good not to share here. Screw the noodles, we've been having this on everything!]
While superstitious Americans typically serve up black-eyed peas for New Year's day, I'm a big fan of the Asian custom of eating “Long Life Noodles”, instead.
Typically made with soba noodles—although udon are delicious too—the dish is meant to signify longevity. The noodles are never broken during cooking, and it's bad luck to bite them off as you eat. Thus, the noodles must be slurped up whole, which can be a very entertaining meal if you have small ones or even just a group of tipsy adults.
Another plus for noodles is that they're easy. I like mine in a simple, gingery broth with chopped scallion and a dash of hot sauce.
The hot sauce is the key, in my book, so this year I decided to get a little more complicated and make my own. “A little” is the key phrase there, because making your own hot sauce takes very little work.
I happened to have a jar of dried peppers lingering in my pantry, gifted from a friend's summer garden, so I decided to use those rather than selecting my own. If you're buying or ordering peppers specially for this recipe though, you should certainly customize the peppers you choose based on how hot you want the resulting sauce.
Once you have the peppers chosen, all you have to do is let them brew in some garlic and vinegar. Most recipes suggest 2 weeks, but if you really want hot sauce for your New Year's noodles, feel free to cut the time down. Alternatively, the Chinese New Year is on January 31st this year, so why not start a batch of hot sauce now and have celebratory noodles twice?
Homemade Hot Sauce
- 3.5 ounces dried peppers
- 5 cups vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 T salt
Put the dried peppers in a large bowl and cover them with very hot water. If the peppers are floating above the water, use a plate to weight them down. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to rehydrate.
Wearing gloves to protect your skin, strain the peppers from the hot water. Roughly chop them up, discarding any remaining stems as you work. Put them in a large, clean mason jar.
Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, and enough white vinegar to cover the peppers—it should take about 5 cups. Put a lid on the jar, and stash it in a back corner of your refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
After the time has passed, use a blender or food processor to liquefy the sauce. If you want your hot sauce to be really smooth, run it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the pepper bits. I sieved out about half of the peppers in my sauce, and really liked the resulting texture—a little chunky, but not quite salsa-like.
Serve with a bowl of noodles to give your new year a nice kick start!