We are getting ready to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year on Saturday. Happy Year of the Rat!
Every 12 years it is the year of the rat. The other 11 Chinese zodiacal animals are Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Rats work diligently, and people born during a rat year are destined to be prosperous. Go rats! (I was born in a year of the rooster. I am destined to be punctual. Sigh.)
Rats are thought to be amiable, honest, flexible, modest, serious, with a strong sense of self-esteem. They sound like nice folks. Let the celebration begin! String up the paper lanterns, stuff some envelopes with money, and let’s get cooking because we are going to have an unforgettable Chinese New Year dinner party.
We used to live across the street from people who would have grand Chinese New Year parties every year. They would buy lots of Chinese take out, string lights and paper lanterns, pour out generous glasses of wine and send all the children out into the neighborhood on a fanciful scavenger hunt. I feel sure they did this so the adults had a chance at the egg roll chafing dish, because when the children all ran back home, flushed and excited and demanding their red envelopes of prizes (one of which was a much sought after gold Sacajawea dollar), they would fall like locust and hungry dogs on what was left of the food. Some years we would sit on low chairs on the front lawn and watch their twirling sparklers as the stars began to come out. And then we would all drift home, filled with dim sum and fried rice, egg rolls and spring rolls, dumplings and inexplicably the traditional neighborhood bag o’Cheetos. Some western brownies would be smeared across the children’s faces as they protested that they weren’t ready for bed. But never mind, the adults were, and that was enough.
We haven’t got a good Chinese restaurant nearby this year, and we don’t have that pack of roving children, either, so it is just as well that we are going to cook at home. It is surprising how many good things can be had at the grocery store these days – and not just from an Asian specialty store. I found spring roll wrappers and won tons at the basic grocery store recently. I am even going to print some of the Chinese fortunes listed below to slip into the brownie batter so we can have some memories of our children. Maybe this time I will come up with a winning lottery number, too! I’ve got to remember to buy Cheetos…
Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles
1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes; they should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.
Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.
Thank you, Sam Sifton! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9558-takeout-style-sesame-noodles
There really doesn’t have to be much mystery in cooking Asian recipes. This is fun, and saves money. Remember, the year of the Rat encourages thrifty practices on the road to prosperity and good fortune.
And is homemade cashew chicken better than take out? You control the garlic. You tell me. https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/cashew-chicken.html
I am stuffing rolled up fortunes into the brownie batter; but you know roosters, punctual, but probably deeply lazy. If you are more ambitious, you can try this recipe from the smart folks at Food52: https://food52.com/recipes/26343-toasted-almond-fortune-cookies
And here are some fortunes!
Thank you, https://quotes.yourdictionary.com/articles/funny-fortune-cookie-sayings.html
The fortune you seek is in another cookie.
A closed mouth gathers no feet.
A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.
A cynic is only a frustrated optimist.
A foolish man listens to his heart. A wise man listens to cookies.
You will die alone and poorly dressed.
A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject.
If you look back, you’ll soon be going that way.
You will live long enough to open many fortune cookies.
An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly.
Do not mistake temptation for opportunity.
Flattery will go far tonight.
He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.
He who laughs last is laughing at you.
He who throws dirt is losing ground.
Some men dream of fortunes, others dream of cookies.
The greatest danger could be your stupidity.
We don’t know the future, but here’s a cookie.
The world may be your oyster, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get its pearl.
You will be hungry again in one hour.
The road to riches is paved with homework.
You can always find happiness at work on Friday.
Actions speak louder than fortune cookies.
Because of your melodic nature, the moonlight never misses an appointment.
Don’t behave with cold manners.
Don’t forget you are always on our minds.
Fortune not found? Abort, Retry, Ignore.
Help! I am being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory.
It’s about time I got out of that cookie.
Never forget a friend. Especially if he owes you.
Never wear your best pants when you go to fight for freedom.
Only listen to the fortune cookie; disregard all other fortune telling units.
It is a good day to have a good day.
All fortunes are wrong except this one.
Someone will invite you to a Karaoke party.
That wasn’t chicken.
There is no mistake so great as that of being always right.
You love Chinese food.
I am worth a fortune.
No snowflake feels responsible in an avalanche.
You will receive a fortune cookie.
Some fortune cookies contain no fortune.
Don’t let statistics do a number on you.
You are not illiterate.
May you someday be carbon neutral.
You have rice in your teeth.
Avoid taking unnecessary gambles. Lucky numbers: 12, 15, 23, 28, 37
Ask your mom instead of a cookie.
This cookie contains 117 calories.
Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
You think it’s a secret, but they know.
If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is it naked or homeless?
Change is inevitable, except for vending machines.
Don’t eat the paper.
And here is a craft project – making your own red envelopes for scavenger hunt prizes. Or just give them as party favors. Enjoy yourselves! https://food52.com/blog/15769-how-to-make-your-own-lucky-red-envelopes-for-chinese-new-year
“When it comes to Chinese food I have always operated under the policy that the less known about the preparation the better. A wise diner who is invited to visit the kitchen replies by saying, as politely as possible, that he has a pressing engagement elsewhere.”