Celebrate the Lunar New Year with some extra-long longevity noodles
Every year, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, Esther Yuan eats a bowl of noodles. Growing up in Dalian, a seaside city in northern China, her father would make them by hand; he’d knead the dough with a stick and present a bowl to each family member. The noodles were served in a soup with a variety of local seafood alongside cabbage and stir-fried eggs.
“My mother would always say you have to eat the noodle first, the very first thing in the new year, to keep you safe and give you good fortune for the whole year,” Yuan said. “She was very persistent on that.”
It’s a tradition Yuan has brought to Lan Noodle, her small, year-old restaurant in a strip mall in West Covina.
On a recent afternoon, in the narrow kitchen of the restaurant, the sound of chef Xingyi Wang hurling a foam roller-sized cylinder of dough onto a counter could be heard from the parking lot.
A few diners sitting nearby turned their heads as he slapped the dough on the counter. A young woman jumped in her chair.
Wang stretched the glossy dough, pulling and twisting, pulling and twisting, until dozens of strands started to form. Manipulating the dough in this way helps create the noodle’s signature chewy texture.
Once he had a fistful of noodles, which are made with wheat flour, water and oil, he casually dropped them into a bubbling cauldron of water to cook.
Yuan, 30, said the noodles can be found on almost every street corner in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu in west-central China. Wang, 33, learned to make the handmade noodles at a school in the area when he was a teenager.
At Lan Noodle, which also has a location in Arcadia, diners can order the handmade noodles in eight shapes including angel hair (the thinnest), thick round, thin flat and wide flat (the widest is about as wide as a belt). You can have your noodles stir-fried with various proteins and vegetables or plopped into a bowl of hot soup.
For Lunar New Year, the restaurant will offer what Yuan calls “one bowl one noodle,” which features a single, extra-long noodle for good luck. “The longer the noodle is, it means you’re more likely to have good fortune and safety the whole year,” she said. “So we do the wide flat noodle as extra long because that one is the widest and it wraps you up to make you the most secure.”
The specific foods associated with celebrating the Lunar New Year will differ based on who’s celebrating and where. In Chinese culture, there are multiple foods believed to bring long life and good fortune, including dumplings, whole fish, whole chicken, pork, nian gao sticky rice cake, tang yuan sticky rice balls and longevity noodles. As the name suggests, longevity noodles signify long life and also are eaten to celebrate birthdays. The longer the noodle, the better.
On a recent visit to Lan Noodle, that wide flat noodle looked to be at least 5 feet long. It was smooth and springy, with a chewy bite, and despite its length, it took only about 10 seconds to cook.
The extra-long noodles will be available by request as a secret menu item starting Jan. 27 through Feb. 13 at the West Covina location. . In Arcadia, their availability will depend on whether there is a chef on hand who knows how to make them. We recommend calling the restaurant the day of your visit to find out.
“If you want to understand someone, you try their food and you get to know the meaning behind the food,” Yuan said. “I hope these noodles can help spread my culture here in California and celebrate the new year.”
411 E. Huntington Drive, Ste. 102, Arcadia, (626) 618-6686; and 1428 S. Azusa Ave., Suite B, West Covina; lannoodle.com.
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