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Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Long Life Fertility Noodles with Happy Shrimp

Note: this was written for the lovely wedding issue for the Tampa Tribune

***

The Chinese culture is filled with food traditions and symbolisms, so much in fact that I could never keep up and remember them all. During the entire 6 days surrounding my wedding, I deferred to my mother to tell me what to eat to please the Gods of good fortune and fertility. Oh, did I want to have some grapes? I had to eat five of them, not one less because that number that I must not utter, one less than five, means something bad in Chinese. In fact, I am choosing each and every word very carefully in this column so that in case YOU are the one getting married, I do not want to be blamed for any misfortune!

My wedding with Scott was a nice blend of his culture (Scottish-German) and mine. We exchanged vows at Pebble Beach’s legendary 18th hole (ok, Scott just corrected me and said “fairway” not “hole” because I don’t think they’d let 10 pairs of three-inch stilettos aerate the baby-soft skinny grass at the hole), but included Chinese customs throughout the entire week

One custom that we opted out of was serving a whole roast suckling pig at the wedding banquet. According to the Chinese, the pig symbolizes the virginity of the bride, and um, you know where I’m going with that. I say, no sense in pretending or misrepping what is not true, because that would be a lousy way to begin a marriage! Plus, where the heck would we find a whole suckling pig in the middle of a gucci golf resort? Can you even imagine the chef struggling to fit the fat pig on his fancy rotisserie grill?

There is one tradition that I would like to share with you, eating noodles. For birthdays, new year and weddings, noodles are served to represent long life. Don’t be tempted to cut the noodles, or you’ll be “cutting your life short.” You may not be Chinese, but really, there’s no harm in covering all your bases. I mean, who knows what deity drew the short straw and was appointed to be in charge something so boring like “lifespan?”

So, I created one easy dish that covered all your important bases – sort of cramming in as much good fortune as possible on one plate. The sesame seeds and pea pods in the noodles symbolize fertility (remember, if you don’t want children, substitute with any greens, bean sprouts or sliced bamboo shoots.) Shrimp, in Chinese, is pronounced “haa” which sounds like laughter, and may your marriage be full of happiness.

And of course, this column has 688 words, my way of wishing you a smooth path to double prosperity.

Long Life Fertility Noodles with Happy Shrimp

Long Life Fertility Noodles with Happy Shrimp

6 ounces thin spaghetti noodles
7 ounces shrimp, deveined
1 ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt, divided
½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/4 cup snow peas, sliced thin on diagonal
1/4 cup matchstick cut carrots
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Add 1 tsp of salt to water and cook thin spaghetti, according to package directions. Drain. While pasta is cooking, place shrimp in a small bowl and add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the cornstarch. Mix well and let sit for 8 minutes. Rinse the shrimp well, washing off the salt and cornstarch. Pat very dry with paper towels.

In a wok or large skillet, heat cooking oil on high until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates upon contact. Add the shrimp and fry until halfway cooked through, about 1 minute each side. Dish out the shrimp to a plate, keeping as much oil in wok as possible (you should have about 1 teaspoon of oil left and you may add an just a bit of oil into the pan if needed.)

Turn heat down to medium and add garlic. Fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds then add the snow peas and carrots. Fry for 1 minute, until the carrots and snow peas are cooked but still retain a nice crunch. Add the soy sauce and rice wine. Turn heat to high and add the drained spaghetti noodles and shrimp. Toss well to combine. Let cook for 2 minutes, until shrimp is cooked through. Toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Yields 2 auspicious servings

***

My Photo Setup

My Photo Setup

This was a simple setup, with the big glass window the the right. Yup, that’s my kid’s breakfast table that I’m using. I’ve been noticing that both Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines have been lots of overhead shots of food. Not a style that I’m fond of – the food isn’t as intimate and you lose a lot of texture from above. But, I wanted to try it and see on this dish.

Take a look at the second photo (above) Do you know how (*&$!!%! hard it was to stand on an itty bitty stool and balance while holding camera still enough to focus? Half my shots were blurry! heehee!

And yes, I know I could have just put the entire thing on the floor and used my tripod…but at that moment in time, I just wasn’t smart enough to think of that. Plus, that was going to be our dinner and who know what random toy airplane, spaceship or car would roll right over the food. Usually, when a toy car goes whizzing by, 2 pairs of pitter patter bare feet are chasing it.

***

More food photography posts

Sparkling Ginger Lime Mint Cooler Sparkling Ginger Lime Mint Cooler

Escargot with Garlic Butter and Splash of Cognac Escargot with Garlic Butter and Splash of Cognac

 Lowel EGO lighting Lowel EGO lighting



45 Responses to “Long Life Fertility Noodles with Happy Shrimp”

  1. The Big Guy — 5/14/08 @ 8:50 am

    Another shrimp recipe to add to my arsenal…
    I’m going to start cooking my Asian dishes on the turkey frying propane burner.
    The stovetop just doesn’t get hot enough to give good results.

    In regards to whole roasted pig…
    Have you looked into acquiring a La Caja China…
    We just bought one for the office… They are amazing.
    Went to a pig picking over TPC weekend here in Jax and they used one-
    Porky came out perfect!
    http://www.lacajachina.com

    TTFN-

    TBG

  2. katy — 5/14/08 @ 10:18 am

    your column is adorable! and now i will be checking all wedding menus for water chestnuts as a sign that the couple is never going to have kids… :-) btw, where do you get your placemats and napkins for backgrounds? is there some great internet source you could pass on?!?

  3. mimi — 5/14/08 @ 10:32 am

    lovely story, i knew there was a reason i always loved bean sprouts! i used to eat them by the bowlful! but i love noodles and this sounds like a wonderful dish. and thanks for the photo set-up info, always so interesting.

  4. SteamyKitchen — 5/14/08 @ 10:42 am

    Katy – Crate and Barrel for placemats and napkins! They’ve got a great line of new designs.

  5. Kitt — 5/14/08 @ 11:08 am

    Yum! It’s been a while since I had long-life noodles. But I wonder if they lose some of their mojo if you prepare them for yourself?

    So does your mom avoid saying “four” in English? Hmmm …it rhymes with “Fore!” Another reason not to play golf?

  6. courtney — 5/14/08 @ 11:29 am

    Damn,I cant serve pig at my weeding then:-(.! The German would like that probally. Never knew that about the noodles however I knew about that bad number. Your photo and dish look marvelous.

  7. argus — 5/14/08 @ 11:40 am

    Lovely photos, Mrs Steamy. I can’t remember much but my late mum said something about crossed chopsticks. Do you know what that signifies?

  8. sharon — 5/14/08 @ 11:52 am

    What a great post. Growing up, my Mom always insisted on noodles for ‘long life’ on birthdays. While my friends were having cheeseburgers on their birthdays, I had to suffer through Lo Mein. Oh, how I wish I could have those days back and have her fly out to make me noodles on my birthday! :)

    The dish looks beautiful. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to shake the visual of a suckling pig roasting on a golf course.

  9. amy purple — 5/14/08 @ 12:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. kate — 5/14/08 @ 12:24 pm

    Oh yes i remember long life noodles. My friends always order a special bowl of extra long noodles( on my birthday) when in Shenzhen at my fav Sichuan restaurant. Its so messy to go slurp slurp with the extra long ones …haha but its fun.
    Like the light in your photographs. Do you shoot in raw ?

  11. Asianmommy — 5/14/08 @ 1:48 pm

    Yes, there’s also something about not giving knives or clocks to people for their weddings. Make sure you don’t do that, either. Can’t remember why, though.

  12. Dianasaur — 5/14/08 @ 1:58 pm

    Mmmm, I can’t wait to try that. I have Mirin (rice wine vinegar) would that work, or could I just use a dry white wine? I don’t have any sherry. I actually have everything else right now, sounds good for dinner!

  13. SteamyKitchen — 5/14/08 @ 2:02 pm

    Rice wine vinegar is really vinegar, don’t try to use that in place of wine.

    You can skip the whole wine thing…or use any type of white wine

  14. Cynthia — 5/14/08 @ 2:07 pm

    Nice read.

  15. joanne — 5/14/08 @ 3:08 pm

    Ha ha, wedding traditions bring back all kinds of stressed memories. Yea, we kinda skirted around the pig issue too, though we still had some. I see that tradition moving on into obscure Chinese cultural history. There are way too many traditions, beliefs, and superstitions to keep track of. I refer to my mom, and she refers to books, and Chinese radio or television.

  16. diva@theSugarBar — 5/14/08 @ 3:47 pm

    i just found your blog and i love it! amazing pictures and a great read. i wish i’d found it sooner. these noodles look so delicious. makes me miss my mum’s fried seafood udon – don’t know why i’ve linked that!

    i’ll be back for more :)

    x

  17. As always your posts crack me up, but this one in particular with the 688 word count and the non-fertility substitutions. Hilarious!

  18. Sowjanya — 5/14/08 @ 5:01 pm

    Ohhh happy shrimp :). I cannot wait to try this. It’s got all my favorite stuff. Shrimp – check, noodles-check, veggies-check ;).

    I do not understand some traditions in all these cultures. virginty and roast pig has got to be the hilarious combo :p

  19. Suganya — 5/14/08 @ 5:05 pm

    I have been trying some overhead shots too. Doesn’t go well with any setup. But for spreads, like the one you have here, they are very good. Gives a bigger picture. Don’t worry, the colours and texture are still intact :)

  20. Melinda — 5/14/08 @ 5:28 pm

    Listen…there are some strange superstitions here too.
    -Fresh Lilacs should never be brought into the house as it is bad luck.
    -Never put shoes on the table… yes, bad luck too.
    -White and red flowers should never be mixed together; something about the association of blood and bandages and there will be a death.
    -Don’t give knives as a present unless you make the receiver give you some money for them or you risk severing your relationship with them.
    Believe it or not, I have done all these things as I was totally ignorant to the superstition consequences!
    I usually like the good luck superstitions except the one where the bird poops on your head…why is that good luck?

  21. Karen MEG — 5/14/08 @ 5:34 pm

    Jaden, how funny, my hubby is also of Scottish German background!

    And where was this recipe when we were TTC … I’m sure it would have come in handy, and certainly tastier than the shots in the ass I had to undergo (OK, TMI).

    Off to try this recipe, but aiming for the long life part rather than fertility this time ;)

  22. RB — 5/14/08 @ 7:54 pm

    Way cool! What an awesome post today, Jaden.

  23. RecipeGirl — 5/14/08 @ 8:03 pm

    Jaden, You are totally rockin’ the food photog. with this one. Love the shots. I appreciate you taking the time to show how you took the shots. I’m with you on the overhead shots. Those are tricky to get.

    I’m lucky enough to have a Crate & Barrel OUTLET nearby and they always have placemats, etc. at unbelievable prices! YAY! I have no willpower in that store.

    I’ll be in FL for the first time next week… Disney, of course- for the kiddo’s bday.

  24. Jerry — 5/14/08 @ 8:36 pm

    Yummy! Sounds delicious!

  25. Mary Coleman — 5/14/08 @ 8:37 pm

    I want to eat these NOW!
    Random airplane. Love it!!

  26. daphne — 5/14/08 @ 8:40 pm

    and I love the red as the backdrop. Perfect chinese set up. And “haa” is in cantonese isnt it? =)

  27. noobcook — 5/14/08 @ 9:31 pm

    This looks really good! First time I am seeing spaghetti being used instead of ‘mian sian’ for such occasions, but I prefer spaghetti! Hee I think I will cook this next time there is a birthday in the house. Your photography is stunning as usual!

  28. HK wedding gift-giving tip, 2 key words:

    RED POCKET

    amount of MONEY in the red pocket per head generally
    depends on:

    a. venue:
    – restaurant = HK$300
    – fancy schmancy hotel = HK$500
    – in a hut by the beach = priceless? as in consult other guests if you could all agree on giving HK$100 per head and then you give HK$200 to make others look bad, but turned out everybody gave HK$300, and then YOU will look bad…ARRRGGHHH

    b. relationship with bride/groom:
    – best friend forever = HK$800-HK$1000
    – cheap best friend forever = HK$600
    – show-offy best friend forever = HK$1500
    – frenemy = HK$500 (you don’t wanna be called “cheap” even tho you hate him/her)
    – “hi & goodbye, look! the weather is so nice/terrible today” friend = HK$300-500
    – biggest enemy/lifelong nemesis = voodoo dolls in the red pocket?

    c. guest’s financial standing:
    – wealthy: pay more than the standard rate to show off
    – pretending to be wealthy: borrow money to pay more than the standard rate to show off
    – sufficient: give according to standard guidelines (refer to venue & relationship vs $$$ guidelines)
    – it’s just the beginning of the month but i’ve spent more than 70% off my monthly salary: consider not attending and pay 60% of standard rate
    – buried neck high in debt: heck, since i’m already in debt, 100-200 won’t make a diff, give much much more than standard

    LOL

  29. the photo setup stuff is so helpful, thanks. it always good to see how photographers far superior to me think.

  30. Amy — 5/14/08 @ 10:00 pm

    Steven’s been freaking out about the rice shortage so I bet we’ll be eating a lot of noodles in the future. This recipe looks great!

  31. Carole — 5/14/08 @ 10:49 pm

    Hey! It’s MY birthday! Seriously. I am 52 today but some say I don’t look a day over 51. So, I will have to have these noodles. ‘Nuff said.
    Jaden, this is a great site and I hope you don’t ever lose the personal touch. It’s what sets you apart from all the other food blogs out there and you know there are lots…out there.

  32. Megan — 5/15/08 @ 1:50 am

    OK, I know it is a HUGE country, but I have been thinking about you/relatives all day and just got a chance to log on hoping for an all’s clear from you. Anyway, I hope no one you know is affected by the quake… I’m crossing my fingers and sending long noodle thoughts your way.

  33. SteamyKitchen — 5/15/08 @ 8:16 am

    Thanks Megan, I have no family in that area, but Scott and I were just there in that city a few months ago. We went on a big tour and the city was very built out – but they had built so quickly and shoddily that we even remarked about it back then. I’m so sad that so many kids were affected…and I can’t even watch the TV news because it’s just so graphic and real. Anyways, thanks for your little note!

  34. Ann — 5/15/08 @ 10:24 am

    Listen, J, I want to try these, but I don’t want any help in the fertility department, if you know what I mean – so should I add some cumin or something? :)

    Boy this dish looks divine…

  35. Kevin — 5/15/08 @ 10:20 pm

    That shrimp pasta looks tasty! Nice photos.

  36. Cakebrain — 5/16/08 @ 1:34 am

    Hey,
    Too bad you missed out on the whole roasted suckling pig! I call this tradition the “Pig Fest”. I got one delivered to my family’s door by chanting groomsmen (who didn’t really speak Chinese, but they tried) about a month prior to the wedding date. (We also had suckling pig at the banquet too on the wedding day, but that was another pig). The whole suckling pig was purchased at the local Chinatown bbq place and accompanied by stacks of Chinese cakes and red envelopes full of money. The “girls'” side is supposed to hack up the pig and distribute it to her family and friends along with some of the cakes. We are supposed to also send back the pig’s head, and the feet. Hee hee. I wanted to keep the head for my “Lord of the Flies” unit, but oh well. ha ha. The pig, cakes and money are somewhat like a bribe for the bride’s family I think. Traditions are fun and you get to eat!

  37. shirley — 6/12/08 @ 1:10 pm

    hey i was just wondering where did you get the bowl and what brand is this lovely bowl…

  38. SteamyKitchen — 6/13/08 @ 10:09 am

    Hey Shirley,

    Here is the pattern:
    http://eshop.villeroy-boch.com/us/shopping/tableware-metropolitan-flow/show_103420/assortment_19

    I got it from my local outlet mall!

    Jaden

  39. Pille — 6/18/08 @ 5:04 am

    You sure do know how to name your recipes, Jaden :)

  40. Bobby — 6/18/08 @ 11:14 am

    Great sounding recipe, seems to be packed with good flavor. Nice photo step up as well.

  41. Niamh — 6/18/08 @ 11:40 am

    This looks gorgeous! I love the way you write and photograph. Just found your blog now – I am adding it to my reader :-)

  42. Pat — 11/28/08 @ 8:26 am

    That’s a great story although I must admit that chicken curry is my favourite when we go to the Chinese :-)

    Excellent photographs of the food as well BTW ;-)

  43. Connie — 5/12/09 @ 1:19 am

    Happy Shrimp [recipe] = Happy tummy. :-) Can’t wait to try this…just need to get some Chinese rice wine.. I wonder if I can use the same one I use to make California rolls….

  44. TuyetHoaTienTu — 12/16/10 @ 3:35 pm

    I love anything that has noodles in it! This recipe is delicious looking! Got to try this one! Thanks!

  45. Latin Touch — 4/20/11 @ 12:14 pm

    Here are some whole roast pig recipes http://cajachinagrillmasters.wordpress.com/ with caja china style pig roasting box. Nice recipe to be found here. :)

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