Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yi Mein (Birthday Noodles!)


Today is my sister's birthday!  She also loves to cook (hi Cheryl!), and while our kitchens are nearly 1400 miles apart, they're filled with little reminders of each other--from last Christmas's rolling pin, to this summer's ice cream machine.  In honor of my sister's birthday, I'd like to share a personal favorite (and traditional birthday treat).  For years I knew them only as birthday noodles; they are meant to signify longevity, and usually are the last (and best) course of every traditional Chinese 10-course banquet.


These are noodles you dream about.  More precisely, these are the noodles that I dream about.  In fact, one of my earliest remembered dreams was about trying to eat a bowl full of these noodles (sadly, I always woke up before the first bite).  So what's so great about them?  Let's start with how they're made.  They're a type of egg noodle, made with carbonated water to give the dough an unusually spongy and slightly chewy texture.  Then, the noodles get fried.  It's this fried form that gets dried into ramen-like bricks, which you bring home and fry again.



This is the only brand oyster sauce that my grandma uses... and she's usually
right about these kinds of things.  This is the best brand, and worth the extra money!

There's nothing that tastes quite like it, and quite frankly, no other noodles can top it.  It's the mark of a great noodle, when adding extra ingredients is sacrilegious.  Too many restaurants try to overcomplicate the dish, adding shrimp, lobster, meat... but I say, NO!  Just stop it!  The taste and texture is perfect already; all you need are a few finishing touches.  A dash of oyster sauce, a handful of mushrooms, and a scattering of scallions later, and you're ready to celebrate!  It's not your birthday, you say?  Well, find someone special to toast to, and thank them for supporting all your kitchen shenanigans (happy birthday, Cheryl!).



Yi Mein (Birthday Noodles!)  
Total Recipe Cost: $6.63 for 6 servings!
(The noodle packaging claims there's 12 servings, which is outrageous.  I could easily finish this in 4, but let's pretend to eat like normal people and call it 6. )


20 dried shiitake mushrooms
(1) 12 oz package of yi mein, also called e-fu, yee-fu, yifu, or yi noodles
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (see preferred brand above)
3 stalks of scallions*
oil
salt
pepper

Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in a bowl of water, for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, thinly slice the scallions, and start boiling a pot of water for the noodles.  When the mushrooms become soft, thinly slice them.  Lightly coat a pan with oil, then saute the mushrooms for about 5-10 minutes.  (If you're using fresh mushrooms, it will take longer to cook, since they release a lot of liquid.  Just cook down almost all the liquid.)  In the last minute, add 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce and a sprinkling of salt.

Drop the noodles in the pot of boiling water and briefly submerge until they are soft and pliable--this will take slightly less than a minute.  Drain the noodles, then place in a lightly-oiled pan (enough to coat the bottom and then a little extra).  Toss the noodles to coat with oil, then pan fry for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.  There should be no burning or crisping of the noodles!  In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, and most of the sliced scallions (reserve enough for garnishing).  Salt and pepper to taste, toss to coat the noodles evenly, and continue cooking until the scallions are slightly wilted.  Garnish with reserved scallions, then enjoy!


Ingredients
Unit Cost
Total Cost
12 oz package of yi mein
$0.33/oz
$3.99
3 stalks scallions
$0.33/bundle
$0.17 or free*
20 dried shiitake mushrooms
$12/lb
$2
3T + 1t Oyster sauce
$0.28/oz
$0.47
oil

Negligible
salt

Negligible
pepper

Negligible
TOTAL

$6.63





* Scallions are ridiculously easy to grow!  Watering is optional needed only occasionally.  Mine have survived over a month without watering!  But they prefer at least once every few days.  

When you buy scallions (with roots attached), use the stalks as usual, but leave at least an inch or two from the end of the roots.  Fully submerge the root portion in water for a few days.  Then, plant the rootlets and enjoy the bounty of your free food!  

6 comments:

  1. hi Melissa! What a nice post for Cheryl's birthday! I love your blog. Nice photos! Happy Birthday Cheryl!
    Derek

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  2. Hi Melissa! Love your new blog. Looks delicious. Maybe I'll try to make this next week for my mom's b'day.

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  3. This recipe brings back a lot of memories! It looks very easy to make. I can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I'm going to give these a go after a trip to the market this weekend. Nice Red Hook scallion-growin' glass ;)

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  5. Derek: i DO read your comments! Cheryl mentioned that you said something, and I'll admit it... I'm a horrible blogger, but attempting to amend that and finally get around to posting replies. Not to mention finish my "about" page. Thanks for still reading!

    babynyc: Thanks! These noodles are a definite favorite--I hope you ended up making them! Now that I'm 6 months overdue with my comment responses, happy half birthday to your mom!

    lokness: Hope you tried them out! I had no idea they were so easy until I actually tried. It's definitely intimidating to try to recreate a nostalgic childhood dish :)

    TM: How'd they turn out? Also yes, I'm glad you noticed the Red Hook glass... it's multi-purpose :)

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  6. my favoriteeee noodles in the worldddd<3 can you tell me which brand yi mein noodle you buy? i just feel a little more secure knowing the brand i would pick up to make this. ahhh sorry for buggin', THANK YOU<3

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