It is the Year of the Dragon.  An auspicious year, indeed, for those of us born in the year of the Dragon.  The Dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac.  People born in the Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. They are also honest, sensitive, brave, and they inspire confidence and trust in others. They are the most eccentric of any in the eastern zodiac. They never borrow money, are very straight forwarded and tend to be soft hearted which sometimes gives others an advantage over them.

Stubborn?!?  Eccentric?!?  MOI?!?

39 years ago I was in Hong Kong celebrating the Year of the Ox.  It was February, 1973.  You want to experience Chinese New Year?!?  Go to China!  I’ve seen many a Chinese New Year in San Francisco, but they pale in comparison.  It was one of the most fun 2 weeks I have ever had.  I think.  We stayed at The Excelsior Hotel, I had a set of gabardine Navy Blues handmade for me, perfectly fitting my 155 pound 19-year old body, we traveled by train and local bus to the Red China border just to say we were there.  I bought a dozen of Mao’s Little Red Books and the best harmonica I have ever played.  And ate and drank and took copious amounts of illicit substances.

What a fabulous time.

Right now, this very minute, my brother and niece are in Viet Nam, celebrating Tết Nguyên Đán – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.  Katie is studying in Viet Nam for a while and Mike went over with her for a couple of weeks to travel the country.  I hate them both.

But 39 years after that Hong Kong New Year, here I sit after cooking up a pretty good Chinese dinner to mark the occasion.  I’ve said many time before that Chinese cooking has never been a strong point for me.  I grew up with Chinese restaurants on every other corner.  Even bad restaurants were good.  Why cook when I could pick up the phone and have fabulous and ridiculously inexpensive Chinese Food Delivered?

But fabulous (and ridiculously inexpensive) Chinese restaurants are in short supply in our present neighborhood.

Victor had mentioned earlier that he wouldn’t mind having fish for dinner so I thought a simple steamed fish would be good.  We had Shu Mai in the freezer.  All I needed was a noodle dish.

I found a recipe for a fried noodle pancake.  I didn’t have all of the ingredients listed, but I liked the concept.  I decided to see if I could wing it.

The one thing I did have were actual Chinese noodles.  Far too many times I’ve tried to use spaghetti in place of Asian noodles.  They don’t work.  These worked!

It did not easily slip out of the pan so I could easily flip it over.  Oh well.  It tasted good.

Crispy Noodle Pancake

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
  • 1 16 oz can bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces Asian noodles
  • 4 tbsp neutral oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchstick-sized strips
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thin
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 4 oz bottled Szechuan sauce

Mix cornstarch,m water, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil.  Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package instructions.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet.  Add pork and cook until no longer pink.  Add leeks, carrots, garlic, ginger, and celery and cook a few minutes.  Add noodles and bean sprouts and heat through.  Add soy sauce mixture and Sezchuan sauce and heat through.


Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy skillet.  Add noodle mixture and cook, pressing down on noodles to compress, until bottom is browned – about 5 minutes.  Flip out of pan, browned side up, add 2 tbsp oil to pan, and slide back into pan,  Continue cooking another 5 minutes.

Slide onto platter, cut, and serve.

For the fish, I marinated cod fillets in rice wine for about 5 minutes and then layered it in a steamer basket.  Meanwhile, I sauteed carrot matchsticks, julienne ginger, leeks, and black sesame seeds.  When it was all barely-wilted, I added Sambal Oelek – chili paste.  I steamed the fish and the thawed Shu Mai for about 6 minutes.

It may not have quite equaled one of those legendary meals in Hong Kong (and there were some legendary meals in Hong Kong!) but it served its purpose well – and there’s enough for a good lunch tomorrow!