Long noodles and bright tangerines

Long noodles and bright tangerines

A few days back, as I was writing about the Chinese New Year for my Turkish language column, I was just about to say that the forthcoming year is prone to earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, or any disaster-related to the earth and water, and then I did not feel like writing distressing things and deleted my words.

I did not want to appear like a doomsayer, and considering the coronavirus outbreak in China, I thought we don’t need one more bad news. That very night an earthquake in eastern Turkey happened. Now it is the flood in Brazil. I better keep my mouth shut.

I’m definitely not a fortuneteller. It was not that I’m an accomplished astrologer either, I was just into reading anything related to Chinese beliefs related to the New Year celebrations and the characteristics of the Metal Rat year. Sometimes just for the sake of staying on the safe side, it might be better to take care to follow a few rules. After all, one fifth or even more of the world population adheres to traditional habits trying to eat luck bringing foods and avoiding doing certain things. Even they are based on superstitions, applying a few cannot harm us, so better to learn about them.

It will be good not to do any cleaning or having a haircut, or cutting nails at the first five days of the New Year, so as the first day was last Saturday, we have three more days to excuse ourselves from any house cleaning duties. Better not to sweep away good fortunes, just in case if there is any. It is also advised not to swear or say bad words these days.

That one is hard I know, especially living in Turkey, people use foul language quite frequent habitually. When it comes to food choices, better to eat as many dumplings as you can. Good Chinese dumplings are not easy to come by here, and it takes a hell of a time to do your own, but if we settle to go the Turkish way, we can increase our luck enormously as mantı, the Turkish dumplings, are tiny and you can have plenty even in one mouthful.

Try to have your whole fish to bring unity, integrity and prosperity. That is easy as we seldom have our fish in morsels; it almost always comes grilled or fried whole. Even if you have fish the Turkish way, you may try to add a Chinese touch by frying ginger, garlic, fresh chili and spring onions in a few tablespoons of hot oil, and pour the sizzling oil or your fish with a splash of soy sauce.

Another obligatory lucky food is long longevity noodles, better with lots of greens if possible, to bring health and youth. This is easy to get in Turkey, as most Chinese outlets feature noodles and there are even instant ones available in markets.

It won’t be the authentic way, but as long as you make sure to have noodles, you’ll be on the safe side, and for youth and vivacity, we always have young spring onions available, just cut them in thin strips longwise and toss in. And do not forget spring rolls that are more readily available in every single Chinese outlet.

One group of lucky foods we can easily have plenty for bringing money and wealth in the new year is the easiest in Turkey: The citrus family, all the oranges, mandarins and tangerines you can get are all at their peak season.

On rather recent food fad in Turkey is the appearance of kumquats, which are grown abundantly in the Mediterranean region. In Chinese, orange is homonymous with wealth and tangerine with luck, and remember kumquats stand for gold and prosperity, be sure to have them plenty to bring plenty!

Recipe of the Week: 

Creativity comes from scarcity. Turkish mantı may have central Asian origins that might also have played an influence on Chinese dumplings, but we all know that they are worlds apart. But still, if the aim is to increase good fortune by eating as many as dumplings as you can, here is a way. You can transform your ready bought mantı into a Chinese-tasting one with a few tricks. It will not be the same, but it will be a sort of Turkish-Chinese fusion. Boil mantı the usual way, but preferably in a chicken or bone-stock with a few garlic cloves, an inch of ginger, a star anise and a few stalks of spring onions added. Meanwhile, slice a few garlic cloves, cut fresh ginger in matchsticks to make about a tablespoon and cut thinly a few spring onions. Toss all in a wok with a few tablespoons of oil. Add a few slivers of hot chili pepper if you like a bit of heat. When they sizzle and release their aromas add a splash of soy sauce. When the mantı is done, take out from the stock with a slotted spoon and toss in the wok. Serve as it is, or in bowls, adding the cooking broth to make wonderful dumpling soup. In this case add a handful of more finely chopped spring onions to the soup. A few coriander leaves will also contribute to add an Asian touch. 
Fork of the Week: 

One of the best venues to celebrate Chinese New Year is definitely Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel in Istanbul. Being the only Asian-origin hotel in the city, they never skip Chinese celebrations. This year they have a special menu at the Shang Palace between Jan. 25 – Feb. 8, featuring traditional foods to bring luck, prosperity and plenty in the new Rat Year. Executive chef Cheng Lu and his team prepare both Cantonese and Sichuan specialties, including the famous Chengdu specialty Dan Dan Noodle or whole authentic Peking duck. Every Friday and Saturday there will be a Lamian show in the lobby lounge at 14:30 and 15:00, where you can watch how the hand-drawn noodles are made and taste the freshly made noodles on the spot served in a restoring bone stock, exactly what one needs exactly in these cold winter days. You can stay over in the lobby for teatime that also has a few dim sum bites.  

Cork of the Week:

A good way to increase luck is through citrus family. Either eat them or drink the juice for health benefits. You can have yours sent to your day, the best of the usual ones and the rare ones combined. Mete Apaydın is from a family of citrus fruit producers since generations from Finike, a town famous for its oranges with geographic appellation. They have an online delivery system called “Portakal Bahçem,” which translates as “My Orange Grove.” They not only have a good range of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, tangerines and grapefruits both regular and pink, but also pomegranates and avocados. They even do send freshly squeezed juice. Watch out also for the lesser-known varieties, now kumquat season is at its peak, and they also have rarities such as blood limes, finger limes and limequats, the former is perfect for a Negroni, the latter two for a fresh G & T. Well dry-January is almost over, so why not pour yourself a glass to celebrate the New Year with a citrusy touch. https://www.portakalbahcem.com/tr/