Although The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine is adapated from a Danish folktale, the setting, illustrations and food are all distinctly Chinese. This book tells the tale of a magical wok that takes food and gifts from an ungrateful, wealthy family, and shares it with a poor family in the village, who then generously give the gifts away to neighbors. The magical wok is kind of like the Robin Hood of kitchenware; which sounds strange, but makes for a beautifully touching tale of kindness and hospitality. The Runaway Wok takes place against the backdrop of preparations for the New Year and ends with a gorgeous scene of celebration complete with drummers and dragon dancers. I like that the generosity in this book starts with a little boy, Ming, who decides to trade his family’s eggs for a magical wok in the marketplace. Later, Ming discovers the wok full of toys and, instead of deciding to keep them himself, his first words are, “There are enough toys here for all of my friends!”. Ming’s attitude is a reminder to children that, even though they are young, they can choose to share and make a big difference in the lives of others.
It was hard to choose a recipe to go with this book because it is full of wonderful looking food! The author shares a recipe for Festive Stir-Fried Rice at the end of the book, but I decided to make a version of the Long-Life Noodles pictured on one of the pages. Any kind of noodles appeal to me, but these look particularly delectable, spilling out of their bowl, and seem to symbolize all the abundance of a New Year celebration. Just as the dumplings in my last Chinese New Year post symbolize wealth in the New Year, noodles are associated with longevity and health. They are also easy to prepare and a convenient way to feed a crowd. For the photos in this post, I used fresh egg noodles, but any cooked ramen or other Asian noodles would work. Also, this is a great way to use up any vegetables you have in the fridge, don’t feel limited to the veggies listed in the recipe!
Long-Life Noodles with Vegetables
Time: 20 minutes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 carrots, cut into strips or thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 cups sliced bok choy, whites and greens separated
1 pound cooked Chinese egg noodles or ramen
3 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients (soy sauce through salt) and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, celery and the white part of the bok choy to the hot wok and stir fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the sauce mixture to the wok and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the noodles and green part of the bok choy to the wok and cook, stirring constantly, until the noodles are warmed through and the greens have wilted slightly. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt, soy sauce, or sesame oil if needed. Serve immediately, topped with scallions if desired.