Born and raised in the Philippines, my mom had less than a handful of authentic Chinese/Fujianese recipes to give me. One dish she does remember my great-grandmother making for birthdays is called misua (mee-swa).
Misua is a thin, wheat-based vermicelli noodle originating from the Fujian province in China (where my family’s originally from). The noodles represent longevity and are sometimes labeled as ‘long-life’ noodles, hoping to bring long life to the recipient. Giving someone broken noodles is considered bad luck, so they must be boiled delicately.
February is (was) my mom’s birthday month, so it’s only fitting.
Misua can be made as a soup or a stir-fry. This style of misua is somewhere in the middle, it’s not soupy, but it’s not fried. The key to this recipe is caramelized shallots. Mixed into the noodles after boiling, they give them a wonderfully sweet onion flavor. Top it off with your choice of meat and veggies, mix it all together, and eat your way to a longer life.
Let’s start off with the noodles.
You’re looking for long, thin noodles made with wheat, not rice (rice vermicelli will fall apart). They can be found dried or fresh. The dried ones can get super long and are often tied up into bundles. The fresh (below right) are slightly shorter, but better quality (in my mom’s opinion).
Next choose your toppings. Meat? Vegetables?
You can top your misua with whatever you like as long as there’s some variety. Choose a few different meats and lots of veggies. The more colors the better. I used chicken, pork belly, tripe, shrimp, carrots, napa cabbage, baby corn, shiitake mushrooms, and scallions.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1/2 lb tripe
- 1 inch fresh ginger (sliced)
- 6-10 black peppercorns
- 3 cloves garlic (sliced) Optional
- 1 small yellow onion (quartered) Optional
- 8-10 cups water
- 1 lb pork belly
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 10 shallots (thinly sliced)
- 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
- 2 carrots (julienned)
- 10 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated, stems removed, and thinly sliced)
- 1/2 head napa cabbage (chopped fine)
- 1 can baby corn (thinly sliced)
- eggs (hard-boiled) One per person/serving
- 1 cup raw peanuts (shelled with the skin still on) Optional
- 1/2 lb whole shrimp (unpeeled) Optional
- scallions (chopped)
And Don’t Forget
- 1 pack misua (long-life noodles)
Step One: Cut up your chicken, separating the wings, legs, thighs, and breasts. Remove the giblets (heart, liver, gizzard) if included.
Step Two: Place your chicken pieces, in a large pot with the tripe, ginger, peppercorns, garlic, and onion. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
Step Three: Meanwhile, toast your peanuts. I put mine in a dry frying pan and stirred until browned. Set aside.
Optional: Brown your pork belly in a frying pan and render as much of the fat out as you can. Reserve the grease and add the meat to the pot of chicken.
Step Four: In pork belly fat and/or oil, fry your shallots on medium heat until they caramelize. This step is crucial for the main flavor of the misua. Once browned, set aside and let cool.
Step Five: In a wok or large frying pan, add a couple tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil and stir-fry your vegetables. I did mine separately, which was more work in the end. (Don’t be me) Lightly salt your veggies and set aside.
Step 6: Remove your chicken from the broth when done and shred the meat. Remove the pork belly and slice. Remove the tripe and cut it into long, thin strips. Do not over salt the broth! Misua noodles are already salty and will add flavor to the end dish. Keep your broth on low heat, covered.
Step 7: If you have shrimp, stir-fry them until done. Set aside.
Step 8: Bring a separate pot of water to boil. We’re going to boil the misua separately first, so the starch doesn’t change the flavor of our homemade chicken broth. Follow the directions on your package if in English. My fresh misua had to be boiled for one minute.
Using chopsticks, gently stir the strands, being careful not to break them. If your strands break apart, you’ve boiled the noodles too long.
Once boiled, strain them into a colander and rinse with cold water.
Step 9: In a separate pot, boil just enough broth for the amount of servings you’re making (about 1/2 cup per serving). The misua will absorb the majority of this broth, so don’t add too much. We’re not looking to make a soup here. Add a tablespoon of your shallot oil for each serving on the noodles and gently stir.
Step 10: Once the broth is mostly absorbed (should only take a few minutes), place the noodles on a serving dish or in individual serving bowls. Add your toppings and garnish with chopped scallions.