Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breakfast Noodles in China

In Shanghai, I stayed at the Hua Ting Hotel because of its proximity to my meeting place.  Their rate included a breakfast buffet that had a Western section with all of what you would expect - scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, omelet station - and they had a Chinese section, which to my gastronomic delight, included a noodle station.  That, and a cup of coffee, is what I had for 3 mornings. 

At the Noodle Station, a chef stands in front of a vat of boiling water with 4 or 5 individual sieves.  This is meant to cook whatever vegetables you choose and warm up the noodles that have been precooked.  All he's going to give you is a bowl of noodles, vegetables, and bland soup.  The rest is up to you.  So they set up all these condiments - from spicy meat to seaweed to cilantro to hot sauce - to dress up the dish.  And what I learned is that there's no such thing as too much of anything...

First morning, I was such a novice; so careful was I with all the condiments that it turned out to be bland-bland-bla-bland-bland-bland.

By the third morning, I had honed my request to perfection.  Less noodles, more vegetables, no soup, please.  Then I placed the spicy meat sauce with the cooked pickled vegetables into the dish along with some hot sauce, cilantro and scallions.

And the final piece?  I trotted over to the western side of the buffet and asked for two eggs over-easy and had them place it gently on top of it all.  And voila!  It looked so good I had at least 6 folks, both Asian and Western, inquire as to what I had in my hands and how they could go about getting it.  It's a process, I told them.  As I embarked on my instructions, I could see confusion overcome their faces.  And I wanted to say, "Hey - you gotta ask yourself - how badly do you want it?"

Token look of what it all looked like underneath

No comments: