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Delicious oatmeal and dinner at Noodle Loft

August 10, 2008
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Last night I stuffed myself so full I felt nauseous. It’s been a long time since I’ve let myself get beyond a 7 on a hunger scale of 1-10, but I hadn’t had lunch, due to an intense day of shopping (bought 2 shirts, 3 pairs of pants and a skirt). But let’s work backwards.

This morning I made myself an extra delicious bowl of oatmeal. It’s a trick I use when there isn’t any milk or I don’t feel like using it. I suppose you could call it “Vitamin C Oatmeal”: (oatmeal doesn’t photograph well. Actually, it never looks all that appealing. But I’m sure you knew that)

  • 1/2 cup oats (or other dry cereal)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 banana, chopped up
  • a few mango slices (or pineapple, or whatever you have on hand)
  • cinnamon (I used a stick and grated it because they don’t have powdered cinnamon here, for some reason)
  • brown sugar, if desired
  • yogurt

Microwave or cook oats, orange juice, water and fruit on stove top until desired consistancy. Garnish with cinnamon, sugar and yogurt. What’s good about Chinese yogurt is that it’s really more of a drink, so when you pour it on it’s almost like a sour, thickened milk. This is good, because the skim milk we drink is so thinned out that you can practically see through it.
I had this oatmeal with some additional mango slices and half a glass of Chinese soymilk.

This breakfast was good after stuffing myself with noodles last night at Noodle Loft, a chic but rustic Shan Xi noodle restaurant. Actually, an artist we know (my dad is a curator) designed the place, and the layout is pretty awesome. You can sit at the bar or at tables, but the point is that the kitchen is out in the open– a circular space lined with wooden tables covered with dough and giant metal pots of boiling water. The noodle chefs wear chef’s hats, and EVERYBODY takes pictures, so nobody thought my taking photos was strange at all.
This is because of the amazing variety of noodles that Shan Xi cuisine has to offer. Before, I always thought of noodles and pasta as boring and safe. Especially with industrially dried pasta like penne and macaroni, every single piece has the same bite and shape, so that it becomes monotonous, by which point I would much rather just have a giant bowl of pasta sauce.
Fresh pasta and handmade noodles are another story. When you eat them, you can feel that the noodles are slightly assymetrical and absolutely not machine-made. They’re chewy in a way that normal noodles aren’t, and they make you realize that the same dough can be shaped to have a million different shapes and textures.
When it comes to these noodles I’m not talking about the shapes we know: fusilli, spaghetti, linguini, etc. etc. Here are some of the types of noodles you can choose:

  • Yi gen mian— this is literally a giant bowl of what looks like thick spaghetti, only the entire bowl is one strand. Old people eat this on birthdays to represent longevity. A challenge to eat!
  • Dao xiao mian and Dao bo mian– a giant hunk of dough is chopped or shaped by a giant cleaver
  • Jian dao mian– the dough is literally snipped into strands with scissors
  • La mian (ramen)— not gonna bother to explain this one
  • Mao er duo (cat’s ears)– lumps of triangular pasta dough
  • Ti jie— Pasta shaped using a chopstick
  • Yu– noodles shaped like fish

All of these noodles are available with any of their sauces, some of which include: egg and tomato, vinegar sauce, pickled cabbage and soy bean, eggplant and pork, stewed pork belly, and some other meat sauces.
I was upset because I wanted to get one of the cool alternative grain noodles, such as buckwheat mao er duo or sorghum yu, but they were out! However, they did have a vibrant green spinach yi gen mian, which is by far the most fun to eat, so I ordered that with egg and tomato, already
imagining the colors (BY THE WAY: stirfried egg and tomato is one of the most delicious home-style dishes in China. I know it sounds weird, but the dish is probably about half egg and half tomato with ginger and garlic, unlike an omelet with a few cherry tomatoes thrown in).
My dad and one of the artists (The guys) both ordered seconds! I don’t think I’m going to list all of the combinations of what we got because I don’t think you care enough, but I’ll post photos.

In addition to noodles, the restaurant also has great rustic homestyle dishes that you can’t find everywhere. We got 4 appetizers: sliced tofu with hot sauce, lotus root, potato and pickled vegetables, and my dad ordered donkey meat! although on the menu (I had to get a photo of this) it’s displayed as “hand shredded ass meat.”

For hot dishes we ordered the house specialty, the most tender, fragrant and meatlike wild mushrooms in some kind of soy-based sauce. It was truly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. We also ordered a (very) rustic stirfry of chopped, partially pickled vegetables.
I was so full by this point that I was finding it hard to stand up, but our friend, the male artist’s artist’s wife, Yin Xiu Zhen, insisted on ordering a dessert of what is basically sugar-spun Chinese mountain yam. I had had the dessert as a kid, but totally forgot that it existed and how delicious it is! Basically, yam (it actually isn’t yam– it’s called shan yao, but in English it’s always translated as yam. It’s a long, almost triangular starchy vegetable with white flesh that’s crunchy until cooked) is briefly fried, then coated in sugar. The sugar caramelizes so that it stretches out in strands when you try to take a piece. The yam is burning hot, so you dip it quickly in a bowl of cold water. This allows the sugar to harden, so that when you bite into it you get this wonderful, sticky crunch, with the mealy goodness of a potato underneath. Vegetables for dessert… that’s more like it.
AND PS: I am trying to upload a photo of the chefs at work. Let’s see if I succeed.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. leucippe permalink
    August 11, 2008 9:56 pm

    I never realized there were so many noodle shapes, but the Italians have a zillion too, often with delightful names. there’s more to pasta than, well, pasta.

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