I Crave Cafeteria Food


Gummy macaroni and congealed baked beans?


Of course not! Instead, I’m craving this little gem right here:

With the exception of the cafeteria’s seaweed salad, this noodle dish was the only cafeteria food that I LOVED while I was in China (I eventually had to discontinue consumption of the seaweed salad, as it gave me a rumbly in my tumbly – and not because I was hungry). I often tried to fight my way to the front of the cafeteria line stand close to the cook so that I could watch his deft hands grab the huge chunk of stiff dough and, with a knife at least twice as long as would be allowed in a U.S. cafeteria, shaving long noodles into a huge vat of boiling water below. No guards for his hands nor protection again splatters of boiling water. A dangerous meal, indeed. I wish I had taken a picture or video for you guys, but …

So! Since I arrived home a few weeks ago, I’ve been determined to make this shaved noodle dish. First, a stop at A Dong for some essential supplies.

Including these funky items that took me forever to find:

That would be dried black fungus, a delicious addition to many Chinese dishes. What? You don’t believe me? When have I ever steered you wrong? Okay, there was the Cookie Disaster of Feb 2010, but I was a younger person then! Besides, look what happens when you put the dried black fungus in water:


Let’s back up to the part where I make the noodle dough. I used this recipe, skipping the step where I toss the noodles in peanut oil. Who needs oil when I have delectable toppings?

At first I was confused when the directions said to mix the flour and water until the dough is “shaggy”.

Ah. Let’s let the dough rest for several hours.

And then, the attempted noodle-shaving. I won’t sport with your patience by posting pictures of my pathetic attempts to whip a knife through that dough. Suffice to say that it didn’t work (the chunks of dough I splatted all over the kitchen agree with me). I also didn’t take any pictures. Instead, I commenced rolling and cutting.

While the noodles boiled, I prepared the toppings. In Beijing, I always chose two toppings: scrambled eggs and tomato (a very common dish in Beijing) and some sort of pungent dark sauce with black fungus and mushrooms. I didn’t know what the dark sauce was … until today. Behold, soybean paste:

On a whim, I bought this paste at A Dong. Mixed with a little water, this sauce was a dead ringer for the sauce I had in Beijing. Go me.

Noodles together with the two toppings:

Nom nom.

These noodles were delicious! With some Urfa red pepper flakes sprinkled on top, this dish brought me back to the hot, loud, and pungent atmosphere that was the University’s cafeteria. The noodles were perfectly chewy.

I also discovered a slightly sweetened jasmine tea that I chugged by the bottleful in China, right here in A Dong! Oh A Dong, how I adore thee!

I wanted to turn this bottled tea into bubble tea, so I bought dry tapioca balls from A Dong, but when I tried to rehydrate the bubbles …

Oh, well. Tea with milk, then!

Finally, after LeQuan showed off some figgy art, I knew I had to jump on THAT wagon.

… aaaand, that is the limited extent of my creativity πŸ˜€

Q: Have you ever tried to recreate a dish you ate in a restaurant or cafeteria? How did it turn out?


  1. Way to go on recreating that dish you loved so much! I’m super impressed that you made your own noodles, wow!! Those figs are so cute!!

  2. Can figgy art be shortened to fart? Then Maddie would be a pro.

  3. I can’t get over the fact that you made your own noodles…very impressive.

    I haven’t been able to recreate anything, mainly because I have trouble just creating something in the first place. I am challenged!!

    The figs are so pretty…love this idea.

  4. You made your own noodles!! Yay for Jessie! I’m too lazy πŸ˜›

    I like Peter’s idea for fig art ROFL

    The noodles look yummy, though I don’t really like eggs. I tried recreating something called Hainanese Beef Noodles at home 3 days ago – it was good but I think I’ll just go have it at the food court next time- $5 will save me all that trouble LOL Told ya I was lazy *grin*

  5. Jessie,

    Great job making your own noodles. The dish looks wonderful. I would like to give those black fungus a shot. I will be on the lookout.

    Very creative fig art!

    A Dong…what an awesome name…I’ll just leave that one alone.


  6. Wheee…riding the figgy art wagon together. Ahaha, fart…luv it! Sorry, you’ll soon discover through FB how immature I really am (if you haven’t already :-D). I love your figgy art! Are those roasted?Do they taste better roasted?

    Wow girl! You are hardcore, making your own noodles and all. Huge kudos to you my friend! I can’t really tell from the picture and you didn’t mention anything about the soup, but was there soup in the dish? Soup or not, that looks mighty yummy to me. And ah, the black fungus. Great ingredient to add if you’re looking for a certain crunch to your dish. Much more authentic than adding broccoli or something, great choice Jessie! πŸ˜› It’s great to see how much you’ve enjoyed your trip and actually try to recreate dishes that you enjoyed eating. Keep rockin’ it Jessie!

  7. Got to admit this is one meal that doesn’t appeal to me by looks. Since you enjoy it so much I’d try it though if I ever came across it.

  8. i dont blame you, ive had some caf food a few times and DAMN wa sit tasty!!

    id love to try black fungus.. id be scared to buy it but i know if it was infront of me in a meal i would definitely eat it <3

  9. i would love to try black fungus! i wouldnt buy it necessarily because i would be afraid if i didnt like it i would have a whole bag to use up somehow. but id love to try it in something..mm and caf food is good! i mean i KNOW those beans sure look tasty!!

  10. I need a store like Dong near me. I absolutely adore Asian foods but the Asian supermarkets here are so hard to get around in. Maybe I’ll have to visit you guys. Kill two birds with one stone.

    Your noodle dish sounds fantastic! Good job with the bean paste. Intuition, I tell ya!

  11. We have tried to recreate alcoholic beverages before. It was a secret recipe, so they would give out an ingredient or two and then say the rest is secret. Well, some servers gave out different ingredients and after a few weeks, we had a nice long list of this $20 drink (it was huge for 2 people to share and that is why it was expensive). Those are great little fig hearts. While in Spain we ate figs that were the size of pears. They were huge.

  12. Girl, that is a LOT of creativity in my book!!! The farthest I’ve gone in re-creating a restaurant dish was a simple (but beautiful!) salad! So I am obviously very impressed with you right now. πŸ™‚

  13. so when are you making this for me?

  14. Black fungus is horrible. I bought some from Ming’s once and they were gross. They sort of snap when you bite into them and they have an off-putting flavor. I also don’t really like any type of dried mushrooms but that’s just me. It is definitely fun when you think you know what a particular flavor is and you nail it like that though. Congrats!

  15. I’m so impressed!! By your creativity, and the fact that you made your own noodles AND how adventurous you are. It’s so funny how perception can totally effect whether or not you’ll eat a certain food — so, for example, I love mushrooms. I know mushrooms are a fungus, but I kind of block that out of my mind when I’m eating it because they taste so darn good. But then I see something that is actually CALLED “black fungus” and my immediate response is “ewww” I’ve never tried it, but I’m already against it because of that word. (Clearly I need to get more adventurous in my eating).

    Anyway, that’s not to slam on your amazing meal at all. I can’t believe you made your own noodles! And your re-creation of that meal looks awesome! Sorry your bubble tea didn’t work out. Do you know where it went wrong? It’d be so cool to be able to create that at home.

  16. That looks great Jessie! I love black fungus.
    Also, its pretty cool that you made your own noodles!
    I’ve never tried to recreate a restaurant dish…I’m not that creative. I need a recipe or directions, or else my food will be a flop. I have plenty of experience with this and I know my limits haha.

    Those figgy hearts look absolutely beautiful!!
    Have a good weekend lovely

  17. I love the figgy art! I reallyyyy wish we had fresh figs in our grocery store

    And is there a tool you can use for noodle-shaving?? I’m thinking you would need mad skills to do it with only a knife lol

  18. I haven’t even caught up with Lequan’s figgy art yet! I am starting from the bottom up, too! When I was young, TV dinners were a real treat. I mean, jumping up and down special! This recipe is clearly too complicated for me to really take in here today, but I wanted to drop by and say HIIII, I haven’t forgotten you. I have a few extra wireless minutes here while I wait for my husband in Bijeljina, Bosnia and just posted another lunch in Paris. I am so glad to start catching up on my reading… we just made Serbian Kubassa Sausage this morning with real pig intestines. It was an incredible experience and can’t wait to taste them! I will catch up and read slowly, sooooon. We are back mid August!

  19. What a amazing looking dish! I have a store down the street that sell all the stuff to make it. I’m going to give it a go tonight!

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