When In Roam

Carl Chu's Food & Travel Blog

Friday, September 07, 2007

On On: On the Cake Noodle

In Chinatowns everywhere you can get chow mein, lo mein, stir-fried noodles. But only in Honolulu can you get “cake noodle.”

The name is intriguing: is this a cake or a noodle? Turns out it’s both. Cooked egg noodles are pan-fried with a weight placed on top, so that it comes out looking like a cake. The noodles are fried slowly so that the outsides are brown and crispy, while the center remains firm and al dente. To serve, the cake noodle is cut into square pieces, and then topped with a sauce or some sort of stir-fry.

Invented by Cantonese immigrants who settled in Honolulu, cake noodle closely resembles classic Cantonese chow mein. However, by cutting it into square pieces, cake noodle is somewhat suggestive of American rice cakes, or even instant noodles right out of the package.

At On On Chinese Restaurant in Honolulu, a Cantonese place that claims to be cake noodle’s inventor, I order one with “Minute Chicken.” It is a simple stir-fry of white meat (chicken breast) and “choy sum,” the local word for what we call yu choi on the mainland. What makes it a “minute” is that the meat is cut into small pieces so that it only needs one minute of cooking inside a hot wok.

The dish is a little heavy on the soy sauce, which is the only seasoning I can detect. The cake noodle itself is about a half inch thick, browned nice and crispy on both sides, but cooked too soft to start so that the center does not have much of a bite to it. Oh, well, it’s not high class dining, but the ingenuity in creating the cake noodle, be it a take on chow mein or imitation of American rice cake, makes it an interesting discovery.

On On Chinese Restaurant is located at 1110 Mc Cully Street, Honolulu, Oahu.

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