Cathay Noodle Bar is ‘Humiliation of 3 Cities’

My wife flew Cathay Pacific in business home from Shanghai for the first time and I suggested she try the famous Noodle Bar in Cathay’s Hong Kong business class lounge. I had never visited, so relied on reports from fellow travelers to publications such as Monocle’s Travel Top 50.

First thing she proclaimed as she entered our apartment, “Humiliation of 3 cities!” (Note: she agreed that I write this with the disclaimer that she “is not a bitchy Shanghai woman!”)

Settling down her and her luggage we unpacked the cause.

At issue is the so-called ‘Dan Dan Mien – Shanghainese Style Noodles in a Spicy Hot Peanut Sauce.’

Cathay Noodle Bar Menu Cathay Noodle Bar Dandan Noodles

Dandan noodles is a Sichuan dish that is nothing like the bowl of limp noodles in bland satay sauce served at The Noodle Bar, hence the insult to Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital. The true dish is springy noodles in a fiery, oily sauce.

The insult to Shanghai is attributing the food fail to Shanghai.

The insult to Hong Hong is for both of the above!

Wikipedia has a decent entry on dandan noodles and explains how in some places it gets twisted into peanut or sesame versions:

Dandan noodles or dandanmian (traditional Chinese: 擔擔麵, simplified Chinese: 担担面) is a noodle dish originating from Chinese Sichuan cuisine. It consists of a spicy sauce containing preserved vegetables (often including zha cai (榨菜), lower enlarged mustard stems, or ya cai (芽菜), upper mustard stems), chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork, and scallions served over noodles.

Sesame paste and/or peanut butter is sometimes added, and occasionally replaces the spicy sauce, usually in the Taiwanese and American Chinese style of the dish. In this case, dandanmian is considered as a variation of ma jiang mian (麻醬麵), sesame sauce noodles. In American Chinese cuisine, dandanmian is often sweeter, less spicy, and less soupy than its Sichuan counterpart.

That lost her Cathay before she ever stepped on the plane. Let’s not even start on Cathay’s dishwater take on Hong Kong mainstay milk tea!

However, she did enjoy the several more authentic noodles down the hall at the utilitarian Dragon Air lounge, which is targeted at Chinese travelers, unlike the Cathay pastiche.

Next post, options for authentic eats at Hong Kong Airport.

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  • smittytabb

    I really want to meet your wife! I have heard so many stories. She sounds amazing!

  • Gus

    The Cathay HK Wing lounge is one of the best business class lounges in the world. Despite being crowded at times, it has great amenities, helpful staff and good food options. While the Dan Dan noodles may not be 100% authentic, then noodle bar is by far one of the best fresh food options among business class lounges (where it is more common to have standing food stations). Please recommend to your wife their wonton noodles, udon or the freshly made dim sum if the Dan Dan noodles don’t agree with her.

  • “The insult to Hong Hong”?

  • Jacky

    “is not a bitchy Shanghai woman!”
    LOL, love this part!

  • Erik

    If either of you cook, you might give this recipe a try (recently shared by professional chef/baker David Lebovitz on his FB page) Comparing your picture above to the one in this link, it is easy to see the difference. http://thewoksoflife.com/2014/11/dan-dan-noodles/

  • Zach

    I would agree with her! Can’t count the number of times I read trip reports and go… no that’s not Dan Dan noodles..and it’s not from Shanghai.

  • Shannon

    sorry you have to man up to gain respect from your another important part. You are acting like a so called ” little man” aka ” Shanghainese husband” You remind me so much of my poor cousin

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Shannon – we had a good laugh about the noodles and shared it, I don’t see the issue. Her miles, her trip.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @smittytabb – she is.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Gus – she did enjoy some Korean/kimchi noodle they had that day. It is a great lounge, I since visited myself for the first time. The point was partly for the laugh we had, and partly how one little detail can determine a customer’s entire impression. She came away saying that Cathay is an airline only targeting Westerners.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Aaron Nelson – for both!
    @Jacky – she insisted!
    @Erick – she cooks, she ‘spoiled’ me tonight with a very Shanghai 葱油拌面!
    @Zach – 对啊!