Straight out the gate as you may already know, I am by no means a Chinese food expert. That said, from what everyone I’ve discussed this with over my food blogging years tells me, Chinese “Cake Noodle” is exclusively a “Hawaii thing”.
If you were to seek out “Cake Noodle” back in Hong Kong or mainland China, the motherland, nope. Not gonna’ find it. God-forbid you should ask for “Cake Noodle” at your favorite Chinese restaurant on the mainland, as you’ll probably get yourself a mouthful in thick Canton-English (or whatever dialect they speak) from the server or owner, basically saying “WTH are you talking about? You’ve gone absolutely mad!” Shoots, they might even kick you out for insulting them. “You go now!” lol
They might steer you towards “Fried Noodles”, but in most cases, that’s not the same.
I even confirmed this with Jamie Lum, the owner of On On Chinese Restaurant Kapahulu (not to be confused with the former On On on McCully), who is originally from the Guanghzou Province in China, just northwest of Hong Kong. She concurred indeed, NOPE, they don’t have that there. She learned how to make “Cake Noodle” only after moving to Hawaii, where she discovered how popular the dish is here.
As you can see, it really is a simple concept, taking chow mein noodles and setting it up in a wok, compressing it sort of like you would a rice musubi, where it binds together into a “cake” from the inherent starch. So odd as it seems, the interior is essentially clumped-up noodles all stuck together. This, as the hot wok oil gives the exterior a crispy edge on top and bottom, while again, the noodles within remain al dente soft ‘n chewy-tender. It’s then served on a platter, usually cut into individual squares.
Depending where you go, you can order Cake Noodle either by itself as an ala carte starch dish, or as an entree, where it’s topped with various stir-fry dishes. Such as above, which is one of the most popular versions, being Beef Broccoli Cake Noodle.
These are the Cake Noodle variations you can currently find at On On Chinese Restaurant Kapahulu:
– Seafood Cake Noodle $11.95
– On On Cake Noodle $8.95
– Minute Chicken Cake Noodle $8.75
– Roast Chicken Cake Noodle $8.75
– Beef or Chicken with Mushroom Cake Noodle $9.50
The one I ordered with broccoli was a special request, which they didn’t charge extra for. Nice. The prices for this dish are obviously VERY REASONABLE, and really one plate like this will easily feed two people, or as part of a full course dining in there, enough for 4 to 6.
According to the intro’ for CookingHawaiianStyle.com’s recipe for Cake Noodle, is that there was a story in Midweek that claimed Cake Noodle was ironically invented by On On Chinese Restaurant, which was formerly on McCully Street. Which to note, has NO RELATION to On Chinese Restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue. At that restaurant, the original Cake Noodle was apparently made using Saimin Noodles, which have a slightly different recipe and overall mouthfeel than your typical Chinese chow mein noodles.
Cake Noodle was always my sister Keanu’s favorite dish growing up, where we ate literally almost every weekend at Kin Wah Chop Suey in Kaneohe. However, believe it or not, I HATED the stuff as a kid. Well, I actually ended up, let’s just say, “not liking” Chinese food in general, as my mom basically force-fed me Chinese food.
Speaking of Kin Wah, we can’t forget how our lovely Cantonese waitress used to pronounce Beef Broccoli Cake Noodle: “Bee Boh Kay Noo”. LOL!
Anyhow, now that I try Cake Noodle again as a mature adult, I really really LOVE it! I think what it was, is when I was a little boy, all I liked at Kin Wah (and previously Mui Kwai) was the “Saimin” (actually it was Wonton Min), which obviously are noodles in a broth. So the whole idea of noodles being dry and fried crispy was, well, “gross” to me back then. Every time the Cake Noodle would pass my way on the lazy Susan, I was like, PASS. And my sister used to always laugh at me, saying “Good Pomai, you no like da’ Cake Noodle. More for me!” lol Yet now? Effin’ aye! Hook me up! Cake Noodle is Bomb-dot-com! That dish ain’t ever passin’ me up on the Lazy Susan table again!
Now that I think about it, the Ramen Burger, made popular in New York, actually is built on the Cake Noodle Concept, essentially “bun-i-fying” Cake Noodle for a burger. “Bun-i-fy”. What the hell kinda’ word is that?! lol
Case in point, the Matsufujiya Ramen Noodle Burger above and below…
Then of course, Hawaii’s spin on the Ramen Burger, the original Tanaka Saimin Burger….
Yup, that’s definitely a “Bun-i-fied” Cake Noodle, gone into rogue burger wars madness. lol
What would be interesting is to to take the ORIGINAL local Chinese style Cake Noodle and make THAT into a burger. Hah? How you figgah? Perhaps make an order of On On’s house Cake Noodle, without anything on it, then take it home and experiment with different “burger” variations, using the sliced cake noodle squares as a “bun”, slider style if you will. Experiment with “outside the box” ideas, from a Portuguese Sausage & Lup Cheong (combined with ground pork) Cake Noodle Burger, to a Rafute (Okinawan Shoyu Pork) Cake Noodle Burger. Which I actually threw out those ideas when reviewing the Tanaka Saimin Burger.
Cake Noodle. What’s your take on it?