I recently found myself in a food hall of sorts in Beijing, hungry for something a little bit more substantial than the various snacks that most of the vendors were offering up. There was a full fledged restaurant in the back, but the menu was fully Chinese, with no pictures to point at.
There’s an app you can get on your phone called Google Translate, where you can point your camera at something and it’ll translate it on the fly. When I first heard about this, I thought, well, travel has been revolutionized. Then I tried it. It sorta-kinda works, depending on what you point it at, but for some reason when you try it on menus the results tend to be gibberish.
Still, I was desperate enough to give it a shot, and amongst the nonsense was a line that said something about “old noodles.” So I pointed at that and ordered it.
What I got was a bowl of plain noodles, topped with some veggies and a delightfully potent black bean sauce. You mix it all up, and it looks like this:
It was so good. I could make the argument that the springy, chewy texture of really good freshly-made noodles is one of the best things in the world. The combination of the very salty, rich sauce, along with the crunch of the veggies and the chewy noodles was ridiculous. A couple of spoonfuls of the chili oil they have on the table puts it over the top: noodle perfection.