The ironic (or perhaps not) coda to the Ningxia noodle tour described below was the airplane meal on the flight home. 35,000 feet over the sands of Inner Mongolia, China Eastern Airlines served up the same crappy inflight meal that it serves on every flight - chicken with noodles.
I could visualize everything contained within the small tray even before I peeled back the foil cover - the gluey brown noodles, the glueier browner sauce, the single token strip of red pepper. And of course, the grizzled slices of chicken rendered nearly indistinguishable from the noodles; I'm not sure if that speaks worse to the chicken or the noodles. Nonetheless, it was lunchtime and I was hungry, so I twirled up a few strands and tucked into the soggy, pasty, nearly flavorless mess.
Naturally, the ideal beverage pairing to China Eastern's noodles is Bud Ice, a beer that I wasn't aware was still being manufactured. The whole experience was akin to finding a finding a bag from Panda Express that had been sitting in the back of your fridge since 1994 and being desperate enough to eat it.
Up yours, China Eastern.