To learn more about the cultural significance of noodles in East Asia and to discuss the history of noodles worldwide, we spoke with Brooklyn-based food writer and photographer Diana Kuan.
To learn more about the cultural significance of noodles in East Asia and to discuss the history of noodles worldwide, we spoke with Brooklyn-based food writer and photographer Diana Kuan. She is the author of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, a book about Chinese cuisine and culture in America, and Red Hot Kitchen, a book about cooking with Asian hot sauces. Her favorite foods are tacos, ramen, and dumplings, which are typically served with hot sauce on the side.
Few foods are as well-liked worldwide as noodles. From East Asia to Europe, many cultures have a specific type of noodle dish that they are proud of. There are actually many competing theories as to which regions and cultures first developed noodles, but where did they actually come from? According to some historians, they were originally made with semolina and dried before cooking in the Middle East. Others believe the birthplace was somewhere in Central Asia. Many Chinese think that noodles originated in China and were exported to the West via Marco Polo’s travels. Pasta was allegedly invented in Italy long before Marco Polo was even born, according to many Italians. The hypothesis that noodles originated in the Near East (western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt), where durum wheat was first cultivated, and spread both east and west along different timelines and trajectories, is considered by some food historians and archaeologists to be the most credible.
A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles was discovered in the early 2000s at an archaeological site in northern China. When the bowl was turned over, long, yellow strands of millet noodles were discovered inside. The earliest written record of noodles was in a book from the Han Dynasty, which was written about 2000 years ago, before the discovery of the intact noodles. It is only safe to say that noodles have existed for at least 4,000 years in China, with the possibility that they have existed in other regions before that, since there are no written records from other cultures that mention them dating back that far.
According to Lin-Liu, “I learned along the way in my quest to identify the noodle that no one culture ‘owns’ a particular food, just because its peoples are eating it.
Scientists believe the noodles found may have been made from two kinds of millet, which are similar to but not the same as wheat grains (which is what modern Chinese noodles and European pasta is made from). But since the discovery there’s been quite a lot of debate about what it means – for one thing, millet, being gluten-free, isn’t suitable for making noodles as we know them. Respected historian Françoise Sabban has written about the scientific controversy that followed the initial announcement.
According to Santich, the word “itri” or “itria,” which refers to a flour-and-water dough that is rolled into a thin sheet and cut into strips, was first used in Greek literature in ancient times. She explains that since Syria was once a Greek colony, these mentions later became Arabic.
The Mediterranean is a very diverse region, and since the Arabs also conquered Sicily and southern Italy, it’s possible that they brought pasta to those regions and exported it from there. ”.
“We don’t know if pasta, as we know it, is related to the noodles that were first consumed in China, or if the noodle developed in the west separately, after it appeared in the east. It’s possible that two distinct culinary traditions evolved concurrently in two different parts of the world.
Wheat flour was used to make an unleavened dough that was rolled into thin sheets, folded, and then cut into strips of the desired width. One of China’s most well-known varieties of noodles, henan noodles, also has its roots in the Tang Dynasty. The dough is vigorously worked by being pulled straight; no twisting, folding, or waving is used. To ensure even stretching and uniform thickness, it can also be repeatedly slammed on a table.
Today, wheat flour, rice flour, mung bean starch, and a variety of other ingredients are used to make noodles and pasta. You can also add egg, lye, and cereal grains to wheat noodles to change the color or flavor. For a change in texture and tenderness, small amounts of egg whites, arrowroot, or tapioca starch may be added to the flour mixture. The only restrictions on the shape and composition of modern noodles are the chefs who make them.
Noodles are first mentioned in writing in a Chinese dictionary from the East Han Dynasty, which ruled China from A to B. D. 25 and 220. It talks about a dough similar to bread that is made from flour and water, torn into pieces, and then added to a soup called mian pian. It is still eaten in China today.
Roll the rolling pin back and forth quickly and firmly over a small portion of the dough, beginning with the end closest to you. Take frequent breaks to flour the dough, the rolling surface, and your pin. After you’ve thoroughly floured the dough and rolled it onto the rolling pin to flatten the first section, move on to the second section, pressing down on the pin to make the layers thinner and wider (though not wider than the width of the pin). To prevent the layers of dough from adhering to one another, unwind the dough occasionally and sprinkle it with extra flour. Cut the dough in half crosswise and work with one half at a time if it becomes too challenging to work with. When you’ve completely flattened the dough, unfold it to make sure it’s uniformly thin (but not paper-thin), and use the pin to press any thicker areas into the flattened position. The dough should be no more than 2 millimeters thick.
Wrap the dough around the pin once more, then unroll it so that it forms three-inch-wide S-shaped folds over layers while holding the pin above the board. With a sharp knife, cut the dough crosswise. For standard Chinese noodles, cut the dough into ⅛-inch-wide strands. Roll out the remaining dough, a quarter at a time, after gently shaking the noodles with your fingers to separate the strands. Set the noodles aside on a surface or plate that has been dusted with flour.
And we also get an exciting hand-pulled noodle demonstration from Tony Wu, who was the executive chef at M.Y. China, a restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown, when we originally recorded this audio in 2019. Wu can hand-pull 16,000 strands of noodles from one lump of dough in just two minutes…while blindfolded! Narrating this noodle-pulling exhibition is celebrity chef Martin Yan, who owned the restaurant. (M.Y. China closed during the pandemic.)
Noodles or pasta are mentioned for the first time in writing in Chinese texts from about 3200 years ago. It’s likely that pasta evolved in China and the Middle East within a couple hundred years ago, according to author Jen Lin-Liu. However, the commonly held belief that Italian explorer and trader Marco Polo “discovered” noodles during his 20 years of travel in east Asia and then brought them to Italy upon his return is probably untrue.
The ingredients for making noodles are very simple: just flour and water. In some cases, the water in Italian pasta is replaced with eggs. Then, they can be formed into noodles or various shapes by pressing. Sometimes they are transformed into dumplings, tortellini, or other filled pasta shapes after being filled with meat, cheese, or other ingredients.
It takes skill to make pasta, both to achieve the proper consistency and to create the ideal shapes. At Martin Yans San Francisco restaurant M. Y. Tony Wu, an executive chef in China, performs for diners once a week by hand-pulling 16,000 strands of noodles from a single lump of dough in under two minutes. Yan refers to him as a “human pasta machine,” and in this episode, we get to witness the excitement.
What was the first noodle ever made?
The oldest example ever discovered is a bowl of millet-based noodles that was discovered in 2005 at an archaeological site in northwest China. Whether the modern version was created by the Chinese, the Italians, or the Arabs is up for debate.
Who first invented noodle?
The earliest record of noodles is found in a book from China’s East Han Dynasty sometime between A and B, before they were discovered at the Lajia archaeological site. D. 25 and 220, Lu said. Other theories contend that the Middle East is where noodles were first made, and the Arabs brought them to Italy.
When did noodles become popular?
When noodles first arrived in Japan during the Heian period, around 800 AD, they were not particularly well-liked until the late 1800s.
Who made noodles first China or Italy?
Long before pasta was introduced to the Mediterranean region, noodles were popular in China and Asia. According to legend, Marco Polo brought pasta from China to Italy in the 13th century.