Written by Sangeetha.
Late-night study sessions? Hardcore partying? Weekend sleepovers? No matter what the occasion is, noodles always tend to be our go-to food. For most of us who come back home after a long and tiring workday, nothing could be more comforting than a hot bowl of noodles. For those of us staying away from home, noodles is indeed a lifesaver.
This chief food which is now found in almost every household has a long and interesting history. It has travelled across the globe and lived through the ages to create an indelible mark in international cuisine.
Chinese Noodles Or Italian Pasta
The Chinese, Italians and Arabs claim that it was their nation that had first introduced noodles to the world. Despite this unceasing dispute, it is widely agreed that noodles originated in the East Han dynasty of China. In 2005, Chinese scientists reported that they had found a 4000-year-old bowl of noodles which was buried at the Laija archaeological site. However, all these three nations played a significant role in popularizing noodles across the pre-industrialized world.
Food experts propound that noodles spread from China to the other Asian countries. It is believed that the nomadic Arabs were the first to bring noodles from the East to the West. The earliest mention of Italian pasta is found in the work of Horace which was written around the first century.
The Italian immigrants are responsible for the travel of noodles across Europe. Even before the advent of instant noodles, different types of noodle dishes were made across Asia, Europe, and America. It must be noted that though noodles were available throughout the pre-globalized world it was not extremely popular.
The Noodle Revolution
Noodles became a popular universal food only after the instant noodles made its way into the global market. In 1958, Momofuku Ando who was a Japanese businessman and inventor marketed the first package of instant noodles. The horrid effects of World War- II led to a shortage of food in Japan.
The idea of instant noodles sparked when Ando saw Japanese people waiting in the cold weather to get the traditional Ramen noodles. The instant noodles were an instant success not only in Japan but also in the global market. The reason for its success could be attributed mainly to its low cost. The advent of television as news media also played a major role as it influenced and drastically changed people’s consumption patterns.
Cup noodles were launched by Momofuku Ando in 1971. He came up with this idea after seeing Americans put his instant noodles in a cup and eat them with a fork. This invention was yet another revolution in the history of noodles. Cup noodles assured complete portability and convenience. Consumers could carry noodles anywhere and relish it just by adding hot water to the packed noodles. This accessibility spiked the sales of noodles across the world.
Globalized Food With Local Flavours
In this present age of post-globalization, foods and cuisines have crossed borders and become available to everyone. Burgers, pizzas, and samosas have also made their way into the international market. Yet, only noodles have managed to transcend the cultural and economic restrictions to become available to everyone.
Noodles have become a favourite global food not only because of its affordable rates but because of its ability to fuse with local ingredients and enhance the local flavours. It can be cooked according to an individual’s taste as it goes along with any spice, sauce, cheese, and vegetable. This varied localization has indeed added to the fame and palatability of noodles.
Noodly! Not So Noodly!
Though Maggi, Top Ramen and Yippee are regarded as the synonyms of noodles, there are plenty of noodle dishes made in various cuisines. Innovative cooking crafts and local flavours of these dishes had made them famous. They may not be a part of our daily diet but are surely indispensable in defining the local cuisine in the global market. Listed below are five famous localized noodle dishes which had garnered the attention of food lovers across the world.
1. Kheer/ Payasam (Indian)
Kheer is a famous Indian dessert made with rice vermicelli and milk. It is the main sweet dish that is served in Indian temples and marriages. It is believed that the Western rice pudding has descended from kheer. Flavoured with rich ingredients such as cashews, dry fruits, almonds and saffrons, it has made its mark in the Indian as well as in the international cuisine. Noodle lovers are attracted to kheer as it is one of the few desserts made from noodles.
2. Kesme (Turkish)
Kesme is a type of egg noodles pertaining to Turkish cuisine. It is made with flour, egg, milk, water, and salt. The dough prepared from these ingredients is usually cut and dried before being cooked. Tomatoes, lentils, onions, garlic, pepper, and basils are added to enhance flavour. This noodle-soup is famous for its unique cooking style and is now renowned as famous winter food.
3. Zhajiangmian (Chinese)
Zhajiangmian is a Chinese wheat noodle dish known for its Zhajiang sauce. The rich and meaty sauce is made by simmering stir-fried minced pork or beef with salty soybean paste. Zhajiangmian is usually served with a variety of vegetables. This dish is sold not only by Chinese street vendors but is also served in five-star hotels. Anyone who has been to Beijing would not have missed hearing about Zhajiangmian.
4. Sopa De Fideo (Mexican)
Sopa de Fideo is a Mexican noodle-soup made primarily with vermicelli. Seasoned with bell pepper, onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, and chicken, it is considered to be comfort food by many Mexicans. It is at its best taste when served with a squirt of lime. The taste, convenient cooking procedure, and affordability of Sopa de Fideo have made it famous across the world.
5. Banh Pho (Vietnamese)
This is a Vietnamese rice noodle dish made from rice flour and water. Since these noodles have no distinct flavour of its own, it deeply absorbs other flavours which are added to it. The herbs and meat added to it blend well thereby attracting food lovers across the world.
Noodles: For Everyone, By Everyone
Cooking instant noodles takes up only a small amount of time from our busy lives. The process is also extremely easy and rewarding. This simple and famous version of instant noodles makes us overlook the other varieties of noodle dishes. Today, noodles are cooked and used as pizza bases.
Moreover, all of us have a unique ingredient which we add to the noodles to make it our personalized comfort food. Noodles have evolved and will evolve with creative culinary skills. Therefore, it remains vital that we look beyond instant noodles to completely enjoy the global noodle cuisine.
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Sangeetha is a contributor at The Strong Traveller. She lives in Chennai and is currently doing her Masters in English literature. She believes that it is important to read and write about different places and lifestyles to avoid reductionistic understandings about people. Besides travel and lifestyle, she is also interested in literature, philosophy, and politics.