Ending the Debate: Which is Healthier, Rice or Noodles?



            A trip to the local Panda Express sparked my curiosity around the historic cross cultural debate between the rice and the noodle. As I walked up to the counter of seemingly endless piping hot Chinese cuisine, I was asked “Would you like rice or noodles?”. My investigative nature drove me to answer a question with yet another question, “Which one is healthier?”. The youthful staff member paused for a second and carefully reflected upon this question before regretfully informing me that she did not have an answer.

            Modern times revolve around analyzing how we can be the best version of ourselves. We cannot escape this drive as we go to stores that have shelves packed with self-improvement books, tune in to Netflix with organizational shows featuring people like Marie Kondo, and scroll through Instagram to see perfect portraits of seemingly perfect people. By implementing food (noodles/rice) of other countries like India, China, and Italy we will be able to make America healthier by decreasing the 35 % of the U.S. population classified as dangerously overweight (Parker). As the United States maintains a reputation as one of the unhealthiest nations in the world, it comes as no surprise that people in 2019 see an importance of finding the healthiest options to eat. Analyzing the health factors that go into identifying the most nutritional dishes is far more complex than it seems. In order to answer the question of whether the noodle or rice is healthier, I implemented ideas from books, food blogs, accounts of others, and my personal experiences. The first obstacle was identifying the key traits that classify the noodle and rice. I analyzed the traditional and nontraditional forms of these dishes which included wheat noodles, rice noodles, and instant versions of rice/noodles. The second obstacle was studying the nutritional data within these dishes in order to classify food as healthy and unhealthy.  Lastly I  applied this research into terms that challenges the reader to ­­­­apply healthy food into their own lives and their communities. Throughout this paper implemented traces of the culture behind each dish as a means to provide a wholistic understanding of rice and the noodle.

            The traditional noodle definition contains themes of the literal materials and methods used to compose noodles, however these descriptions do not address the cultural importance noodles hold in the lives of many. Cambridge defines the noodle as “A strip, ring or tube of pasta or a similar dough, typically made with egg and usually eaten with a sauce or in a soup” (Cambridge Dictionary). Although this definition makes an effort to encompass multiple cultures by using wording  like similar dough, it fails to address how people view the noodle. Beyond the basic use of noodles as food for nutrients, noodles play a crucial role in representing various cultures, people, and values around the world. Indians eat Paysasam, noodle pudding, to satisfy their interesting palate as they combine ginger, sugar, and pasta into a sweet and savory concoction. Italy’s rich artistic heritage is expressed through Italian pasta which resemble pieces of artwork that come in a variety of interesting shapes and sizes. A specific example of the Italian’s creative nature can be seen through Orecchiette, which is mixture of durum wheat and water molded into a shape that resembles a small ear (An Intro to Italian Pasta). Many Chinese traditions are directly related to noodles as a means to connect history and food. China’s relationship to the noodle is expressed through the variety of different noodles that are cooked and eaten depending on the occasion – long life noodles for birthdays, dumplings for Summer Festivals, and my personal favorite the old friend noodle for when you see an old friend (Zhang, 2). These examples speak to the noodle’s breadth which spans the entire world, however each geographic region maintains a different perspective on this dish.

            Similar to the noodles expansive network of connections, rice’s influence can be found on all seven continents and in space. Rice can be defined as “the small brown or white seeds produced by a grass plant that are a major food source in many countries, or the plant itself, which is grown in warm, wet places” (Cambridge Dictionary). To further understand the context of rice beyond Cambridge’s simple definition, the context and culture of eating rice must be understood. NASA’s space exploration has implemented the use of this grain since the iconic Apollo 11. Rice has been used to provide freeze dried food for astronauts as well as farming potential on other planets. By analyzing a rice consumption map I learned that rice is eaten in all continents however, major rice consumption is centralized around Western Africa, East Asia, the Indies, and South America (Muthayya). Although I live in the United States, coming from an Indian background has shaped my perspective on white rice. It has maintained its position as a staple dish in our family for generations through its versatility and ability to be mixed with numerous things. In my household dinner is the largest meal of the day where my whole family reconvenes to enjoy a two to three course meal. The first course tends to be saac and rotli, which entails vibrant vegetarian dishes that could include beans, okra, or potatoes and warm thin Indian bread. The second course revolves around white rice which can be mixed with saac, ghee (Indian butter), or dhar (tomato based soup). The last course is typically a dessert or sweet to counteract the first two spicy courses. This provides an in depth analysis of the importance of rice within the Indian household and diet.

            Although there are regional influences that impact diet, virtually all of Italy follow the Mediterranean diet which allows them eat “healthy”. A healthy diet consist of a balanced intake of food that includes a large consumption of vegetables, fruits, grains, and seafood (Slide 15 Intro to Italian Food). Fruits, vegetables, and fresh Italian pasta serve as banks full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Vitamins and minerals function throughout the body as they can provide aid ranging from healing wounds on the macroscopic level to repairing cell damage on the microscopic level.  Classic Italian pastas, also known as whole grain noodles, come from a combination of duram wheat, water, and the occasional egg. Duram wheat acts as a double edged sword which allows the noodle to meet ideal stickiness while adding nutritious fiber content to the pasta. Fiber plays a crucial role in maintaining the digestive system to prevent constipation and even reduce risk of bowel cancer. This is one example of how the Italian noodle is considered to be healthy.

            With the rise of gluten allergies and gluten free diets, many have turned to wheat substitutes like the historic Chinese rice noodle. Thomas Talhelm’s study on rice theory exemplifies the diversion of noodles within China that led to the production of this dish. The expansive nature of rice and noodles have shown that these dishes can be created differently based on the geographic location, which plays a role in access to certain crops and equipment. China is separated by the Yangtze river which runs from the western side of China all the way to the east in which the river meets the ocean. Thomas noted that people in North China tend to grow wheat, corn, millet, and soybeans. Lo Mein and Chow Mein are examples of staple dishes in the north that were directly influenced by the accessibility of certain crops like wheat. People in Southern China grow rice (July 24 Lecture). Rice noodles became a stable dish of Southern China because rice and flour were the most abundant materials available for cooking. Rice noodles share a similar calorie and fat content in comparison to the Italian wheat noodle and northern Chinese Lo Mein. The most significant differences between the gluten free noodle and gluten noodle fall on the protein, vitamin, and mineral content. The rice noodle has 4 times less protein than the wheat noodles. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, so people who are attempting to gain muscle should opt for the wheat noodles (Osterweil) . Even if bodybuilding is not on the forefront of your goals, protein is vital for the production of enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals so it is still important. Traditional noodles have iron, thiamin, niacin, and folate which all function as a means to repair damage in the body and maintain development, however these vitamins are absent in rice noodles. There are also more minerals in traditional wheat noodles which play a role in maintaining blood pressure and other homeostatic systems (HR, BP, Immune System) (Brookshier). Although the rice functions as a substitute for wheat, many of the nutritional contents that make noodles healthy are lost. If rice noodles were paired with vegetables and meat, the nutritional value would match that of the traditional gluten noodle. The noodles provide similar calorie, fiber, and carbohydrate content, while the vegetables and meat add the key protein, vitamins, and minerals. If given the option of rice noodles or traditional noodles I would personally opt for the traditional wheat noodles due to the added health benefits.

            Now that we have analyzed the health differences between two forms of noodles, it is time to look at the difference between brown rice and white rice. Coming from an Indian household, I hold a slight bias towards white rice. When I asked my grandfather about his thoughts on white rice he explained that it was extremely healthy and provided great sleep. As I looked into the science behind this sleeping food phenomenon, I realized that white rice’s high glycemic index causes our bodies to break down the food really fast. This means that we have a spike in our blood sugar. Similar to the saying what goes up must come down, the enormous drop in blood sugar accounts for the drowsiness we experience. The rapid increase and decrease of blood glucose can be harmful for people at risk of type 2 diabetes, who want to focus on maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. Although brown rice does not have the NyQuil effect, it does contain more fiber and protein allowing for the added health benefits similar to that of the traditional gluten noodle. In order to catch up with the brown rice’s nutrient content a lot of white rice is enriched as a means to close to health benefit gap between these two foods (Allan). Going against my own culture, I believe that brown rice is healthier because it contains natural vitamins and minerals as opposed to white rice which is enriched. These two forms of rice have sparked controversy all over the world, including China in which there is a strong debate as to which one is superior.

            As a means to compare rice and noodle, which can be found in dishes from cultures all over the world, I chose to focus on China because they have strong ties to both foods. Similar to my introductory dilemma of choosing rice or noodles at panda express, there are a lot of factors that come into play which make this task of deciding the healthier dish relatively daunting. Specifically analyzing fried rice and chow mein of panda express provides for an in depth comparison that highlights the similarity of calories, fat, sodium, and carbs. The noodles  contained a higher cholesterol level which could be harmful because cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The noodles also had higher levels of protein and fiber which has been linked to muscle repair/growth and healthy digestion, respectively. Rice contained a lower sugar content which means that the after eating the fried rice the blood sugar will not spike as quickly as the noodles (fatsecret). Based on these findings, I would say the noodles and rice have their own minor advantages and disadvantages, but neither is an outright healthier choice. Rather than choosing rice over noodles, or vice versa, it is more important to analyze the form of rice/noodles and the food it is served with. Eating rice and noodles paired with lean protein, vegetables, and low sodium sauce is a healthy choice over the typical low vegetable, high protein, and salty sauce dish typically found in the United States. If given the choice I would prefer a bowl of whole grain Chinese noodles over the white counterpart because it is typically less processed and full of natural vitamins.

            The Guangxi-vinegar noodle is a specific example of how the Chinese culture places an emphasis on the usage of food as a form of medicine. There is a folk tale surrounding the Guangxi vinegar-pepper noodles and how this noodle can provide aid for the sick. The story describes a relationship between a teahouse owner and a regular customer who comes to the shop every day. When the customer did not make an appearance one day the shopkeeper followed up on his friend and realized he was sick. He quickly rushed home and prepared these noodles by using making noodles with a vinegar pepper sauce hot enough to make a sweat. Similar to how the Guangxi vinegar pepper noodle was brought to the friend when he was sick, these spicy noodles are being used today to have close friends/family sweat away illness (Zhang, 2). Although these noodles are not eaten on a regular bases they provide a method of healing in specific cases. I am aspiring to become a pediatrician later in life so I’m drawn to the idea of using food to cure illness. This folk tale highlights how the noodle has impacted the healthcare system by providing a clear example of the usage of food as medicine. I was not able to find a similar example of rice as medicine, which speaks to the noodles use in Chinese culture as a healing agent.  

            The importance of living contained a chapter discussing the Chineese’s perception of food and medicine. Lin Yutang emphasized the importance of using food before resorting to medicine in the quote “A true doctor first finds out the cause of the disease, and having found that out, he tries to cure it first by food. When food fails he prescribes medicine”. This quotes directly applies to all healthcare professionals who have the capacity to heal. In the Indian culture, a herbal tea concoction is given to people having stomach problems. As a child my family would make the tea first and if the home remedy did not fix the problem we would go to see a doctor. Many cultures around the world practice this form of healing, and I believe that the United States should seek to adopt this way of thinking as well.

            In America’s hustle and bustle society consumers have placed an emphasis on making food quickly and easily. Food manufacturers responded by creating the highly controversial instant noodles and rice which trade convenience in place of nutritious. Ramen noodles, similar to all packaged instant noodles, are essentially fried noodles with high levels of salt to increase the shelf life. Aside from the ease of cooking these noodles, many people have implemented instant noodles into their diets because of the inexpensive price. The average packet cost a consumer about 13 cents which is an unbeatable price for a meal (Yoon). As a means to combat the rise of unhealthy cheap food, the Gansu government has taken initiative to teach people in impoverished communities to cook a bowl of noodles for around 8 yuan or $1.50. Lanchou beef noodles have a few essential ingredients including flour and water for noodles, spice-braised beef, cilantro, green onions, and hot chili oil (Xu). Armed with this noodle recipe people are fighting back against poverty by cooking noodles at home and even opening up shops. Instead of settling for unhealthy instant noodles with countless preservatives and ridiculously high sodium levels, these people are making their food from scratch so they know exactly what is going into these noodles. Most of the preservatives used in instant noodles have been approved by the FDA because of the lack of evidence around harmful short term effects, but we do not know the implications of using these drugs long term. I want to challenge others to focus on avoiding instant noodles by implementing cooking practices like the Chinese as a means to make fresh healthy food. When you are in the store looking for dinner items, pick up a bag of flour, eggs, beef, and sauce and attempt to cook the Lanchou noodles instead of reaching for the simple pack of ramen noodles. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.

            This paper focused on addressing the longstanding debate around rice and the noodle in relation to healthiness. I have been curious about this topic for a long time, but the research I conducted proved that there is no superior grain. Both have their own slight advantages and disadvantages but there is no specific champion. I personally believe brown rice is the healthiest option, however the noodle is a strong competitor because it has increased protein and fiber. The noodle and rice come in many variations that are enjoyable by people who eat gluten and those who are gluten free, however if given the choice I would choose gluten noodles because they have more nutritional value. When analyzing dishes there are many things to take into consideration from the culture of the dish to the specifics of the sugar content. Health is a broad term that applies to maintaining our health as well as fighting illness. The Chinese have highlighted the importance of viewing food as a source of healing through the Guangxi vinegar-pepper noodle. America should seek to take notes from societies like China, who use noodles as a mean to better impoverished areas. Although healthy food in grocery stores tend to be expensive, people in China are fighting back against unhealthy cheap food by cooking fresh foods from scratch. In order to tackle poverty, we must first tackle the food that is being provided to low income areas.









Work Cited Page



“5 Things You Never Knew about Instant Ramen.” The Daily Californian, 8 May 2018,   http://www.dailycal.org/2014/09/18/5-things-never-knew-instant-ramen/.



Brookshier, Stephanie. “Nutritional Differences in Rice Noodles vs. Regular Pasta.” Healthy       Eating | SF Gate, 21 Nov. 2018, https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutritional-differences-       rice-noodles-vs-regular-pasta-1943.html.


“Chow Mein.” Calories in Panda Express Chow Mein and Nutrition Facts,           https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/panda-express/chow-mein.


“Find Definitions, Meanings & Translations.” Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/.


“Fried Rice.” Calories in Panda Express Fried Rice and Nutrition Facts,   https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/panda-express/fried-rice.


Muthayya, Sumithra & Hall, Jessica & Bagriansky, Jack & Sugimoto, Jonathan & Gundry,          Daniel & Matthias, Dipika & Prigge, Shane & Hindle, Peter & Moench-Pfanner, Regina     & Maberly, Glen. (2012). Rice Fortification: An Emerging Opportunity to Contribute to   the Elimination of Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency Worldwide. Food and nutrition     bulletin. 33. 296-307. 10.1177/156482651203300410.


Osterweil, Neil. “The Benefits of Protein.” WebMD, WebMD,        https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein.


Parker, Najja. “Is the US the Unhealthiest Country in the World?” Ajc, The Atlanta Journal-                    Constitution, 28 Dec. 2017, https://www.ajc.com/news/world/the-the-unhealthiest-         country-the-world/COrmAHcbJ19vswVJg5UXsJ/.


Xu, Yuhan. “China Plans To Make Scratch From Noodles.” NPR, NPR, 4 Apr. 2019,             https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/04/04/709061176/china-plans-to-make- scratch-from-noodles.




Dominic Lal: The Missing Chair

Inspiration drawn from Le Due Sedie


The Missing Chair


This evening

I was thinking

How much of our


Revolves around food

Four chairs

And a table between us


For you

I will ignore how

one chair sits empty.

All wishing for time

To rewind to simpler days

I say, nothing,

Eyes watering I keep my head

Down facing the plate of sac and rotli

*main course*


Over a bowl of rice and kurri

*second course*

I suggested

We eat it with our bare hands

Teleport me back to my childhood

I pick up a heap of rice and throw it into my mouth  (rice is small cut up pieces of the noodle)

The warm heat radiating steam

From my hands and my mouth

While breathing fire

I lick the deserted rice

*deserted was used to reference my feeling of desertion*

Off of my fingertips


Tonight we feasted on

*dessert occasionally*

Deep fried Jalebi

*Jalebi: look of pasta however it is a fried dessert*

To bring our spirits up

Its bright orange hue

And sugar sweet taste

Act as the perfect vibrant distraction


The sticky Indian food
Has left our fingers glued together

I motion jokingly

For you to lick your fingers

We unglue them

*shows how Indians don’t care about how they look when eating messy*

Without a second thought


Ba cooks for me

Without asking her typical

“What do you want for dinner”

Surprised to see my favorite

Mug and rice

I fumble to break my kitchu

Refusing to use a single utensil

Even though it would easier

I like to entertain you

As the rice concoction dribbles down my chin


You ask me how it taste

I tell you that it taste like family

We try hard not to cry

Both knowing this was Anandmama’s favorite

Eager for him to come back home

We take another bite in silence

I ask if she would like anything else


A hug


We are quiet and eating

We are happy


You gave a gift

By enjoying this food

I still feel connected to you

I take one bite and am back

At a dinner table

With all 5 chairs full


This is why I love you


I chose to imitate Lam Khong’s Le Due Sedie – the two chairs. I chose this piece because it was extremely intimate. I loved how there were numerous layers to this poem and every time I read it, I was able to learn something new. My first read through was a little confusing as I tried to understand the significance of eating Japanese food in Italy, but I did appreciate the segment about eating food with bare hands. It related to my culture of eating Indian food with my hands through a messily as a means to extract the deeper flavors of the food.

The deeper meanings of romance, fighting, and love attracted me during later reads as I am considered to be the “hopeless romantic” of my friend group. “For you I will try new things” spoke to how flexible partners are when they are with the ones they love and how they will do things they wouldn’t normally do to please their love. I can relate to this on a romantic and nonromantic layer as I find myself trying new foods with many people who I care about (ie. Tried calamari for my cousin-and I LOVED IT). Another example of romance could be found within the second to last stanza in which the author described stealing a flower (committing a crime) to bring joy to his lover.

The idea of “two chairs” relates to the theme of eating with others, similar to the topic that we discussed in class. I connected this theme to foods function communication and bonding among humans. Le Due Sedie discussed the kitchen table and although the author did not feel compelled to describe it in depth, this relates to the significance a table plays in eating as it brings people together.

Writing this poem through the lens of an Italian poet taught me that the Italian writing style is fluid. The vocabulary is not very extravagant, rather it consist of using common words similar to how people speak diurnally. “It tasted much better” was used to describe eating with hands instead of “It tasted stupendously”.  I really appreciated the genuine feel to this style of writing as I spoke the poem before writing it down. This shows how the Italian culture values genuine personalities over false personas. Another cultural theme in this poem was the idea of eating other countries foods. Japanese and Vietnamese foods were eaten which shows the value Italians place on eating other people’s foods and how they appreciate diversity of food and people. Specifically the poet referenced eating the food with their hands and I love how they understood the significance of experience another cultures way of eating as important. We discussed this in class as well when we described cultural relativism and ways we can fully experience another person’s culture.

This poem was an experience. I did not have a real plan when I started writing but it was very serious personally. I learned how important rice and mug (considered to be an Indian noodle) was in my personal life as it was my uncles favorite dish. When he moved away I was very sad at the dinner table that night, but when my Ba (grandmother) cooked his favorite meal the next day I felt connected to him instead of being deserted (similar to the rice referenced in the poem). I learned that although Indians do not always express their emotions verbally, we do a good job about expressing it through the foods we make and eat. This was also discussed in class as food is my family’s love language. I also wanted to highlight the lack of care among Indians when they eat messy foods like rice, kurri, and Jalebi.

Instead of hesitating to look both ways similar to the Italian poem, Indians would simply lick their fingers without a second thought. I do not know if thats a good or bad thing, because that could get a little embarrassing but I do love how confident most Indians are.

The cultural DNA is affluent in both of these poems. In the piece that I read I noticed that Italians place an emphasis on affection and openly expressing love through giving gifts (stealing a flower for a loved one), whereas in my poem the expression of love is on the down low. The gift my uncle left me was very much hidden as he gave me the gift of a food combination that most do not know about. When my grandmother made mug we would typically eat it with rotli (bread), however one day he mixed the hearty mug in with some light fluffy rice in order to make an amazing combination that I still appreciate. In this poem/story I chose to use rice as the noodle because we discussed the broad definition of noodles and pasta, and I do consider rice to be India’s version of the noodle. Although it may be a little smaller, it contains similar ingredients with a different method of cooking. This has been one of the best gifts he has given me and I love how I was able to realize that through this class.





Dominic Lal-Noodles are Versatile

The noodle plays a vital role in reflecting the values of various cultures. In class we discussed the deeply rooted history of noodles in China and Italy as we debunked the myth that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy using journals on the Silk Road. The story of Marco Polo highlights the importance of the noodle in multicultural relations. Although noodles around the world are prepared and eaten differently the basis of the noodle allows for a shared food that can be used to unify people that have otherwise very different cultural differences.

The true origins of the noodle can be traced back nearly 4000 years in  Lajia, China’s Qinghai province. Lajia was a flourishing community of people until a series of natural disasters occurred, specifically an earthquake followed by a flood, leaving the area frozen in time. Many items of this tragedy were maintained for thousands of years and among them were a bowl of noodles! That bowl of noodles was able to give us a glimpse into the lives of the people living in the Lajia region as we can hypothesize about the tools to construct those noodles and the ingredients used in the dish.

Noodles, traditionally and today provides key information about the stories behind many of the common noodles found in China. I love how many of the Chinese traditions are directly related to noodles to link history and food. They use noodles as a means to relate to their rich culture as they go through the process of cooking and eating certain noodles depending on the occasion (long life noodles for birthdays, dumplings for Summer Festivals, and my personal favorite the old friend noodle. (Zhang, 2)

The folk tale behind Guangxi vinegar-pepper noodles describes a relationship between a teahouse owner and a regular customer who makes an appearance every day. When the customer did not show up one day the shopkeeper followed up on his friend and realized he was sick. Similar to how the Guangxi vinegar pepper noodle was brought to the friend when he was sick, these spicy noodles are being used today to have close friends/family sweat away illness. I love this Chinese noodle the most because the value placed on providing help to people who are ill. I am aspiring to become a pediatrician later in life so I’m drawn to the idea of using food to cure illness.  (Zhang, 2)

The Italians place an importance on the pasta’s consistency to remaining unchanged. An Intro to Italian Pasta provided an in depth analysis of all the different varieties of pastas and how they are implemented into Italian cuisine. Although Angel Hair has a long thin shape similar to hair and Gemelli has a spiral shape consisting of 2 strings of pasta, they are made of virtually the same ingredients of wheat and durum flour. Because the ingredients have not changed Italians have used their creativeness to come up with countless ways to create pasta, directly referencing Italy’s rich artistic roots. Italy’s innovativeness can been seen through the works of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or Apulia’s (a region of Italy) creation of the Orecchiette pasta that resembles a small ear. Although both Chinese and Italians use noodles differently, both cultures place noodles at an integral position in their societies.

Thomas Talhelm’s study on Rice Theory provides an account of the relationship between social anthropology/psychology and food as the noodle was used to describe the difference in the types of people in different regions of China. In Southern China people tend to be more communicative and have a sense of teamwork which could relate to the need to work with others to harvest the main crop, rice. However, in the North where wheat is accessible people seem to be more independent. This could as a result of the use of wheat for each family to independently make their noodles without much help from others. Because the noodle is one of the main foods in China and Italy, the ingredient gathering process for the noodle plays an integral role in the food culture for these countries.

I believe the noodle also plays a vital role in providing shared experiences among people who would typically not have a lot of food in common is crucial. Italy and China have very different dishes as a result of the different access to ingredients (South China has rice noodles, Italy has access to wheat), however the identity of the noodle can be used as a starting conversation between people of different ethnicities and backgrounds. When people know that they have one thing in common (work, sport interest, friends) the idea of starting a conversation can feel less daunting. I plan to personally use the noodle more in my life as I use it to unify people who may not seem to feel as though they have a lot in common.

Most of the dictionary definitions of the noodle will mention pasta that is made from dough of flour and water. Some definitions also describe how it is made or eaten, however I think that contribution narrows down the identity of the pasta. Drawing inspiration from all the readings this week that described noodles as well as the classification of noodle dishes I would define the noodle as “A cross-cultural food that is prepared using a variety of methods and can come in different compositions.”

The noodle cannot be simply defined as people from different backgrounds may look at noodles with a different perspective. The Chinese may look at the noodle to represent a value, the Italians may look at the noodle to represent family and unity, and Indians (like myself) may look at the noodle as an exotic dish that represents another culture. I do want to mention that the noodle has made a prominent influence in the lives of India’s as we have incorporated it into dishes like Maggi that has combined the classic ramen style noodle and Indian spices (masala). This is just one example of how the noodle has spread to influence another society in the world that did not originally have strong ties to the noodle (similar to that of China and Italy).


This image represents the noodle as it demonstrates the influence the “simple noodle” has had on the world. It has ties in Japan, Iran, Taiwan, India, and of course China to mention a few. Although the origins are placed in China I love how this picture highlighted the fact that different types of noodles can be found in different regions of China (Northern China vs. Guangdong). Not to mention its influence on the world, this picture also shows the salient features of the noodle through the variety of ingredients that are used in each of these dishes (some have vegetables, meat, egg, etc). The shape is also crucial as this image shows the ramen like noodle in the Chinese noodles to the nontraditional Indian noodle which is typically cut into a shorter segments of noodle. The color of the noodles and the soup is also seen through this picture as the Japanese bowl of ramen has a darker soup whereas the Chinese Zha Jiang Mian has a lighter broth. I just love how each of these dishes is so different but the focal point of all of them is the noodle which holds a dear place in not only my life, but the lives of people around the world.

Dominic Lal: The Migrating Kitchen Table

My name is Dominic Lal and I am currently a sophomore at Emory University studying Psychology with a minor in predictive health. I am living in Cincinnati for the summer because I managed to get a sweet internship working for Children’s Cincinnati, so I am living with 3 other roommates who have completely different stories and aspirations. My background is quite unique as I am half African American and half Indian (Gujarati), which has directly impacted my relationship to food. Specifically I have a preference towards spicier foods with burst of flavor combinations (Takis) rather than one type of flavor that is stronger (Lays Original Potato Chips) as a result of the numerous Indian dishes that revolve around having countless succulent ingredients working in harmony. I have always been drawn to learning more about people and what makes them tick, hence the psychology major, so this class and its focus on social anthropology sparked my interest. In Gillian Crowther’s book Eating Culture she describes social anthropology as the study of the everyday lives of ordinary people, anywhere, and food is a constant so which led me to explore the process of how college students cook in a communal setting (Crowther, XVII). Being a college student has allowed me to gain experience cooking in a communal setting individually as well as with my peers. Personally I do not enjoy cooking communally because of the inherent dirty dishes and tables that may accompany trusting college students to keep an open area clean. I have learned about the differences that occur between cooking with family as opposed to being in a place where you don’t have access to everything you would at home.

One night this summer, I was sitting around the table in my dorm living room eating with my 2 roommates (the ones whose company I actually enjoy) when I thought about the string of events that had to occur in all of our lives to bring us together at this one blacktop rectangular “table” which more so resembles a desk. It is definitely a nontraditional kitchen table which is reflective of the environment I am currently location: Xavier university where the tools for cooking are limited. This table interests me because of its ability to bring countless people together throughout the years of being at Xavier university and the style of table is pretty universal across all college campuses. The most interesting feature of these tables are the wheels that allow for extreme mobility.  This mobility represents the lives of so many college students that have to pack up their lives and move locations during the spring, fall, and summer intersessions. Chapter Five of Porta Palazzo described the relationship between migration and food that spoke wonders to the struggles of a college student on the move. “Food is something most migrants hold dear; it helps maintain relations in kin groups, strengthens ties to home, and is often deeply linked to memory”(Black, 94). This quote brings to mind the days prior to going back to visit home, in which I start to salivate at the thought of being able to go home and eat my Ba’s (grandmothers) home cooked Saak and Rotli and the importance that food holds to people who are away from home because there is an outlet to remain connected to those who are physically far. I personally feel comforted and safe when eating or thinking about classic Gujarati food made at home and eaten around our old school wooden kitchen table with 4 6 wooden chairs to match.

I used participant observation as my main anthropological method because I believe that first hand observation can be extremely valuable as they allow one to learn about the unconscious and less obvious practices of the usage of kitchen tables. I believe both informal interviews and participant observation are important and vital to understanding this research to the fullest potential however for this short 2 page blog post using a more directed research approach for a more in depth analysis of the table seemed to be more efficient and reasonable. Working hands on has always been more appealing to me as I learn the most from action and is also important for understanding culinary tradition and culture among people (and yes…college cooking is a culture that is filled with adaptable meals like instant pasta with sausage and random meats) (Crowther, XXI).

The first part of the research was the participant observation in which I studied my roommates and some friends throughout the food gathering, preparation, cooking, and cleaning process. The first part of this process was going to Jungle Jims, a local favorite when it comes to grocery stores, and we bought ground beef, onions, tomatoes, limes, cilantro, Mexican cheese, sour cream, and tortillas in order to create decadent soft tacos. We arrived to the enormous store at 4:30 on Sunday and then proceeded to walk around the outskirts of the store and then meandered into the middle of the store and picked up miscellaneous items like drinks on our journey. It is important to note that the items were split on all parties involved in the culinary adventure as some friends were responsible for buying beef, others cheese and sour cream, etc. I believe the division of responsibility made cooking a more inclusive environment in which everyone literally and metaphorically brought something to the table.

A speaker was placed on the kitchen table and music was played throughout the cooking process with bops ranging from “Crank That” by soulja boy to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X. I personally found this to be super cool as the kitchen table was used to house music, as many college students listen to music while eating/making food. I observed the cooking process in depth as each person in the kitchen has a different role. Laurens role was to cut the tomatoes, lime, cilantro, and onions, which was done on the black rectangular kitchen table. While Lauren was cutting Andrew, Sam, and I focused on defrosting the meat and cooking it thoroughly with the onions. Susanna’s role was to heat up the tortillas and keep the aux (music playing). Cooking went on all throughout the kitchen, however the  central location was the kitchen table that gracefully carried all of the ingredients on it. It was an unspoken rule that the kitchen table was supposed to remain organized and clean throughout the process of cooking, where people would constantly take time to wipe of the runaway vegetables that fell off plates. I also found in interesting that there were times in which all the cooking ceased and everyone circled up around the kitchen table to sing a song that was played as a bonding moment. These were my favorite memories as I felt emotions of happiness, peace, and belonging because despite the varying backgrounds everyone seemed to be on the same page.

The clean multipurpose kitchen table which housed music, random cooking supplies, the food, and cool people. 

Susanna eating some of the tomatoes during the meal prep stage. 

      Following the meal prep stage of the study was my personal favorite, the eating and cleaning process in which we all sat around the table spaced out perfectly to leave room for everyone to remain comfortable while maintaining a sort of closeness among the group. The table housed a variety of different foods as we had numerous plates laid out with vegetables, tortillas, chips, dip, and drinks for a self serve taco construction. I personally stuck with a classic taco with ground beef, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, and a hint of my own red masala for a mouthwatering combination of flavors. It was amazing and I loved how I was able to add in my own ingredient of masala in the perfect quantity without pushing that flavor onto the whole group. Following the demolition of 2 pounds of ground beef and about 15 tortillas, we started the cleaning process in which Lysol spray was used on the table followed by a quick wipe down of the surface to leave the blacktop with a shiny gleam.

When food is not being consumed or created using the kitchen table, it is typically occupied by my roommates and I as we all work on different task ranging from resume edits, making flashcards, sending emails, preparing for work presentations together. Even though food is not present there is still an aspect of communal working on the table that I find particularly interesting. Whenever I am working with them I always feel at ease and apart of a group which makes the task seem less daunting and thus easier as well.

At the start of the study I did not appreciate the idea of communal cooking, however this project has allowed me to understand the importance of cooking as a community. I typically cook my food alone, however during the participant observation section of the study I had so much fun being able to prepare a meal with people from different backgrounds.  Being able to share stories about our past and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses was an amazing experience that I would gladly partake in on a regular basis. We have actually decided to make this newfound experience of buying groceries and cooking together a Sunday tradition for the rest of the summer J. This directly relates to the idea of eating “family style” similar to what we discussed in class with having many international families eating together as a means to build bonds and love among a family. I learned that even when one is away from family, they can still find family and that is very comforting for me as I have never been away from home for this long.

In conclusion the basic rolling table that most can find in college dormitories serve a vital role in bringing together people from all different walks of life, similar to what it has done for Andrew, Sam, and I this summer. I appreciate its versatility as it can be used before meals for prepping ingredients, during meals as a host for numerous people (more chairs can be rolled to the table depending on the number of guests), and after meals as a communal working space. Tables are a lot more intricate than they seem and I love how this table in particular shows a striking resemblance to the mobile life of college students who are constantly moving locations.




Ba’s First Class Puri

        Food is arguably the most important part of Indian culture. Indian food has become popular worldwide because of the unique taste, appearance, and experience that accompanies eating our food. When I think about all the different dishes I have had the privilege of eating growing up in a Gujarati household, I start to imagine the mouthwatering taste of Bataka Nu Shak (Potatoes) or the slight burn on the lip after eating paneer tikka masala. However, I believe the subtle puri (Pūri) has been the most impactful on me. The puri exemplifies how the most “simple Indian dishes” maintain a strong presence among the diet of Indians worldwide, including myself. Puris are deep fried bread that are made with cumin seeds, red masala, ghee, and other ingredients. Although the recipe may seem plain, every chef who cooks them has their own method that results in a different size, texture, and taste. I believe that the variation of puris has come about as a result of the varying Indian states which use different ingredients and cooking techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. Out of all the puris I have tasted my grandmothers is by far my favorite as she manages to keep the inside light and fluffy while having a contrasting crispier edge. However, my aunt has earned the title of second best puri with a less traditional, more thin and chip like bread with a good balance of fluff and crunch.

During my visit home this summer, my Ba and I made puris on Sunday morning. The plate to the right has paaper, gatya, red masala gatya, and Puris.

Every Sunday morning I would help my Ba (grandmother) make warm puris to eat with our breakfast, which typically contained a lot of other Indian snacks as well as  chai tea. Similar to a lot of other international families, every meal was eaten together so this dish holds a lot of nostalgia to simpler times in which I made many good memories with my family. Most Indian functions would also serve puris with shaak (typically a vegetarian dish with vegetables and spices that can be either spicy or sweet) including weddings, engagements, house blessings (Puja), birthdays, and trips to the mandir (temple). Specifically, I can remember going to the mandir for Hindu festivals (like Diwali-the festival of lights) and getting plates of foods with crispy puris, bataka nu shak (potatoes with vegetables) , and rice. The combination of bright fireworks, wearing fancy red/gold kurtas, and eating traditional food has allowed me to become more knowledgeable about my culture and history.

Today puris are a staple food among Indians, however the history of this classic dish can be traced all the way back to the books of the Mahabharata which were composed in the 8th and 9th century. I have actually read pieces of the Mahabharata which is a huge epic that describes a war raging between two cousins. It contains philosophical and religious wisdom that is on par with the intelligence of the gods. The god I am named after, Lord Krishna, also makes a guest appearance in this fearsome battle. As the epic goes on, Draupadi’s mother in law gave her leftover potato and enough wheat dough to make one puri with the task of making enough food to feed her 5 sons. And although I would have failed this task miserably, Draupadi invented the pani puri which is the classic puri filled with shak. After nearly 10 centuries the puri has evolved through is travel throughout India and now there are so many types of puri including Aloo Ki puri, puris, luchi, and Masala Puri. Similar to what I discussed earlier the style of puri is heavily influenced by the geographic location of the chef and the flavor/ingredients that thrive in certain areas.