The New Noodle

              It is difficult to find an exact date when the veggie noodle first came into being, but the veggie noodle seems to have peaked in popularity after 2010. There is growing reference to “veggie pasta” on Twitter only after 2010 and “spiralizer” and “zoodle” only begin to appear on Twitter in 2010, all of which is suggestive of a peak year in popularity. Veggie Pasta and Spiralizer only started to have accounts on Facebook in 2014 and 2017, respectively. On Facebook the veggie noodles that are the focus of this research paper first appeared in late 2015. “Zoodle” however, a type of veggie noodle that is short for zucchini noodle, first appeared in 2012 and 2013 on Facebook. When searching for a definition of “veggie noodle,” I came across the dilemma Corrado Barberis warned of in his “Encyclopedia of Pasta” when he talked of the uselessness of searching for a definition of pasta—no scholastic dictionary had a definition of “veggie noodle” (Vita 14). The veggie noodle, being unrecognized on and Merriam-Webster, is defined on HuffPost as a “standard vegetable” sliced into “noodle-like spaghetti shapes.” It has been a growing trend that is used as an alternative for what people think of as carb-loaded pasta. Traditional pasta has many different shapes, thousands even, and veggie pasta is trying to mimic these shapes, having one called “veggiccine” now as a clear reference to “fettuccine” (Cece’s Veggie Co). The advent of the veggie noodle interests me because due to its youth, it is a topic that has not yet been broached in research, so hopefully my study will pave the way for future studies on this subject. Noodles are taken for granted so often in what they can tell people about human interactions and various cultures, making them underappreciated edible cultural artifacts, and veggie noodles get even less attention than the average noodle. Veggie noodles are even newer than radiatori as a noodle, which only became invented sometime between World War I and World War II (Hildebrand and Kenedy 206). Past studies of food have shown that nationality affects peoples’ tastes and perceptions of different types of food (Dean et al 2007). Sociologically, the cuisine of some countries is unthinkable to eat, much less serve, in other countries, such as the taboo of insects as a form of cuisine in most European countries and the U.S. In this study, I seek to find if Americans and Italians react differently to the idea of veggie noodles in place of traditional noodles, thus exploring food choices through a cross-cultural comparative study. I hypothesize that there will be a smaller proportion of Italians than Americans willing to replace their typical noodles with veggie noodles in dishes.

              The reasoning behind my hypothesis goes as follows: Italy and the U.S. have different prioritizations of food and tradition and differing degrees of obesity. Italian culture is heavily food-centered, more so than American culture in that life seems to revolve around food in Italy. Italians typically have long familial meals while Americans have embraced the fast-life in that convenience is prioritized over connecting socially and bonding with others. Italy is even the home of the proud founder of the Slow Food movement, Folco Portinari. The Slow Food movement quickly became an international movement after its inception and is meant to combat the growing spread of fast food, spreading but not deviating from its original purpose which was to reject the fast food practice that Portinari saw as taking away from years of Italian tradition. The Slow Food movement’s manifesto, written by Folco Portinari, views fast food, which is the embodiment of “Fast Life,” as an “insidious virus” that “disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods” (SlowFood USA). Different countries’ branches of the Slow Food movement all share the same manifesto it was built upon. Not only is Italy the birth place of the Slow Food movement, but it also has a stronger attachment to tradition than the U.S. and most European countries today, hence saints’ days and harvest festivals that harken back to Italy’s peasant tradition, the continued honoring of the ritual of family gatherings around a meal at the kitchen/dining room table, the strong emphasis placed on fresh high-quality local produce, and the visiting of small family-owned businesses and local shops based on time-honored artisan traditions (Dunnage 3). Italy has also been shown to be the European country that displays the least amount of interest in veganism and one of the main selling points of veggie noodles is that they act as a vegan-friendly substitute to traditional pasta. Dairy and eggs are also staples of Italian food, serving as the main ingredient in many dishes including traditional pastas, so Italians with their stronger attachment to tradition may be even less likely to give a positive response to veggie noodles because it could appear as if it is trying to supersede the traditional Italian diet (Vegconomist, 2019). The U.S. is constantly progressing and evolving, and though change can be a good thing, change also inherently means a departure from the status quo, or in other words, tradition, so the U.S. appears as if it is less attached to tradition than Italy. The U.S. has also been around for a much shorter period of time and so its traditions are less strong and sturdily in place because it has not had as much time to strengthen them as Italy has. Another reason I hypothesize that the United States will have a larger percentage of positive responses toward veggie pasta than Italians is because the United States has a much bigger problem with obesity than Italy does. Italy is ranked as having one of the lowest obesity rates out of the OECD countries, which consists of some European countries, Korea, Canada, and the U.S, whereas the U.S. has the highest obesity rate out of all of these countries (OECD). Since veggie pasta is a trending health fad and there is such a strong focus on obesity in America, Americans may be more likely to jump on the bandwagon and try veggie pasta because of the urge to not become obese. This study I am conducting could test the strength and resiliency of tradition in Italy today because veggie noodles are a relatively new development that differ from the traditional noodles made of flour that typically go into Italian cooking.

              In order to conduct this study of cross-cultural comparison, I employed the survey technique and textual analysis. The reason I chose the survey as my method of study is because surveys tend to give larger sample sizes due to the ability to widely disperse them. Respondents in this survey were made anonymous, so as to avoid response bias. I only made the survey two questions because people are more incentivized to take a short survey than a long survey, but I also gave the respondents the option of elaborating on their answers with a comment at the end of the survey. I chose very carefully how I would phrase the questions I was choosing to ask them so as for the answers to go toward answering my underlying research question of whether there were differences that could be shown in Italian and American cultures through responses to the veggie noodle. The two questions were verbatim, “Did you grow up in the United States or Italy?” and “Are you ok with replacing pasta with veggie noodles in dishes?” The possible answers one could give to these questions were either “United States” or “Italy” and “Yes,” “No,” or “It depends.” I phrased the first question the way I did because I wanted to ensure that the person grew up in one of the countries and if I was to say “born” instead of “grew up” the person might not have been in the country during the most formative identity-shaping years of his/her life and would not necessarily have been immersed in the culture. The second question I used “replacing pasta” instead of “replacing noodles” because the sample of people I am studying either grew up in Italy or the United States, both of which are in the Western hemisphere, and people in the Western Hemisphere tend to call noodles “pasta.” I used two of the most popular active social media sites, Facebook and Instagram, to reach out to people on completing this survey. I managed to find many Facebook groups consisting of people in Italy in an effort to gather as many Italians as I could for the survey, however I had to be approved to join these closed groups first by the administrators of the groups. Upon approval of my requests to join, I shared the survey on “ITALIA! TU SEI LA MIA PATRIA!” meaning “ITALY! YOU ARE MY NATION!” and the group page “Italian Food & Recipes,” sending it individually over Facebook Messenger and Instagram to many Italians that I found in these groups and in my social media feed, as well. The standard message I would put on group pages was “Ciao a tutti!!! I’m doing a research project and would really appreciate your answers. It’s just 2 questions that are 2 quick clicks. Thank you so much/molte grazie!!!” The message I would send privately is similar in dialect but more personable, being “Ciao! Possi prendere il questo sguardo, per favore? È per la mia classe e è solo due domande” I opened the survey to the public on August 6thand closed it on August 9th. I used textual analysis to find reasoning behind my survey results.

                 My survey results showed that thirty people in all completed the survey. 70% of the respondents, 21 people, were from the United States and 30%, 9 people, were from Italy, despite efforts to get more Italians to take the survey. Six people, approximately 20% of respondents in total, responded positively to replacing traditional noodles with veggie noodles. Eleven people, approximately 37% of respondents in total, responded negatively to replacing traditional noodles with veggie noodles. Thirteen people, approximately 43% of respondents in total, responded neutrally to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. Approximately 44.4% of Italians responded neutrally to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. Approximately 33.3% of Italians responded positively to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. Approximately 22.2% of Italians responded negatively to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. There was a different trend for American respondents, though. Approximately 42.85% of Americans responded neutrally to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. Approximately 14.28% of Americans responded positively to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. Approximately 42.85% of Americans responded negatively to replacing pasta with veggie noodles. The Americans and Italians did not differ so much in the neutral department, but they seem to differ dramatically in the positive and negative departments. One respondent from Italy commented that “Italy is a more simple life” with his/her answer of “It depends,” which I interpret to mean that Italians will do as they do, meaning they may do it and they may not depending on what happens in life. Another person from Italy commented with his/her answer of “It depends” that he/she would “replace pasta with veggie noodles only if cooking for a weekday meal or on any normal day,” but that he/she would “use normal pasta if wanting to invite friends at home for dinner or for special occasions” or “festivities” or “if wanting to prepare traditional foods,” which I found to be the most interesting of answers because of what it could show culturally behind these neutral answers, which were the majority of answers. The comment seems to show that the Italian would not use veggie noodles if trying to impress, but would if not trying to impress. I find it ironic that he/she will replace pasta with veggie noodles to likely impress with his/her figure when company is not around and if company is around he/she will use just normal noodles to impress his/her guests, so the two different forms of pasta would be used for two different forms of impressing. Another aspect underlying this comment could be that the Italian would use “normal pasta” with friends because he or she perceives those around them to not like veggie noodles and thus, to have social acceptance, does not cook them. The respondent claims that he/she would not replace noodles in traditional dishes with veggie noodles, showing an importance the respondent places on tradition, since the person is willing to replace noodles with veggie noodles in certain cases for non-traditional dishes.


Figure 1.                                        

                              Figure 2.


              Though I was surprised by the results of this particular study, I am content with what the finding reveals about Italian and American culture. All of my reasoning led me to believe that more Italians would respond negatively to veggie noodles than Americans proportionately, but my findings show the inverse of this. Proportionately, more Americans respond negatively to veggie noodles than Italians. Only a small minority of Italians respond negatively to veggie noodles replacing their typical noodles in dishes. However, a large percentage of Italians respond indifferently or neutrally to the replacement of noodles with veggie noodles. This rather large percentage of Italians could be an indicator that many Italians are willing to let go of tradition in certain contexts. The use of machines when making pasta in Italy shows a shift away from the traditional making of pasta such as illustrated in “Learn to Make Pasta from a Nonna in Italy” and “How to Make Pasta Like a Badass Italian Nonna,” but using vegetables instead of flour to make pasta changes the main component of most pastas in Italy, acting as a much larger and obvious form of deviation from tradition. Only a minority of Americans respond positively to replacing noodles with veggie noodles. This percentage could lead to a few possible conclusions. One possibility is that Americans have not gotten any better at cooking vegetables properly than Lin Yutang remembers them to be and this calamity of cooking is why many Americans do not want to venture into replacing typical noodles with veggie noodles (Yutang 253). Or perhaps, more likely, a large percentage of Americans respond negatively towards replacing noodles with veggie noodles because despite many advertisements and encouragements to combat obesity in America, there also is a large influx of commercials, posters, and promotional speakers advocating for people to accept all body shapes and sizes—obese and skinny alike—thus possibly canceling out the effect ads on battling obesity would have otherwise. Non-response was probably the largest complication I experienced when conducting this study. Despite my best efforts in needling my way into the online Italian community in order to get more Italian responses to my survey, relatively few Italians partook in the survey. This complication could have been due to a number of factors, one of which could be news of a possible online scam spreading around in Italy, in turn making the Italians believe that I was a bot trying to hack their accounts or steal their information, leading to them not even opening up the survey link. Although, I cannot discount the possibility that I faced this complication with Italian strangers and not with American strangers because of a cultural difference, as well. Italians have long been documented to distrust others and my own recent experience could possibly attest to that, thus this pervasive cultural distrust could have led many Italians to not click the survey link out of suspicion of what it might be. In an effort to have a larger pool of Italians in my survey, I lost eleven Italian friends on Instagram simply because of my request in Italian for them to take the survey. This did not happen with American respondents, on the other hand. If my study were ever to be replicated by another researcher, a different result may appear with a larger sample size of Italians taking the survey. Future research could also explore the possible differences in responses towards veggie noodles, or other phenomena if the researcher so chooses that deviate from tradition, between different generations of Italians. In hindsight, I would have liked to add an age-range question in the survey to see if age could have played a factor at all, or if other factors were at work, with the overall results.














Works Cited


Bratskeir, Kate. 2017. How Zoodles And Spirals Will Change The Way You Eat Veggies. HuffPost. HuffPost., accessed August 6, 2019.


Cavalli, Alessandro. 2001. Reflections on Political Culture and the “Italian National Character”. Daedalus 130: 119–137., accessed August 9, 2019.


  1. Italy—Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd., accessed August 9, 2019.

Dean, M., R. Shepherd, A. Arvola, et al. 2007. Consumer Perceptions of Healthy Cereal Products and Production Methods. Journal of Cereal Science. Academic Press., accessed August 4, 2019.



Dunnage, Jonathan. 2002. Introduction: Between Tradition and Modernity. Essay. In Twentieth Century Italy: A Social History. 1st edition Pp. 3–33. London: Routledge.


European Countries Most Informed About Veganism Ranked in Order. 2019. Vegconomist – the Vegan Business Magazine., accessed August 7, 2019.


Heath, Elizabeth. 2018. How To Make Pasta, According To Three Real Italian Nonnas. HuffPost. HuffPost., accessed August 9, 2019.


Hildebrand, Caz, and Jacob Kenedy. 2011. The Geometry of Pasta. London: Boxtree.


Lever, Charles James. Italian Distrust. Dickens Journals Online., accessed August 9, 2019.


OECD. Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit Not Fat–Italy Key Facts. OECD: Better Policies for Better Lives., accessed August 7, 2019.


Slow Food USA. Manifesto. Slowfood USA., accessed August 7, 2019.


The Skinny on Veggiccine®. 2017. Ceces Veggie Co., accessed August 6, 2019.


Vita, Oretta Zanini De. 2009. Encyclopedia of Pasta. University of California Press.


White, Annette. 2018. Learn to Make Pasta From a Nonna in Italy. Bucket List Journey | Travel Lifestyle Blog., accessed August 9, 2019.


Yutang, Lin. 1937. The Importance of Living: a John Day Book. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock.







Instant Noodle Culture in Contemporary China

Keyi Chen


Instant Noodle Culture in Contemporary China

White is the Korean beef bone soup, yellow are curled noodles, red is the tomato slice, green are fresh vegetables, and pink are crisp sausages. All of these ingredients are put in a small metal pot, giving off tempting scents. The dish looks so delicate by mixing various colors together that it is quite hard to believe this is just a bowl of instant noodle. With the large social and economic changes within several decades, people’s dietary habits and ideas have changed hugely. Instant noodle, as a type of fast food, is even more influenced by the process of modernization. Similar to other Chinese food, instant noodle can be regarded as a cultural indicator; more specifically, it indicates the contemporary food culture which is impacted by traditional Chinese culture, foreign cultures, domestic economic developments, and modern culture in China. In order to make this research more credible, I chose to conduct fieldwork methods, including participant observation and interview, in a supermarket and an instant noodle canteen.

To begin with, the rise and prevalence of instant noodle in the Chinese market are inseparable with traditional Chinese food culture. The origin of Chinese noodles can be traced back to more than 4000 years ago, in Han Dynasty. When noodles first appeared on the stage of history, they were initially counted as one type of Bing(饼)[1]. Later, as the territory of Han Chinese continuously was expanded, and the communication with ethnic minorities became more frequent, noodles had been spread to various regions and then developed to many different types due to regional influences, which include climates, types of staple crops, and preferred flavors of local residents. For example, noodles originated in north China are mainly made from wheat flours while rice noodles are quite popular in Yunnan Province in southwest China. Moreover, simple cooking methods make noodles even more prevalent. Flours made from local staple crops, cold and boiled water, preserved or fresh vegetables, with all these necessities, poor people from lower classes could fill their stomachs. The long history, simple cooking methods, and affordable costs have made noodles an indispensable staple food in Chinese people’s lives; as a result of which, instant noodles, as alternatives to traditional noodles, could be accepted when first launching Chinese food market. Except for the fact that the long-term dietary habit of eating noodles has laid the foundation for Chinese instant noodles, the diversified variety of Chinese noodles promotes the development of instant noodles as well. In order to promote the sales volume and compete with others, producers have kept creating new flavors which are usually intimations of traditional flavors; therefore, various kinds of Chinese noodles provides abundant resources for producers. Based on the observation in the supermarket, different noodle flavors from different regions can be clearly reflected by instant noodles: the braised beef noodle is based on Taiwan’s noodle dishes; the sauerkraut beef noodle is based on the pickled vegetables from northeast China; the hot and sour rice noodle is based on the famous dish in Sichuan Province… Nowadays, as the continuous consumption upgrading, the sale of instant noodles has been keeping declining for several years[2]; however, the brand Master Kong’s sale keeps growing. The reason behind is that the brand keeps adding new flavors that come from traditional Chinese dishes, such as chicken stewed with mushrooms and spicy oil noodles(油泼辣子面)[3]. 

Furthermore, because of the convenience and traditional tastes, Chinese instant noodles are becoming more and more popular in foreign markets as one of the symbols of Chinese food culture[3]. From these facts, we can find that the wide variety of instant noodle flavors, which are results from the traditional Chinese food culture, have made the market diversified and push the development of instant noodles forward.

Except for traditional Chinese food history and culture, foreign food cultures also impact Chinese instant noodles a lot. The impacts can be divided into two categories: impacts from western fast-food culture and impacts from other Asian food cultures. Firstly, the fast-food culture from western countries makes it easier for Chinese people to alter their dietary concepts. After the economic open-up in 1978, more and more foreign companies, including foreign food franchises, began launching in the Chinese market, one of the biggest markets in the world. With the entering of KFC in 1987[4], the concept of fast food was also brought to Chinese people’s lives. In the past, people had been used to go to traditional “sit down” restaurants and wait for the food to be cooked. However, the appearance of fast food has allowed people to save time for waiting by selling prepared food or cooking semi-prepared food in just a few minutes. The concept of instant noodles is the same as that of burgers and fried chickens. Buying a bag of instant noodle allows people to save the time that is used to waiting for chefs to cook a bowl of noodle. This concept has a large difference with the traditional noodle-eating habits in the past thousands of years; nevertheless, as the fast-food culture brought by foreign fast-food restaurants had already changed young people’s concepts at that time, the appearance of instant noodles in mainland China was not too hard to be accepted. Moreover, instead of buying cooked fast food in restaurants, nowadays, consumers like adding their own preferred ingredients when cooking to make instant noodles more nutritious and delectable. This characteristic actually reflects the traditional Chinese belief of balancing nutrition and flavors in one dish. Mixing fast-food culture with traditional food culture makes instant noodles even more popular among consumers among different ages. 

Secondly, instant noodles in the contemporary Chinese market are influenced by several other Asian food cultures. At present, we can see various imported instant noodles from other Asian countries nearby. According to the observation in the supermarket, imported instant noodles occupy almost half of the shelves; in the instant noodle canteen, approximately 95 percent of instant noodles are imported. These imported noodles are from famous foreign brands like Nissin and Samyoug, including different flavors that intimate noodle dishes in East and Southeast Asian countries: Japanese pork bone soup ramen, Japanese yakisoba, Korean kimchi ramen, Malayan laksa rice vermicelli, Thai tom yum ramen… Buying these imported instant noodles makes people not need to look for authentic foreign noodle dishes in restaurants anymore. Although the prices of these products are higher than those domestic products, the price difference is not so big that it is still affordable to most consumers. Furthermore, importing foreign instant noodle brands has pushed the development of domestic brands. In order to be more competitive in the increasingly fierce competition, domestic producers launch “foreign noodle dishes.” One apparent example is the brand–Uni-President(统一). We can easily find foreign flavors as Japanese pork bone soup ramen, Japanese miso ramen, and coconut chicken soup noodle in the instant noodle series called Tang Da Ren(汤达人). It is interesting to find that Chinese noodles influenced the rise of noodles in neighboring countries by communication and immigration in the past, while neighboring countries have enriched the contemporary Chinese instant noodle market both directly and indirectly, using noodle dishes developed under their own cultures. Behind the interaction of noodles is the interaction of different cultures.

While discussing both domestic changes in food culture and impacts from foreign food cultures, we can never ignore the effects of huge economic changes in decades. An essential changing point is China’s economic reformation and open-up. The open-up of mainland China’s market opened a door for the entering of foreign companies. Also, the booming economy improved people’s living standards largely; therefore, improving living standards provided more channels, such as magazines and televisions, to learn more about other cultures. The changes in media and market subtly made Chinese people more open-minded. As a result, instant noodles, as an invention from Japan and a mixed product of eastern and western culture, could be accepted by the public without many obstacles. In fact, the Chinese instant noodle market was established quickly and kept thriving from the 1990s to recent years. The new eating concept, which focuses on convenience and quickness, and good tastes are still attractive to many consumers nowadays. However, as the Chinese economy keeps growing rapidly, the consumption level and living standards keep being upgraded as well; thus, the sales of instant noodles is gradually declining in recent years. In the 1990s, the price of instant noodles was suitable for the middle class[5], but just about 20 years later, in 2014, the growing middle class began losing interests in instant noodles and consider them cheap and unhealthy[6]. Flourishment in economics has improved all aspects of Chinese people’s lives. When poverty is not a problem for most families, people begin to pay attention to knowledge and health. Due to more advanced access to information, the unhealthiness of instant noodles has been easily exposed to consumers. Because of the improved financial conditions, instant noodles, with an average price lower than 10RMB, are quite cheap in consumers’ eyes, and the public is able to replace them with much healthier and more expensive food easily. Moreover, the arisen online ordering and food delivery services provide consumers with both healthier and convenient eating experiences; as a result of which, the instant noodle market has been impacted a lot. In general, either the prosperity or the downturn of the instant noodle market has a close relation with China’s economic growth.

Even though the whole instant noodle market is turning down at present, there is a new way of eating instant noodles arising owing to the economic growth. Instant noodle canteens, a type of restaurants that sell well-cooked instant noodles to customers, created another new idea of eating–serving instant noodles in the way of serving traditional noodle dishes in restaurants as the scene depicted in the beginning. The idea was quite popular among young people who were born in the 1990s and 2000s. Based on the observation in the instant noodle canteen, it is obvious that almost all customers in the restaurant are young. According to the waiter in the canteen, most of their customers are people born in the 1990s; during the summertime, students born in the 2000s join in to try the “new” instant noodles as well. By interviewing customers sitting in the canteen, we could find two main objectives of eating in such an instant noodle restaurant. The first one, also the most common one, is to try new things and see how they differ from self-cooked instant noodles. Another one is that some consumers consider the canteen as a normal noodle restaurant, but they can have much more choices of flavors. The rise of this kind of instant noodle restaurants all over the country can not be separated from modern Chinese culture, which is a result of economic growth. Because of rapid economic growth, technologies are much more developed than before; then, the Internet became a common and indispensable tool for people’s daily communication and entertainment. The pursuit of delicacy due to material wealth and fast propagation speed of information due to advanced Internet bring out the “web celebrity” culture. Innovation and delicacy are the main cores of this type of culture. As we can see in the instant noodle canteen, the decoration is in a contracted Japanese style, which is considered delicate by many young people, and the instant noodles served are beautifully arranged. Different sets of instant noodles with various toppings are categorized into different levels, named after the levels in a famous mobile game called King of Glory. Not only the concept of eating instant noodles but also detailed ideas about all aspects of the canteen reveal the creativity under modern culture. One problem for both the canteens and the “web celebrity” culture is the ephemerality. Owing to the rapid propagation speed of information in the cyber world, lifestyle trends are changing day by day, and the old trends can be easily and quickly replaced new trends. In instant noodle canteens, except for the delicacy and creativity, there is nothing left to be catchy since the tastes of instant noodles here are almost the same as those cooked at home. Therefore, many customers would go to instant noodle canteens for just once, taking pictures and posting them online to show they keep up with trends. Intriguingly, modern lifestyle and internet culture have changed a type of fast food back to traditional dishes somehow but cannot bring its prosperity back due to the tide of economic growth.

In conclusion, the cultural and social effects behind instant noodles are not as simple as the cooking methods. The current situation of instant noodles in China is the result of influences from multiple aspects. Domestic and foreign cultures, traditional and modern culture, and, most importantly, economic changes have commonly impacted the Chinese instant noodle market. From the prosperity to the downturn of instant noodles’ development, we can see how people’s thoughts and lifestyles, reflected by simply one type of food, under the tides of changing society and culture. In the future, we can expect that these aspects can continuously influence not only instant noodles but also Chinese food culture.


  1. Zhang, N., & Ma, G. (2016). Noodles, traditionally and today. Journal of Ethnic Foods,3(3), 209-212. doi:10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.003
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Noodles in China and Korea: Compare and Contrast of Noodles in China and in Korea


            Noodle is a food. Noodle can be long or short. Noodle can be fried or boiled. Noodle may symbolize the unity in a group of people. Noodle has history. Noodle encompasses different philosophies. Noodles in different regions and to different people have different meanings, tastes and symbolisms. With a history of over four thousand years, both Chinese and Korean noodles are a significant part of both cultures. This paper delves into the similarities and differences between Chinese and Korean noodles: how noodles from two different countries have similar traditional and cultural meanings and how they are developed under different cultural philosophy and history.


Noodle is defined as “a food in the form of long, thin strips made from flour or rice, water, and often egg, cooked in boiling liquid” by Cambridge dictionary. Yet in a Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as “a food paste made usually with egg and shaped typically in ribbon form”. Like so, noodle has different meanings to different people. Different noodles are made by different ingredients, have different shapes, different tastes, and different meanings associated to each and every one of them.

Chinese and Korean noodles have different tastes, kinds and shapes. Also, different cultural significance resides in two different kinds of noodles. The main difference between noodles from China and from Korea is that while Chinese noodle developed under the Yin and Yang philosophy, Korean noodles pays more attention to the methods of making them. Yet, there are also similarities between Chinese and Korean noodles. The fact that noodles are used as a material to form unity between people is common in both Chinese and Korean noodles. Also, one biggest commonality that can be noticed in Chinese and Korean noodle is that noodles are associated different meanings and background stories.  

Noodles in China

[Concept of Unity in Chinese Food]

With over four thousand years of history, Chinese noodles have more than two thousand different kinds of cooking methods. There are numerous different kinds of Chinese noodles. Because China is very big in region and noodles have developed over a very long period of time, there are different styles of food in different parts of China. Such differences originated from the geological differences and the difference grew as people in different regions started to develop their own styles of living. For example, Sichuan noodles regards flavor as its foundation as they encompass different flavors including spicy, sweet, tingy, bitter and salty. Shandong cuisines are mostly from Ming and Qing dynasty, and are known for salty flavor and a rather crispy texture. [1]

Yet, one commonality that resides in all noodles is that their intention is to bring unity in people. Chinese noodle is not just about the food itself but encompasses a deeper meaning to it. Chinese people “stress the aesthetics of food, and the elegance of the dining environment.”[2] They value the idea of eating together – especially with family members. Shared dining, to Chinese people is their characteristics. For example, “Bao”[3] a computer-animated short film produced by Pixar Animation Studios points out the significance Chinese people put in the practice of family members eating all together. The story is set in Toronto, Canada, a Chinese immigrant woman relives motherhood when one of her handmade dumplings, “Bao” comes to life. Eventually, he desires independence from his mother.  When “Bao” tries to move out, the mother eats him. After, the mother is crying in bed and her real son enters the room holding treats she used to give him as a child.  Then, after sharing an emotional moment, whole family is then seen together in the kitchen, with the son’s new fiancée, happily making bao together. Through the conflict between differnt cultures, this story signifies the importance of family eating together in Chinese tradition.

[Yin and Yang Philosophy in Chinese Noodles]

Along with the idea that family members should eat together, noodle itself in China also has a very unique meaning. To Chinese people, food is not just a method that Chinese people gain energy from. It is more than just what they consume. Chinese people consider food as something much more. For example, the traditional Chinese principle of Yin and Yang can also be found in Chinese food. Yang foods are usually sweet, spicy and tend to have warm colors like red or orange. They often are dry. Thus, Yang foods are often fried or roasted. Whereas, Yin foods are salty and bitter and moister. Yin Foods are often boiled or steamed. Chinese people believe maintaining the balance of Yin and Yang is very important in order to stay healthy.[4] Ideas and believes Chinese people have about food originates very much from their culture and history. Here, Chinese noodles are also considered medicine. Chinese people believe that “bitterness can release heat in body, improve vision and detoxify the body.” [5] Flavors and tastes of Chinese noodles reflects its culture and tradition as they are developed according to the Yin and Yang theory.

[Chinese Noodles and its Meanings]

Chinese noodles also hold a significant amount of cultural value, believes and identity. They have interesting meaning and background stories associated with each. For example, “Yi mian” also known as the “E-fu mian” is one food that had a strong sense of Chinese culture. Yi- mian means the “Long-life noodle” and symbolizes the idea of longevity. In addition to symbolizing longevity, eating Yi-mian also “signifies prosperity and good luck”.[6] In an entheogenic interview conducted with Whi Jung, a 22 years old college student at University of Washington who is originally Korean but has lived in China for 8 years, Whi claimed that for two birthdays she “spent in China, [her] host mother prepared that long life noodle on my birthdays. They said in festive days they eat that “Long-life noodle.”” She claimed that it was a simple fried noodle with onion chives, but it was her favorite food. Yet, Yi-mian is one of the many noodles that hold their specific meanings.

At times of marriage and moving into new houses people “eat noodles with gravy (打卤面), which means flavored life.” [7] On lunar February 2, people eat dragon whiskers noodles (龙须面) to pray for good weather for their agriculture.[8] Furthermore, “dutiful son’s noodle” also known as “Seafood noodle” has its own story associated. Yi Yin’s (伊尹) mother was sick. Thus, he made nonperishable noodles with eggs and flour so his mother to conveniently eat them even when he wasn’t present. This noodle reveals that idea of filial piety – one of the common believes in China. Other noodles such as the “dan dan noodles,” “sister in law noodle” or “old friend noodles” also holds their own stories. Such noodles each encompass their own stories and meanings related to longevity, filial piety love, friendship and family. Different meanings and background stories associated with each noodle shows that noodles are representations of the traditional believes and philosophy people hold and are deeply related with the history.


Noodles in Korea 

[Development of Korean Noodles]

Wheat in Korea was not common due to regional characteristics. Thus, unlike many common noodles found nowadays in China and in Korea that are made of wheat, traditional Korean noodles used buckwheat as its main ingredient. One most commonly known traditional Korean noodle is “Naeng-myun”. “Naeng” which means “cold” comes together with “myun” meaning noodles and thus Naeng-myun is directly translated into cold-noodle. It is a noodle made of buckwheat with chilled soup. Exact record of Naeng myun’s history is not yet found, but it is known that in a <North-Eastern Korea>, historical record written by Chang Yoo, Naeng myun as mentioned as one of the main meals then. Historians claim that “cold noodle with chilled brownish stock” would be equivalent to “Naeng myun” seen today.[9] It is also known that Naeng-myun was more familiar in the Northern part of Korea. It wasn’t until the development of conflict between Northern and Southern Korea in 1930s that Naeng-myun became the famous food in Korea. Due to the proximity of Incheon and Hwannghae-do of North Korea, Naeng-myun from North came down to South and began gaining popularity. An “article about the ‘Naengmyeon Delivery Association’ was even featured in a newspaper in Incheon in 1936.”[10] Since then, noodles in general began to gain popularity in Korea. “Naeng-myun” transformed into different types such as “Bibim-naeng-myun” where spicy sauce was added instead of the stock. Other kinds of noodles such as “Janchi-jooksu” or “Kal-gooksu” also emerged and gained greater popularity since then. All noodles have existed even before the 1930s according to myth, but historical mentions of them only appear in the 20th century.

 [Different Methods of Making Korean Noodles and their Significance]

Here, according to myths, Korean noodles also greatly emphasize the unity in people. For example, Kalgooksoo – literally translated into “knife noodle” is one of the traditional noodles in Korea and is our family’s most beloved noodle. “Kal” in Korean means knife, while “Gooksoo” means noodle. It is called the knife noodle because the noodle itself is created by cutting the flour dough with a big knife. The process of Kalgooksu is rather simple. Thus, it is Korean tradition for family units make Kalguksoo together. It only requires a flour dough to be cut into equally long strings to later be boiled and be finalized by being mixed with kelp stock.

Like so, “So-myun” meaning small noodle in Korean, also pays special attention to the process of making it. Flour dough are flavored by a sprinkle of salt and are dried under sunlight to create a very long string of noodle of usually two meters. Such noodles are then cut into small pieces to be used by the general. The process of making “so-myun” is also done cooperatively by group of people as it requires a simple but long process of making doughs to adding flavors to cutting them into strings of long pieces.

 [Korean Noodles and its Meanings]

Similar to Chinese noodles such as the “dan dan noodles,” “sister in law noodle” or “old friend noodles”, Korean noodles also are associated with their own stories. “Janchi-gooksu” a Korean traditional noodle is directly translated into the “Festive noodle.” This specific noodle is heavily associated with Korean culture. It is a Korean myth that because noodles are physically long, eating them helps people live long lives. This myth also claims that noodles should not be cut. One should eat long noodles as they are without cutting them because cutting them would mean cutting one’s longevity. During an entheogenic interview conducted with Whi, she talked about her grandmother who always forced her to finish a bowl of Janchi Jooksu – as that would bring her luck. Janchi-Jooksu to many Korean people symbolizes longevity and are thought of as lucky food that helps people be healthy and live a longer life. Thus, it is usually eaten in festive days such as the New-year and birthdays. This noodle holds similar meanings with Chinese Yi-mian as both emphasizes the idea of longevity.


Chinese and Korean noodle isn’t just a material for one to gain nourishment from but encompasses a whole lot of deeper meanings. Both Chinese and Korean noodles are associate with different cultural meaning and stories that are usually related to family, freidnship, care, love and longevity. They also both are similar in that both emphasizes the importance of the unity of people eating them together. Yet, one while Chinese noodles are deeply related to the Yin and Yang philosophy, Korean noodles pays more attention to the process of making them. Overall, it can be said that Chinese and Korean noodles is more than just food, but are deeply associated with cultural value, believes and identity.




The Chinese Kitchen,’s Eng/Eng. Pag. The Chinese Kitchen.htm.


Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.


Gao, Sally. “The Importance of Yin-Yang Philosophy in Chinese Food.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 19 Jan. 2017.


Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

“Long Life Noodles – Yi Mein (伊面).” The Woks of Life, 3 June 2019,


Zhang, Noodles: Traditional and Today, 210


 “냉면.” 냉면,


 “The Origin of Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles): Noodlelovers.” 면사랑(Noodle Lovers),


[1] The Chinese Kitchen,’s Eng/Eng. Pag. The Chinese Kitchen.htm.

[2] Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[3] Youtube Video

[4] Gao, Sally. “The Importance of Yin-Yang Philosophy in Chinese Food.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 19 Jan. 2017.

[5] Liu, Junru. Chinese Food. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[6] “Long Life Noodles – Yi Mein (伊面).” The Woks of Life, 3 June 2019,

[7] Zhang, Noodles: Traditional and Today, 210

[8] Zhang, Noodles: Traditional and Today, 210

[9] “냉면.” 냉면,

[10] “The Origin of Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles): Noodlelovers.” 면사랑(Noodle Lovers),

Japanese Ramen’s Kodawari

                 When you travel to Japan or visit a Japanese restaurant, you may know or actually taste a bowl of Japanese Ramen. It is a very popular noodle dish among the world now. You may find several authentic Japanese Ramen chain restaurants all over the world. You even could say it is one of the symbols of Japanese culture. “Kodawari” is a unique and special word in Japanese that you hardly can find a synonym for it in English. It means “the uncompromising and relentless pursuit of perfection”. (Hagan, 2017) This custom is in every Japanese traditional craftmanship. It is also very important feature in the Japanese Ramen’s craftmanship. Japanese Ramen is different from Chinese Ramen; however, it is served in Chinese cuisine restaurants in Japan. It is considered a Chinese originated dish. As this noodle dish become more and more popular among Japanese people, more and more Japanese-Ramen-only noodle shops were opening up. In addition, Japanese people has their own “Kodawari” on this dish, which they adapted from Chinese but created their own flavors and culture. It is very interesting to find out how Japanese ramen evolve from the originated Chinese Ramen and its unique characteristics; how Japanese people value the Japanese Ramen.

         According to the article “Japan’s Ramen Romance”, noodle dishes in Japan were adapted from China about 1500 to 2000 years ago. After several centuries’ transformations and evolvements, there were over 60000 Chinese restaurants where ramen is an indispensable item on the menu. This number is way beyond 30000 establishments that serve traditional Japanese soba (buckwheat noodles) and udon (thick noodles made of wheat flour) back in 1999 (Ayao, 2001). The ramen became popular because of a sudden change of climate in 1945. Japan has a rice-based culture. However, Japan recorded its worst rice harvest in 42 years and lost the war colonies in China and Taiwan in 1945. The bowl of wheat noodles gained prominence. (Lu, 2018). So, what is Japanese Ramen? Literally from dictionary, “Japanese noodles of wheat flour, usually served in broth with pieces of vegetables and meat” (Collins Dictionary). It is different from soba and udon as it is in yellow color. The noodles are usually made of flour, water salt and a special type of mineral water (kansui). (“Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types”). Different from Chinese Ramen, the noodle is not limited to “pulled noodles”. When you are in China, ramen noodle restaurant is usually about “hand pulled noodles”, such as Lanzhou Ramen. However, Japanese Ramen noodles can be prepared in advance and made by machine. The soup base is mainly made from chicken, pork and fish stock. Usually, the soup is made of shiitake mushrooms, katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes), kombu (kelp), niboshi (dried baby sardines), beef bones, and onions. (“Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types”). The toppings of the traditional Japanese Ramen include sliced pork (叉焼 chāshū), nori (dried seaweed), menma (a kind of bamboo shoots), and scallions. There are many variations of Japanese ramen nowadays, but the main kinds can be divided by soup variations: shoyu (soy sauce), Tonkotsu (pork bone), miso ramen (fermented soybean paste flavored), shio ramen (salt ramen) and Tsuke-men (dried noodle). The toppings usually are the same for each flavor, but nowadays, more and more Japanese Ramen has its own toppings. Different regions have their own characteristics of Ramen. For example, Sapporo Miso Ramen, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, Kitakata Ramen, Wakayama Ramen, Onomichi Ramen and many other famous regional Ramen (Gurunavi, 2018). Different regional culture backgrounds add the variety and uniqueness of Japanese Ramen.

When trace-back the history of Japanese Ramen, you will recognize that it is a story of immigrants’ “Kodawari”. Back in 1840s, China lost the war and forced to open up the Guangzhou and Shanghai’s port to Britain. Japan finally changed from near-isolation in 1854, due to the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Peace and Amity, and also the Treaty of Amity and Commerce of 1858. Mostly, the cities along the sea side are the first ones that did businesses and trading. Many Chinese people came to Japan and employed by these trading houses (Ayao, 2001). China was also defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), therefore, many Chinese students came to Japan. In order serve these people, immigrants from China created Shina soba and Nankin soba in these harbor cities in Japan. The author of the “Japan’s Ramen Romance” stated that “Foreign culinary cultures are often introduced by immigrants who have left home for any number of reasons- war, political instability, poverty and so on….Ethnic foods influence traditional local cuisine and vice versa, bringing forth new hybrid dishes”. Therefore, the mix of culture created the term of Japanese Ramen. Wang Wencai, a Chinese chef who fled Russian Revolution and went to Sapporo in Hokkaido in early 1920, was the one that credited for first use the term “Ramen” in this dish. As this dish was so popular and attracted many people, Wang eventually had to drop the time-consuming, hand-pulled method. He was doing the traditional Chinese Ramen – the hand-pulled noodles, at first. But after the restaurant bought a noodle-making machine for less time making noodles, it created the difference and uniqueness of Japanese Ramen (Ayao, 2011). You could say the first Japanese Ramen was created in Sapporo. Sapporo has this rich historic background, and the influences were still there. Sapporo is known for its “Sapporo Ramen”. Many other Ramen shops all over the world ordered noodles from noodle making small factories in Sapporo, for their “Kodawari” on noodle-making machines and their noodle-making techniques.

America’s influence had a huge impact on Japanese Ramen. After the creation of the first Japanese Ramen, it was a period of time that Japan had a severe food shortage. It was also the period of time that Japan was defeated in the war and occupied by United States. In order to solve the issues on food shortage, Americans started to import massive amounts of wheat. This history created a culture- making Ramen noodles and eating at a black-market stall (Lu, 2018). According to the author of “The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo”, “Black markets had existed in Japan throughout the war. However, they became increasingly essential during the last years of the war and throughout this period of occupation. With the government food distribution system running about 20 days behind schedule, many people depended on black markets for survival. The black-market stalls are called “Ameyokocho” and located underneath an active train line and announced their presence with the distinctive sound of “charumera” flutes and sold ramen from a “yatai” (Lu, 2018).The “yatai” menas a moving cabinet, containing a stove to boil the soup and water, and with wheels. Americans were regulating the outdoor food vending as the wartime ban, huge amount of flour for ramen was secretly diverted from flour milling countries. The black markets were under the control of the “yakuza”, Japanese local mafia. The “yakuza” extorted the vendors for protection money (Lu, 2018). After the regulation loosened up, more and more Japanese Ramen stall appeared. Back then, Japanese cuisine did not have a dish that contained rich fat and strong flavors. Japanese people then recognized that the Ramen is a stamina food. Many people had a feeling of “being stronger” after eating a bowl of Japanese Ramen. It was not surprising that Americans aggressively advertised the “nutritional superiority of wheat and animal protein, endowing ramen with a nutritious reputation and a welcome change for a population weary of rationing”. (Lu, 2018). As the economy had not recovered, the Japanese Ramen stalls’ business model was the few that still work for ordinary people to start up a small business entrepreneurship. In addition, ramen became a symbol of urbanization. As more and more people worked in the city and came out late in the night, many employees huddled the “yatai” in a bombed-out city. A Japanese Ramen “yatai” is casual, relaxed and cheap. It is also comfy and full of stamina and energy for an after-work stomach.

As the ramen became more and more popular, it was a blooming food industry. More and more varieties and creative flavors of Ramen had been developed. Each chef has their own understanding of Ramen, and each one has his or her own “Kodawari”. However, traditional Japanese Ramen chefs does not pay much efforts on their “Kodawari” on changes or creativities; they are more focused on the depth on each aspects of original Japanese Ramen. First of all, is the “Mein”, the ramen noodle. You may find many advertisements saying “The noodles are made by own” (自家製麺). The chef’s “Kodawari” is on the “resistance to the teeth” in Japanese ( 歯答え). You may say it depends on how long you boil the noodles in the hot water. To the Ramen expert, the ingredients of the ramen noodles and the balance of flour, water and even the salt play very important role to the “resistance to the teeth”. Many Ramen chefs will order noodles from far away to have the perfect kind of ramen noodles. They have the “Kodawari” on the ingredient origins. Kagawa province, Fukuoka province and etc. are the provinces that famous of providing the flour for Ramen makers. There are few noodle factories that were famous for their craftsmanship that located right in these provinces. They have their own “Kodawari” on the flour, or even the water. I have heard about that they select a kind of spring water to make the noodle, which is in the mountains and hard to fetch. I have heard about a special case for the “noodle shape”. Usually the noodles transverse section is a square or a rectangle. However, some chefs’ “Kodawari” demands the transverse section to change shapes. This is for better balance on how the noodle absorbs the broth and affects the resistances when you are chewing. You may notice a saying, “the soup is the soul of a bowl of Ramen”. There three main kinds of soup base in Japanese Ramen, chicken broth, pork bone broth and fish broth. Each kind has its variation, but all cost a lot of time to make the soup base rich. It also cost years to develop your own secret receipt for a balanced soup base. I have watched several Japanese TV shows regarding the Ramen soup. Some of them use rare and expensive ingredients and cook by days to only use its broth. Fish is tuna or salmon, pork bones are black hogs’ bones, and endless other spices, secret ingredients. Toppings are also made by each Ramen shop itself. Chefs can have creative “Kodawari” on the toppings: the balance between the fat and lean on sliced pork (叉焼 chāshū) and what other kinds of the vegetables can fit with the soup and noodles. After all the efforts on the ingredients and flavors, the technique on cooking ramen is also a key point. A huge amount of Japanese Ramen restaurants has open restaurant and you may watch how the chef cook the Ramen. I believe you will be  surprised or amazed how they do “draining the hot water from the noodle” (湯切り). Sometimes, the chef will directly swing the noodle in a drainer net and drain hot water on the floor. It is a technique as it is hard to not get burn from the boiling water. The experts on Ramen has the “Kodawari” on how the noodles cool down and dry up during this technique. There is another technique of cooking the soup. You may see these huge wooden stirring sticks used by the chef to stir the soup. The direction of stirring and how often to stir and soup is also a key “Kodawari” that a Ramen chef care about.

         “Kodawari” needs time, patience and efforts. As for the owner of Kunimoto Mengokoro, the Kunimoto chef starts working from 8 am to 11:30 pm, six days a week.  For him, it is not about creativeness of a new type of Ramen, but how to make traditional Japanese Ramen to the perfection. After the restaurant is closed, Chef Kunimoto still needs to cook and prepare all the ingredients and clean the kitchen. For him, the Japanese Ramen is all he has. He devotes everything he has to this ramen.  He said that, “As it varies people to people for judging whether my Ramen is delicious or not, for me, I must dedicate myself in to this Ramen bowl (“What Owning a Ramen Restaurant in Japan is Like”, 2016). All his “Kodawari” is in this bowl of Japanese Ramen.

Works Cited

Ayao, O. (2001). Japan’s ramen romance. Japan Quarterly, 48(3), 66-76. Retrieved from

Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types. Retrieved from

Gurunavi. (2018, February 26). 11 Types of Japanese Regional Ramen for the Epicurious Traveler. Retrieved from

Hagan, C. (2017, June 26). Kodawari. Retrieved from

Lu, H. (2018, August 24). The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo. Retrieved from


Reinventing Tradition

Cultural traditions and heritage developed over many generations as ways to celebrate and remember the past. Many different civilizations developed their own unique societies with differing ideals and principles. As humans grew more educated and advanced, the ways in which they expressed themselves advanced. These cultures developed in relative isolation from foreign influences resulting in national pride that led to many self-righteous wars and conquests. However, with increased globalization due to rapid technological progress, societies are more open and interconnected than ever before. Some people are still proud of their heritage and wish to protect the traditions they have held for generations. On the contrary, some believe that tradition is an ever-evolving entity that cannot be tied to one distinct moment of creation. Italian chef Massimo Bottura is renowned for his provocative dishes that were initially rejected by fellow Italians for defacing tradition. However, he has modernized the Italian kitchen through the incorporation of contemporary perspective to accentuate the building blocks of tradition.

            Italy is steeped in history and tradition at every turn. It has developed culturally over millennia adding major contributions to art, architecture, science, religion, and literature. Within Italy, many unique regions formed with their own identities under the rule of the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, these regions governed themselves until once again coming together under a common flag in 1870[1]. Through this regional development, each region developed sustainably local economies. Resource availability varied by region due to stark geographical differences. Therefore, most businesses sourced their raw materials locally. Due to specialization, regional identities were tied to the economy creating allegiance to locality. This regional pride manifests itself most in local cuisine. For example, the Ligurian diet features the abundance of wild mushrooms and spices that thrive in the region[2].  Likewise, Emilia-Romagna is home to parmigiana cheese and balsamic vinegar which are used in many local dishes[3]. Through adherence to heritage, Italians developed such loyalty that tampering with tradition was seen as cultural blasphemy.

            Now, Massimo Bottura, owner and chef of Osteria Francescana, winner of World’s Best Restaurant in 2016 and 2018, is recognized as one of the premier chefs in the world, but he was not always popular with critics. He faced multitudes of criticism from some of Italy’s most well-regarded food writers who accused Bottura of betraying the Italian kitchen[4]. To Massimo, his vision was the embodiment of the roots of Italian culture. He describes the way he fell in love with food at the age of six with nostalgia that shows the true passion behind his work. Massimo grew up in Modena which is in Emilia-Romagna. As the youngest and most spastic, he was often victim to the wrath of his two older brothers. However, he found solace underneath the kitchen table and his grandmothers protection as she fended his brothers of with the matarello she was using to the roll fresh pasta. From beneath the kitchen table, he found new perspective as the flour dusted off the table around him. As his grandmother made tortellini, Massimo would steal and eat the raw tortellini.[5] This defined the cornerstone for his culinary journey and development into the chef he is today.

            Shortly after leaving university, Bottura opened his first restaurant named Trattoria del Campazzo. Unexperienced and understaffed, Massimo struggled dearly for a few months. One day an older woman walked into his restaurant named Lidia Cristoni who offered to help him. She lived across the street but her poor vision kept her close to home. After demonstrating the true skills that only Italian grandmothers possess, Massimo hired Lidia.[6] Lidia brought to Campazzo the homestyle methods that are revered across Italy. It was through her that Massimo learned traditional recipes and styles for rolling pasta. Lidia’s personal touch was also felt through her insistence that the restaurant all eat together before service starts.[7] This tradition that Bottura continues today helps to develop familial bonds between the staff which is then passed onto the service.

            After a few years, Campazzo was stable enough for Bottura to travel to New York City. He found work at a small cafe in the city called Caffé di Nonna.[8] On his first day, he met east Village resident, Lara Gilmore, who was also working her first day at the café. They struck a friendship that blossomed into something truly genuine. Their time in New York was cut short as Campazzo needed Bottura attention. Gilmore visited Modena and Massimo shortly later, but in her second week, Massimo received a phone-call from world-famous chef Alain Ducasse offering a position to teach homemade pasta to the staff at Hotel de Paris. Bottura accepted this opportunity and sold Trattoria del Campazzo. Caught amid this massive upheaval, Lara found that as Massimo’s life stood, there was no place in it for her. However, Bottura was unhappy without Lara and he left Hotel de Paris shortly soon after. He returned to New York to commit to his life to her. Together, they moved back to Modena and bought Osteria Francescana[9].

Massimo’s vision for Osteria Francescana was a modern rendition of the classic traditional Modenese food. He needed to try new things and to continue learning in order to prevent boredom[10]. However, this required tampering with tradition that Italians felt best left as is. His vision was muddy in the early days of the restaurant as he attempted to carve his own identity. He drew inspiration from art galleries that Lara brought him too. By sharing her love of art, Massimo began to develop an understanding of artistic intention. This culminated in his own awakening at the 1997 Venice Biennial. A particular exhibit featured classic Italian paintings from older generations, but what drew Bottura’s attention were the stuffed pigeons in the rafters. He was particularly struck by the implication of bird droppings painted onto the rafters, walls, and even onto some paintings. He connected with the exhibit personally exclaiming that he was the pigeon to Italian food. In order to redefine the Italian kitchen, he had to step on some toes to get noticed[11].

Massimo rejected strict adherence to boundaries and used the influences of his grandmother, Lidia, and Lara when building the menu of Osteria Francescana. He wanted his food to mean something more than a bowl of pasta. He wanted to provide an experience in the form of food just as art can conjure memories and emotions. One of the first dishes on the menu was tortellini in broth inspired by the memories of his grandmother. Onlooking the restaurant, Massimo was dismayed to find customers eating the tortellini too quickly. He wanted to distinguish it from just another bowl of noodles. Bottura then began serving a dish called “Tortellini Walking on Broth” that featured six solitary tortellini with gelatin enhanced broth. This dish forced the customer to cherish each piece of pasta[12]. However, the Modenese people did not appreciate the message and considered it insulting to the Italian kitchen. They could not see how tortellini could provide the comfort aspect of the Italian kitchen if there was not even enough pasta for one spoonful. Rumors spread of the measly portions of Osteria Francescana scaring off most of the locals. After several bad years of business, Bottura considered closing shop, but Lara, an advent believer in Massimo’s vision, pushed him to persevere for just a bit longer. He finally introduced a few classic Italian dishes onto the menu despite his vision. One of the dishes he introduced was tagliatelle, another Emilia-Romagna creation. His fortune changed when a popular food critic happened into Osteria Francescana and ate the tagliatelle. Shortly later, an article was published apologizing to Bottura and Osteria for never being given a chance and for being misunderstood by the Modenese people[13]. This article gave Massimo the platform and attention he needed to reach food critics that would understand his work.

Massimo’s success has risen exponentially since then with each milestone becoming more fuel for propulsion towards the next. As more critics recognized the significance of his creations, he began to receive more acclaim. Soon after that fateful article, he was recognized as the best young chef in Italy and Osteria received its first Michelin star[14]. This was the validation Bottura needed in order to be recognized both locally and globally. The new attention brought international diners, and Bottura’s quest for the second Michelin star forced him to take more chances and innovate new dishes. Although the praise and acclaim gave Massimo a platform for developing an international audience, the local Modenese people were inspired to open their minds to his interpretation of the Italian kitchen. What they found were dishes that captured the intimate details of memories past. For example, “The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna” serves to evoke memories of longing to steal the crispy top layer of a lasagna. He uses bits of ingredients from the entire lasagna, cooked and fried delicately to perfectly embody the satisfaction felt when eating that part of the lasagna[15]. Another of his dishes, “Five Ages of Parmigiana Romano” showcases the depth of flavor that exists in the locally made parmigiana cheese. The dish consists of five cheeses aged between two years and fifty months prepared five different ways. By doing so, he demonstrates the versatility and range of just one ingredient[16]. A third dish called “Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart” was born through a happy accident. When one of Bottura’s sous chefs dropped a lemon tart, Massimo saw the beauty by which the tart splattered. Massimo then created a dish mimicking a dropped lemon tart by splashing the cremes across the plate and breaking the crisp atop the filling[17].

Massimo has repeatedly shown that food stands for much more than just consumption. To many people, food is their livelihood. In 2011,the same year Osteria Francescana received its third Michelin star, an earthquake struck the region of Emilia-Romagna causing severe damage to buildings and goods including thousands of aging wheels of parmigiana cheese. Facing losses of an estimated two hundred million dollars, the parmigiana producers turned to Massimo for assistance[18]. Massimo created and began promoting a new risotto cacio de pepe recipe which forwent the traditional pecorino cheese in favor of parmigiana. Through a livestream, he debuted the dish with thousands simultaneously preparing and eating risotto cacio e pepe worldwide. The dish exploded across the world, helping the parmigiana producers to sell all the broken cheese wheels.[19] By using his status and genius, Massimo influenced the evolution of risotto cacio de pepe globally to help with local calamity. Driven by a developing sense of community, he sought more ways to better the world through food.

Having reached the pinnacle of his profession, Bottura’s drive and focus turned towards giving back to the unfortunate. Due to the severe economic upheaval following the Great Recession of the 2000s, many Italians fell on hard times, losing jobs and homes. On top of domestic issues, rising tensions and civil injustices across Africa and the Middle East displacing and disenfranchising millions to refugee status. By using the Mediterranean Sea, many refugees sought asylum in Italy. The rest of the European Union’s initial hesitance to aid the waves of refugees left the burden to Italy and Greece[20]. Already financially hurt, the Italian government did not have the means to provide adequate food and shelter for all the needy in Italy. Resentful that aid was being taken from Italians in need, portions of the country pushed to close the borders.

However, most acknowledged the crisis could not be ignored. Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola designated space across different church buildings for refugee use and advocated that the rest of the eleven hundred parishes in his region do likewise[21]. Thousands found sanctuary in Milan, and its shelters eventually reached capacity. Many migrants found their new living conditions materially worse than their home prior due to insufficient state funding[22]. With little to no knowledge of the Italian language and customs, much of the new population felt ostracized and found they were it difficult to support themselves, creating a drain on national and local resources. The potential growth of the labor force incentivized migrant assimilation into Italian culture.

2015’s Expo Milano featured the theme of “Feeding the Planet – Energy for Life.” Appalled by the 1.3 million daily tons of discarded food, Massimo recognized the opportunity to demonstrate the disparity between food waste and hunger as an opportunity[23]. Through a partnership with the local Catholic church, Bottura co-founded the Refettorio Ambrosiano, with his wife. Staffed by volunteers, the head chef changed daily as world famous chefs graciously came to participate in the event. The refettorio received daily shipments of damaged or soon to expire goods from the concurring expo. Inside a converted church adorned with contemporary and designer furnishings, the chef designs a three-course meal based not only on the morning shipment but also on leftovers from the day before. The guest chefs test their skills and flex their muscles by creating comforting meals reminiscent of their heritage from the ingredients provided[24]. Bottura explains the true beauty that Refettorio Ambrosiano provides goes beyond the tangible. He says, “These are the things that fill you up with humanity and genuine feeling…cooking is about love. It’s about getting the chefs involved to make the invisible visible. About putting our knowledge and using our knowledge of ingredients to fight against waste. This is going to be the example for many other chefs[25].”

Not only were meals provided for the hungry, food brought refugees and Italians together. The meal and fine ambiance gave the two groups commonality that sparked the easing of the migrants into Italian society. The refettorio brought people from all different backgrounds to share in dinner establishing community between them. At one table, an ex-drug addict could be seen discussing religion with a priest, an Italian grandmother, an Italian immigrant of Jordanian dissent, a Muslim refugee from Senegal, and a Christian refugee from Nigeria[26]. The impact of Refettorio Ambrosiano produced noticeable value that the community did not want to lose at the end of the expo. Thanks to Charitas, charitable organizations of the Catholic Church, the kitchen remained open and continued to provide aid to many Milanese[27].

Inspired by Refettorio Ambrosiano, Massimo founded Food for Soul in 2016[28]. Vehemently denouncing the label of charity, Food for Soul identifies as a cultural project. Through their three core principles: “Quality of Ideas, Power of Beauty, and Value of Hospitality,” refettorios provide community inclusivity, feed the hungry, and reduce waste[29]. Coinciding with the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, Massimo opened Refftorio Gastromotiva, Food for Soul’s first international project with the same concepts as the original. Using excess and discarded foodstuffs from the Olympic Games, notable chefs provided disadvantaged people delicious and nutritious meals. It has continued operating in the years following the Olympics. Since then, Food for Soul has opened two more refettarios, one in London and one in Paris with another schedule to open soon in Sydney[30].

Massimo Bottura embodies the traditional Italian values through modern perspective. Instead of focusing on the culture of today, he focuses on the roots of all Italian tradition. Deep in culture and history, respect is the foundation for Italian society. Respect of nature is seen through proud artisanal crafts such as Tuscan olive oil and Parmigiana cheese. The respect of fellow Italians is seen through allegiances to locality and strong familial units. For generations, grandmothers were regarded as the best chefs in Italy by their respective families. Now, with Italy’s first World’s Best Restaurant, Bottura has taken the crown from the grandmothers by utilizing care and attention to detail that captures the love that grandmothers pour into cooking for their families. Although visually his dishes hardly resemble Italian classics, his reimagining of famed dishes focuses instead on providing the feelings of an experience past by emphasizing oddly specific yet relatable details.

[1] Croce, The Classic Italian Cookbook, 8.

[2] Croce, The Classic Italian Cookbook, 10.

[3] Lbid, 14.

[4] Parisi, Jacqueline. “Massimo Bottura On Self-Doubt,”

[5] Khanna, Jasreen Mayal. “The 6 Dishes That Define Massimo Bottura.”

[6] Jenkins, Allan. “Massimo Bottura.

[7] “Massimo Bottura.” Chef’s Table.

[8] lbin.

[9] “Massimo Bottura.” Chef’s Table.

[10] lbin.

[11] lbin.

[12] Khanna, Jasreen Mayal. “The 6 Dishes That Define Massimo Bottura.”

[13] “Massimo Bottura.” Chef’s Table.

[14] lbin.

[15] Millington, Alison. “I Met the Best Chef in the World.”

[16] “Massimo Bottura.” Chef’s Table.

[17] Millington, Alison. “I Met the Best Chef in the World.”

[18] Olmsted, Larry. “The Biggest Italian Dinner In History.”

[19] Olmsted, Larry. “The Biggest Italian Dinner In History.”

[20] McKenna, Josephine. “Italians Throw Open Their Doors.”

[21] lbin.

[22] Olmsted, Larry. “The Biggest Italian Dinner In History.”

[23] Svatek, Peter, dir. Theater of Life.

[24] lbin.

[25] “Milan’s Zero-Waste Soup Kitchen.” Fine Dining Lovers.

[26] Svatek, Peter, dir. Theater of Life.

[27] “Food for Soul.” Food for Soul.

[28] lbin.

[29] lbin.

[30] Spring, Alexandra. “Michelin-Starred Chef Massimo Bottura to Open Community Restaurant.”

Chinese in America change in food traditions Nikki Olagbegi

Chinese people have many traditions when it comes to preparing and making food. There is a long history in China for preparing dishes for specific events like longevity noodles for birthdays and health remedies like seafood noodles (Zhang, 2016). Chinese people have specific traditions like shared dining which is very different from Western ways of dining and tend to share food out of the same plate( Junru, 2011). The Chinese believe in having a balanced diet and therefore they prepare traditional foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats (Na, 2016). This includes carbohydrate staples such as rice, noodles, or steamed buns, as well as stir-fries and soups. Then usually at the end of a meal hot tea, fresh fruit, and nuts are served instead of sweets (Lv, 2004).

As China has become more industrialized there has been more international communication with Western countries like the U.S. which resulted in Chinese people being introduced to many Western food and food practices. Though China has Western food available, many people living in China still primarily choose to keep their traditional food and practices. As Chinese people immigrate into the U.S., many begin to change their food eating habits and practices. As they get more accustomed to American culture they begin to include more Western traditions into their culture. Eventually many begin to eat and make less of traditional Chinese food and eat more American food, though many older Chinese immigrants still try to maintain their traditional diets. Many Chinese immigrants in America change their food culture as a result of a change in the environment and resources. This change is especially reflected in first-generation and the second generation Chinese immigrants as they tend to eat more American food.

Several studies show the Chinese immigrants change their dietary habits. In a study by researchers at Stanford, they found that the dietary habits of North American Chinese are more similar to those of North American whites than to those of Chinese in China(Lee, 1994). In this study, it revealed that a change in the environment plays a huge role in dietary habits. In another study, it was found that “Chinese people who resided in the United States for a longer period of time shared a greater increase in their consumption frequencies of vegetables, fats/sweets, and sweet beverages” (Lv, 2004). Further Chinese people with better English proficiency had a greater increase in their consumption frequency of grains, fruits, meat/meat alternatives, and fats/sweets(Lv, 2004). This pattern of eating more fats/sweets, fruits, and grains is especially reflected at breakfast time. In an interview with Chinese immigrants, the researchers() found that many of the immigrant families ate Western breakfast, such as cereal, bread, bagels, and waffles, with milk or orange juice. Though some families still incorporate traditional Chinese breakfast foods, such as stewed spiced eggs, steamed buns, or porridge (Sun, 1999). A typical Chinese breakfast includes stuffed or plain steamed buns with a bowl of porridge (congee), a dish of pickled vegetables, wonton hot soup noodle, rice and stir-fried dishes(Junru, 2011). For lunch and dinner, dietary habits vary a lot more between families. Many would choose to eat out at an American restaurant or buy premade food to be made for lunch or dinner. In fact, “about a third of Chinese adult immigrants choose to eat out for lunch or dinner either eating Western food like salad, sandwiches, soup, and fast food or Asian restaurants” according to a survey(Sun, 1999). For children(first generation), a change in eating habits begins as they are exposed to Western culture outside of the house. Many children begin to like Western food and snacks after enrollment in American daycare, kindergarten, or school. Children would typically eat Western food provided by schools or would bring Western food such as sandwiches or mini-pizza. In an interview, one mother said, “After they went to . . . they started to like American food . . . As I said, they like to eat sandwiches, pizza, and this kind of food”(Sun, 1999). Based on the foods mentioned, Chinese adults and children change their dietary pattern as a result of immigrating to the U.S. 

Specific foods that have the highest change as a result of Chinese immigrants new dietary habits include foods with fats and sodiums. A survey found that red meats and dairy products accounted for two-thirds of the saturated fat in the North American Chinese diet, while for the people living in China, pork was the main source of saturated fats (Lee, 1994). In daily life, the Chinese usually would have a balanced meal and do not consume excessive amounts of meat in each meal (Junru, 2011). Researchers at Stanford found that there was high consumption of beef for Chinese in the United States compared to that of Chinese in China (Lee, 1994). Many American foods have milk or cheese, such as mac and cheese, ice cream, nachos, so it is very common for people living in America to consume dairy. In a study focused on dairy consumption, they found that Chinese in China seldom consumed dairy products and similar findings of low intake of dairy products among elderly Chinese had also been reported (Xu, 2010). Though many people from China, especially elderly Chinese people, are not used to eating dairy products as a part of their main diet, many Chinese immigrants try to incorporate it in some way. 

Another dietary pattern that changed for Chinese immigrants in America is that they consume Chinese food less often. In a survey, it was found that after immigration, Chinese Americans increased consumption frequency of all seven food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, meat/meat alternatives, dairy products, fats/sweets, and beverages) of Western foods while consumption frequency of traditional Chinese foods decreased(Lv, 2004). Among Chinese immigrants, younger children were especially resistant to consuming Chinese food. “In a survey conducted by Sun and other researchers they found that “Ninety percent of the families in the sample had at least 1 child who was picky about vegetables, especially Chinese vegetables, and sometimes other food like Chinese noodles, dumplings, or steamed pork with anchovy” (Sun, 1999). When it comes to trying different food options, some of the children were willing to consider only new Western food and would not try different Chinese items. One mother stated, “It is easy for my kids to accept new Western dishes, but not easy for them to accept new Chinese dishes”(Lee, 1994). Though eventually, the children begin to accept some Chinese foods, many still prefer more American foods as some mothers from the study reported that their children were more flexible at older ages and started to like Chinese food.

There are many reasons why Chinese people change their dietary habits. These changes mainly have to do with a change in an environment and/or associating new foods with their traditional foods. In an interview asking if their eating habits changed since immigrating to the United States, the researchers found that over half (56.9%) reported yes. The main explanations provided for why this change occurred were not having time to prepare Chinese traditional foods (32.6%) and having limited access to traditional Chinese food (30.8%) (Lv, 2004). Since some traditional Chinese food is not readily available at nearby stores and supermarkets, many Chinese people have to choose alternative foods. In fact, some Chinese people noted when shopping at supermarkets most adults found limited vegetable variety in the US and therefore this limitation resulted in dropping certain Chinese dishes (Sun, 1999). Since it is hard to find Chinese ingredients in many of the stores and to find some of these dishes would take a long time, the frequency of grocery shopping significantly decreased from daily or several times per week to weekly after immigration. To find some of the ingredients for their traditional dishes, Chinese immigrants often had a hard time and therefore were forced to change eating habits.

Another reason could be that some dishes are similar to Chinese foods and therefore are adapted in immigrant diets. For example, while many immigrant adults tend to not eat Western food items, foods similar to Chinese food are more accepted. In an interview, one of the immigrant fathers said, “Everybody likes to eat pasta. It is similar to Chinese noodles. We always remember to cook this dish” (Sun, 1999). Therefore, it is easy to make dishes like these since there is not too big of a difference in making these dishes, so American foods similar to Chinese foods are easily adapted to their diet.

Another reason why many Chinese immigrants change their dietary habits could be because of financial reasons. Researchers Pan, Dixon, Himburg, & Huffman found that “Chinese students, after having immigrated to the United States, changed their dietary choices to consume more American-style fast food such as pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, french fries, carbonated beverages, and dairy products. This change was attributed to the cheaper price of U.S. food compared to pricier Chinese food(Lv, 2004).” This shows that the environment that Chinese immigrants are in makes a difference as the same foods they would eat in China are more expensive, and if the higher prices are concerning to them, they would look for cheaper options.

Interest in experimental cooking also makes an impact on the change in dietary habits. There is evidence that learning of new healthy American food makes an impact on Chinese immigrant food choices. In a study, it was found that immigrant mothers were willing to change what was served at family dinners (Sun, 1999). Many of the mothers stated that they get tired of serving the same food, such as rice. Since rice is a staple food in many Chinese households, it is eaten very often and becomes monotonous and therefore Chinese people try to explore making new foods(Junru, 2011). This was different for immigrant fathers as they preferred not to change what they serve at family dinners. In an interview, a father explained his reasoning for not changing his diet, “I am used to our current diet. It is good. I don’t want to try new food items, because I am afraid they don’t taste good or I am not used to eating them”(Sun, 1999). Overall, in this case, it is primarily immigrant mothers who would be willing to change their dietary preferences because they want to experiment with other foods. 

Though Chinese people immigrate to the US and begin to eat more Western food, there are certain foods and food habits that are maintained from their Chinese culture. Chinese immigrant parents typically have more preferences for Chinese food while their children tend to prefer Western food items. In an interview conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State, they found that many parents did not like most Western dishes such as hot dogs and mac and cheese (Lv, 2004). In addition to that, another interview found that immigrant parents and their children, it was found that many of the children tended to change their eating habits and eats foods such as barbecue chicken and chicken nuggets while the adults abstain from eating such food items (Sun, 1999). Parents resistance to American foods and preference for traditional Chinese food is a likely reason why many Chinese dishes are still maintained in the diets of Chinese immigrants in America.

Fathers enforcement of traditional meals is another reason for the preservation of Chinese foods. Men are usually the head of households and tend to enforce traditional Chinese foods over Western foods. In a study of Chinese immigrants, they found that “even though many parents struggled to control children’s food choices, the father’s view of the importance of the Chinese dinner pattern had the most impact over the children’s preference for Western food” (Sun, 1999). The father’s power in determining the foods served at dinner is an important influence on the family dietary pattern and is one of the major determinants of how fast Western food is adopted into dinner. Mothers also play a significant role and if both parents resisted Western food the children’s demands would not be heard. Though mothers tend to be more sensitive to their children’s demands, only if the father changed his personal preferences and flexibility about meal choices were Western food items served to everyone at dinner(Sun, 1999). Since fathers are usually the main ones determining meal choices for families, they are part of the reason why certain Chinese dishes are maintained after immigration.

Changes in the environment from busier lifestyles to food availability have all been factors that contribute to the change in dietary habits and food practices among Chinese immigrants. Traditional Chinese food pattern provides less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calcium than the typical American dietary pattern(Sun, 1999). While American food typically has higher total fat and sodium since many of the food is highly processed and typically many foods are made excessive amounts of oil and butter. When Chinese immigrants move to the United States, they begin to slowly adopt eating typical American food. This is especially seen in children and young adults as they are exposed more to Western culture through school. For the adults, many of them either start to incorporate more Western dishes likely because their ingredients for Chinese food are limited, they learn of more Western dishes and are open to trying them or just do not have time to prepare traditional food. Over time through more exposure to Western culture, many Chinese immigrant families begin to prepare less Chinese dishes. Though living in the United States changes much of their dietary habits there are still traditions that remain constant. Many older Chinese(especially males) play a significant role in maintaining traditional dishes, either because of their preferences or to preserve traditional beliefs. This is important because many immigrants would not immediately immerse in the new culture and tend to stick with people of their own culture, therefore they would not typically change their dietary habits so drastically. Yet, for many Chinese people, they changed their eating habits significantly once immigrating to the United States. In conclusion, the environment is a significant driving force for the change in dietary habits among Chinese immigrants. 

Young Cho: History, Forms, and Impact of Instant Noodles in Japan, South Korea, and China


Instant noodles are known for being an inexpensive, quick to prepare, and filling food item. The origin of instant noodles is tied to the introduction of ramen noodles to China through noodle dishes from the Chinese, with origins dating back to the 1660s during the rule of Tokugawa Mitsukuni. Demand for ramen noodles increased in Japan post-World War II, when the United States saturated the Japanese market with cheap wheat flour to compensate for Japan’s poor harvest and Japanese troops were returning home from China. Around this time a Taiwanese-Japanese man named Momofuku Ando discovered instant noodles when he fried wheat-noodles in oil, leading to the creation of the first instant ramen, Chikin Ramen, in 1958. From Japan, instant noodle technology spread to South Korea and China, where they were introduced in the early 1960s and became popular. In Japan, South Korea, and China, instant noodle dishes reflect the tastes and noodle dishes of their respective cultures, which allowed them to thrive in their respective regions. Even though instant noodles have been widely accepted in all three regions, sales of instant noodles fell in China in 2013 to 2016, reflecting the Chinese medicinal values of not eating in one flavor, in this case saltiness. In a study done by South Korean researchers on college students in Seoul, excessive consumption of instant noodles has been linked to an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases. Instant noodles have appeared in popular culture through television, video games, a museum, and its association with college students.

            Often referred to as the life-blood of college students due to being inexpensive, quick, and filling, instant noodles are stocked in supermarkets worldwide. The concept of having adding boiling water to premade dry noodles and flavoring powder, waiting a few minutes, and having a steaming bowl of noodles is a stark contrast to how noodle dishes are traditionally made, which includes kneading dough to make the noodles from wheat and flour and creating the sauce or broth from scratch, which could take hours of preparation. This study will highlight the history, forms, and impact of this popular noodle product in East Asia, specifically in its home country Japan, as well as South Korea and China, where instant noodles have become just as popular.

            In order to understand the origin of instant noodles, we need to understand the origin of ramen, the noodle dish the first forms of instant noodles were based on. According to George Solt’s book, The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze, although ramen’s precise origin in Japan is hard to pinpoint, all stories of the start of ramen tie back to China. The earliest one, dating back to the 1660s, is a record from Japanese feudal lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni, which describes a recipe Chinese-style noodle dish that was given to him by his advisor, a Chinese refugee from the Ming dynasty (Solt, 16). Another story links the Opening to Japan event by American Commodore Matthew Perry and his gunships in 1853. As Japan was forced to open port cities, such as Yokohoma, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Hakodate, for trade, not only did Americans and Europeans arrive to trade in Japan, but also Chinese, which made key ramen ingredients, such as pork and wheat, more readily available (Solt, 17-18). Additionally, Chinese traders brought with them their methods of cooking, which included a noodle soup called lamein which consisted of hand-pulled noodles in a chicken soup with scallions (Solt, 18). The Japanese came to call this noodle dish Nankin soba, after the Chinese city of Nanjing. The last origin story, and the one that is generally accepted, is from 1910, where a Chinese restaurant in the Asakusa district of Tokyo sold a dish called Shina soba, which contained Chinese ingredients such as chashu (Chinese-style roast pork) and Japanese ingredients such as nori (Japanese seaweed) and naruto (circular cured fish paste) to match Japanese tastes, resulting in a dish resembling modern Tokyo-style ramen (Solt, 19). As the Japanese already had their own noodles, such as somen and oden, ramen was easily integrated into Japanese cuisine.

            Regardless of its time of introduction, popularity of ramen in Japan increased in the years following World War II. In the winter of 1945, Japan, under American occupation, experienced one of its worst rice harvests in history. As a result, the United States sent cheap wheat flour to compensate for the poor harvest, which, coupled with the return of Japanese soldiers from China in 1950, increased ramen production and demand in Japan (JNTO). Due to the famine, selling food for profit was prohibited in Japan, although wheat did get into the black market. This allowed daring vendors to sell ramen, though at the risk of spending time in jail if caught (Solt, 43).

            Around this time, in 1958, that a Taiwanese-Japanese man named Momofuku Ando discovered instant noodles. Due to the long wait times to get into noodle restaurants at the time, he wanted to create a noodle dish that anyone could eat at their own convenience (Zhang et. al., 212). After the credit union he worked in filed for bankruptcy in 1957, Ando built a small shed in his backyard to pursue his dream of producing ramen noodles that “can be quickly prepared and eaten at home with only hot water.” One day, he witnessed his wife making tempura, a Japanese deep-fried dish consisting of battered and fried foods such as vegetables and seafood. Seeing as the tempura flour gave off moisture in the form of bubbles, he was inspired to try the same with noodles. He discovered that frying noodles in oil drove off most of their moisture, preventing them from decomposing and therefore being able to be stored for long periods at a time. He also discovered that pouring hot water over the noodles rehydrated the noodles (NISSIN). Armed with this knowledge, Ando created the first instant noodle, Chikin Ramen, in 1958. Contrary to how it is viewed today, back when it was first introduced to the market, one package of Chikin Ramen was over six times more expensive than a bundle of udon noodles, which only sold for six yen. Despite the significant difference in price compared to traditional Japanese noodles, Chikin Ramen grew in popularity in Japan due to factors like the increase in households where both parents had to work, the introduction of Western-style supermarkets that allowed for higher volumes of processed foods, and due to use of television advertisements (NISSIN). In order to prevent imitation products from interfering with sales, Ando filed and won a lawsuit for the copyright of instant noodles in 1960 and filed for a copyright for “chicken soup hand-pulled noodles” two years later. He founded the Japan Hand-Pulled Noodle Industry Association in 1964 and transferred his patent to the noodle industry in order to lower the cost of instant noodles (Zhang et. al., 212). The success of Chikin Ramen prompted Ando and his company, Nissin Foods, to create their next product, Nissin Cup Noodles, in 1971, which added a polystyrene container and dried vegetables and seafood along with the ramen, requiring only hot water to make. As Nissin began importing instant ramen noodles to countries like the United States in the late 1960s, the term ramen has since become synonymous with instant noodles worldwide. Although today Nissin holds the majority of the market share in instant noodles in Japan with products such as Top Ramen and Cup Noodles and has imported its instant noodle products to over 80 countries (NISSIN). Other notable instant noodle companies include Sapporo Ichiban, Acecook Co., Toyo Suisan, and Myojo Foods.

            From Japan, it did not take long for instant noodles to reach nearby countries such as South Korea and China. In South Korea, instant noodles were first introduced by Samyang Foods on September 15, 1963 with the help of Myojo Foods, which supplied Samyang Foods with the technology to make the noodles, such as conveyor belts (Samyang). Then, in 1965, Lotte Foods (now Nongshim) entered the market with Lotte Ramyeon, which served as a precursor for arguably the most popular Korean instant noodle, Shin Ramyeon, in 1986. As noodle dishes such as nangmyeon (cold noodle dish made from buckwheat noodles) and janchi guksu (Korean noodle soup served in an anchovy broth) were already established long before the arrival of instant noodles in the Joseon (1392) and Goryeo (1251) dynasties, respectively, instant noodles were easily accepted by Koreans. The Korean term for instant noodle, “ramyeon,” is considered separate from the Japanese instant “ramen,” which Koreans instead call “Japanese ramyeon.” Ramyeon in Korea became a popular ‘yashik,’ or late-night food, as well as a quick, inexpensive meal for busy businessmen or college students. Ramyeon is eaten so extensively in South Korea, that it is sometimes referred to as, “the food of the people” (Hurwitz). South Korea also has the highest number of ramen noodles eaten per person from data from the World Instant Noodles Association in 2013, at 74.1 packages per capita (Kim). Today, some of the leading instant noodle brands in South Korea include Nongshim, Samyang, Ottogi, and Pulmone.

In China, a country with an extensive history of noodles dating back to the Han dynasty in 206 BC (Zhang et. al., 209), instant noodles were introduced in the early 1960s and became popular around the country in the 1980s and 1990s (Hermesauto). Even before then, Nissin, in cooperation with the International Food Company in Taiwan, introduced chicken soup instant ramen in 1968. Although the initial sales were dismal, after alterations to match Chinese tastes, the instant noodles became the best-selling product in Taiwan (Zhang et. al., 212). In Hong Kong, the Cantonese Yi mien, or long-life noodles, were a form of noodles that were deep-fried before they were dried, a process similar to that of instant noodles. The story goes that a chef from the Qing dynasty, chef Yi Bingshou, who was preparing for his mother’s birthday feast, accidently put cooked egg noodles in a boiling pan. The chef, realizing his mistake too late, fried the noodles in hot oil, and served them in soup. Due to this similarity in preparation, early instant noodles in China had ‘Yi mien’ on their packaging (Zhang et. al., 211). In addition, while Hong Kong based Winner Food Products Ltd imported instant noodles from Japan in the late 1960s and sold them under the name “Doll Noodles” before manufacturing the noodles themselves to meet high demand (Lo). Although Nissin acquired Winner Foods in 1988, instant noodles in Hong Kong are still referred to as “Doll Noodles” by some locals (Lo). Since then, instant noodle production has been handled by major Chinese food companies, including Tingyi, whose Master Kong, also known as Kangshifu, brand of noodles reportedly owned 43.3 percent of the instant noodle market in China in 2008 (Dobson). Chinese often have instant noodles as a quick meal on cross-country train rides, resembling the Japanese practice of eating bento boxes on Shinkansen bullet trains (Atkinson). Tingyi’s rivals Nissin Hualon and Uni-President owned 14.2 percent and 10.5 percent of the market share in 2008, respectively (Dobson). China is currently the largest consumer of instant noodles, eating 46.2 billion packets in 2013 alone.

Even though instant noodles had a humble beginning as simple, Japanese chicken broth ramen, the highly customizable nature of instant noodles to South Korea and China allowed instant noodles to take distinct flavors and forms to match the tastes or emulate dishes of their cultures, which allowed them to succeed in all three regions. Starting with its home country of Japan, while Nissin still produces its beloved Cup Noodles and Chikin Ramen, it has collaborated with ramen restaurants such as Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto to both advertise the restaurant and allow one to enjoy the taste of restaurant quality ramen in the comfort of one’s home. Most instant ramen in Japan come in flavors such as tonkotsu (pork), shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), and miso (soybean-paste), flavors traditionally associated with ramen sold in traditional ramen shops. However, in addition to traditional flavors there are also Japanese curry-flavored ramen, where the powder for broth is replaced with Japanese curry powder. Besides ramen, yakisoba instant noodles are also popular in Japan. Some notable instant Yakisoba from Japan include Nissin’s U.F.O., Maruka food’s Peyang Yakisoba, and Myojo Food’s Ippeichan Yakisoba. Unlike ramen, yakisoba is a traditional sauce-based street food noodle, with its instant forms only requiring hot water, and replaces the standard soup base powder with a packet of yakisoba sauce.

In South Korea, most noodle dishes are characteristically red and spicy, including the most popular South Korean instant noodle, Shin Ramyeon. Consisting of wheat noodles in a spicy beef-based broth, this instant noodle highlights Korea’s preference for spicy foods, as seen in the consumption of red baechu kimchi (red-pepper paste fermented cabbage) and gochujang (red pepper paste). Spicy instant noodles from South Korea include Nongshim’s Neoguri ramen, Ottogi’s Jin Rameyon. South Koreans often add on to their instant noodles, adding ingredients such as bean sprouts, boiled or fried egg, scallions, and mushrooms, transforming the simple packet of ramen into a substantial meal. Korean instant ramyeon is also commonly eaten with cabbage kimchi (Hurwitz). Besides ramyeon, South Korean instant noodles reflect the diversity of noodle dishes found in South Korea. There are instant forms of kalguksu (knife-cut noodles), bibimmyeon (cold noodles mixed with a sweet-spicy red pepper sauce), jjajangmyeon (Chinese-inspired noodles covered in a fried black bean sauce), and jjamppong (Chinese-inspired spicy seafood noodles). In recent years, there has been a trend of fusion foods in South Korean instant noodles. For example, take the recent internet sensation Buldak Bokkum Myeon, or fire chicken mixed noodles, released by Samyang in 2012. This instant noodle combines traditional ramen noodles with flavoring that resembles the Korean spicy chicken dish, buldak, into the noodles, complete with seaweed flakes and sesame seeds that one would find on the original dish. Another Korean instant noodle fusion food trend is the addition of cheese flavoring to traditional instant noodles. A recent Korean instant noodle trend that started five years ago, the Korean instant noodle company Paldo Foods released Cheese Ramyeon, a version of spicy ramyeon that included a packet of cheese powder in addition to powdered soup base, dehydrated vegetables, and noodles. Since then, other companies such as Ottogi have produced their own versions of cheese ramyeon. For instance, the aforementioned Buldak Ramen also received versions that included a powder for cheese and carbonara sauce in 2016 and 2017, respectively. It is said that this addition of powdered cheese to instant noodles came from the habit of some South Koreans who put American cheese on their food after its introduction to Korea by American troops during the Korean war (Hu).

In China, flavors such as beef, seafood, and spicy chili are commonly found in instant noodles. In particular, the leading brand of Chinses noodles, Master Kong, is known for its braised beef flavor. Like Korea and Japan, some instant noodle dishes imitate local flavors. For instance, Master Kong’s Tomato Sauce Instant Noodle attempts to replicate the flavor Sichuan tomato egg noodles. Another instant noodle brand, Baijia, incorporates key elements of Sichuan cuisine into their Sichuan line of products such as spiciness (chili oil) and Sichuan peppers. China also imports instant noodles from other countries, such as Shin Ramyeon from South Korea.

Although instant noodles became popular and eaten by many across Japan, South Korea, and China, over time, its consumption has been met with some resistance. For instance, the number of instant noodle packets eaten in China declined from 46.2 billion packets in 2013 to 38.5 billion packets in 2016, while consumption in all other markets remained constant over the years (Atkinson). While this trend can be attributed to the population shift of people from urban to rural areas since 2014 and the rise of the food delivery system in China (Atkinson), the main motivation for the decrease in consumption of instant noodle in China can be explained through traditional Chinese food culture’s association with health.

As explained in Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, the Chinese believe it is “a pretty crazy life when one eats in order to work and does not work in order to eat.” Food is seen as one of the main forms of enjoyment in China, with Yutang mentioning that Chinese people’s lives were “not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of their cooks” (Yutang, 248). Given this ideology, the Chinese had no distinction between food and medicine, with doctors as early as 6th century AD, attempting to cure illnesses with food first before medicine. Early Chinese cookbooks resembled pharmacopoeias, and Chinese medicine shops had medicinal ingredients, such as the horns of a young deer, next to ham (Yutang, 250). One important principle that connects Chinese food to medicine is the harmonizing of flavors—sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and pungent. Each flavor has a certain benefit to health by affecting different organs, such as bitterness helping the stomach and producing saliva. Instant noodles are categorized as salty, both due to the addition of salt in the noodle-making process and the use of salt in the broth. For instance, South Korea’s Shin Ramyeon noodles, which are also popular in China, contains 930 mg of sodium, 39 percent of the daily value of sodium. Eating excessively in one flavor, in this case saltiness, is frowned upon in Chinese society as it brings imbalance to the body. Therefore, the declining numbers of instant noodle sales from 2013 to 2016 can be explained as the rise of a more health-conscious China holding reviving its traditional values on food during the global increase in ‘unbalanced’ processed foods.

Continuing in topic of health, it has been shown that overconsumption of instant noodles was linked to obesity and higher risk of cardiometabolic disease. A study conducted on college students in Seoul, South Korea found an association frequent consumption of instant noodles to an increased risk factors of cardiometabolic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes (Huh et. al.). Recent studies also reported a positive correlation between obesity and frequent instant noodle consumption, as well as an increasing trend of premature death due to cardiovascular diseases in young adults 20 to 49 years of age in South Korea (Huh et. al.). Instant noodles, made with refined wheat flour (carbohydrate), as well as containing high amounts of calories, and fats. The soup powder or sauce also contributes fats and sugar, increasing the risk of cardiometabolic disease (Huh et. al.). In response to health concerns, noodle manufacturers have opted to alter the manufacturing process of instant noodles, such as dehydrating the noodles using hot air, which results in less fat content than traditional instant noodles, which are dehydrated by flash-frying. In 2016, Nissin reduced the amount of sodium and decided not to use MSG in their Cup Noodles (NISSIN).

In popular culture, instant noodles have been featured in television, internet, video games, and even has its own dedicated museum. Many South Korean movies and dramas feature scenes where characters are eating instant noodles, often in their bowl-noodle form, outside of a convenience store. Recently, in 2014 Samyang’s Buldak Bokkum Myeon became immensely popular not only in South Korea, but overseas as well due to it being the focus of an internet challenge called, “The Fire Noodle Challenge,” due to its intense spicy flavor. First done on the channel “Korean Englishman,” this challenge required the participants to finish a bowl of Buldak Noodles without a means to cool down the heat from the noodles. The video went viral, with other YouTubers filming themselves doing the challenge as well. In Japan, Nissin partnered with video game developer Square Enix in 2016 to cross-promote their video game, Final Fantasy XV. Advertisements for the game were present on Cup Noodle packages in 2016 while in-game content promoting Cup Noodles appeared within the game as product placement (Frank). Additionally, Cup Noodles has its own dedicated museum in Yokohoma dedicated to the accomplishments of creator Momofuku Ando and the Nissin. The interactive museum features the history and spread of Nissin products, including a replica of the shed where Ando discovered the method of flash-frying noodles. The museum even contains workshops that allows one to make their own cup noodles by mixing and matching toppings and soup flavorings (Cup Noodle Museum). However, the most well-known use of instant noodles in popular culture is its constant association with college students. Due to being inexpensive, time-saving, and filling, instant noodles have become one of the more affordable food options for college students. This, along with the prevailing stereotype that college students are poor, has led to many jokes and associations with college students as ‘ramen-eaters’ in not only East Asian countries like South Korea and China, but overseas in the United States as well.

            From its humble beginnings as a solution to waiting in long lines in Japan to an inexpensive meal that became popular among college students, instant noodles have become a prominent food product in Japan, South Korea, and China. The rise in popularity of the instant noodle can be attributed to its inexpensiveness, as well as its relatively short-time of preparation. The instant noodle also adapted to the tastes of the people of Japan, South Korea, and China, which allowed it to thrive in all three countries as a prominent form of noodles. Although excessive consumption has been linked to health issues, instant noodle companies are coming up with alternative processing techniques to make instant noodles a viable meal option. As instant noodle products continue to evolve and spread globally, perhaps one day they might truly become a “food of the people” across all cultures.





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Culinary Tourism of Italian and Chinese Cuisine: Naya Shim

Culinary Tourism of Italian and Chinese Cuisine: Is it Too Late to Turn Back?

Abstract: I took a chance on a new Netflix show to watch called, “The Chef’s Line,” which is a competitive cooking show that takes line-chefs from a top restaurant and everyday home cooks to battle out dishes from the home cook’s own ethnic cuisine. Judges with years of experience then critique the dish’s execution of authenticity, flavor, creativity, and texture. It was an interesting comparison between the tastes of home and professional culinary technique, which made me wonder if tradition and authenticity can truly be beaten and if not improved by chefs. However, as a viewer of the show I also became aware of my attraction to the pageantry of food in the world of cooking shows and docuseries. This paper explores the way the humans consider food as a spectacle (specifically via culinary tourism) and how globalized cuisines struggle to maintain and preserve the authenticity of its national culture through diaspora, economic growth, media and social conduct.

Food in its traditional sense was served as a medium to nourish the body and bring people together, but affluent modern-day societies are reassigning this initial purpose of food to nourish desires, feast the eyes, and distinguish people by class, race, and privilege. The heavy reliance on visuals in correlation with the rise in media makes it even easier to influence what consumers eat and ultimately prevails the human body’s natural intuitions such as the innate sensation of hunger. Although globalization has economic and political benefits on an international scale, it is detrimental to the survival of ethnic cultures, especially in the age of information and technology. Chinese and Italian are two of among the top globalized cuisines that have successfully gained an upper-hand leverage of influence through food, yet the countries also exemplify challenges of keeping the authenticity of their cultures and history alive. Therefore, with the commodification of culinary tourism, globalized cuisines cannot be, and are not, authentic cuisines. Is it too late for Italy and China to turn back?  

Even though food is a commodity itself, the commodification of the aesthetic of food has given rise to a whole new industry – culinary tourism. The first-world luxury of culinary tourism and the constant accessibility to food prioritizes the innovations for visuals and tastes at the cost of a dish’s cultural token. The dangers of this process called deterritorialization, “or the delinking of cuisine from place,” is that food can inherently encourage stereotypes and close-mindedness towards traditions and rituals that have been a part of a national identity for generations (Farrer 9). The consideration of culinary tourism as a luxury derives from the idea that food is sought out for the experience rather than an element necessary for survival. The purpose of food has been redefined to validate the trendy lifestyles of upper and upper-middle class consumers. Whether that means paying a visit to Italy or China for food and drinks, or simply going to a restaurant in a new city or small town, culinary tourism has opened up opportunities to travel the world without exactly leaving a country, all thanks to the clever engineering of urban foodscapes. For those with financial capital that can afford to participate in culinary tourism, “consuming ethnically coded food is more than a cultural activity closely related with kinship and ritual; it is also a long-standing material practice in global commerce and exchange” (Mannur 28). As a result, acquiring cultural capital has become just as much of a sign of wealth and prosperity as financial capital.

The first and most obvious identifier of wealth and lifestyle in [Chinese and Italian] cuisine is the difference in setting of casual dining and fine-dining. With this, people start to make criteria for higher and lower tastes, as “taste for fine cuisine is an organizing practice that makes distinctions not only among dishes and their flavors but also among the people who make and consume them” (Farrer 5). Italian cuisine’s association with fine-dining comes from use of highly esteemed chefs creating art pieces whereas many Chinese take-out restaurants make quick food that is casually meant to eat at one’s own home. Chinese takeout food is “bland, cheap, and greasy,” often a product of a family-run business instead of trained professionals (Wu 39). In fact, chef’s raise more concerns about the jeopardies of accurately depicting the appearance of their food because “the photographs impinge on the artistic value of the food. Amateur photos taken in dim restaurant lighting on smartphones fail to capture the artistry of the food as intended by the chef” (McDonnell 244). Regardless of dining experience and setting, one of the handful similarities between Italian and Chinese cuisine is that they fit into the global mentality of capitalism because most of its food is convenient in their own unique ways, especially when it comes to the cereal-based foods. Cereal based foods are also the most sensitive to demand and selection pressures because of its convenience and malleability to be paired with many flavors and ingredients regardless of its authenticity. Preparing pizza or pasta in the house seems like an attainable task, as dried pasta, sauces, cheese, and pre-made dough are easily found in the aisles of any grocery store. Unlike Italian food, these certain spices and ingredients for Chinese recipes require a separate trip to an Asian food market, making homemade Chinese dishes not so convenient for non-Chinese cooks. “There exists a demarcation between those who eat for sustenance, and those who eat for something more – whose class position puts them beyond the exigencies of calories for cost, thereby enabling expressions of alternative logics imbricated with cultural tastes” (McDonnell 264). In the realm of fast-food, Chinese take-out is meant for sustenance as it never fails to deliver on a rainy or snowy day, holiday, or late-night snack. Chinese take-out also does not require much dining furniture due to the user-friendly containers and plastic utensils it comes with. Meanwhile, pizza and pasta require an extra set of plates and are not as easily transportable or accessible 365 days a year from restaurants. Authentic taste is believed to be able to derive from both casual and fine-dining settings, but culinary tourism has actually ruined the chances of genuine authenticity as a characteristic for either atmospheric setting.

            Culinary tourism is intensified via social media platforms and blogs where aestheticism is appreciated and endless records of food are kept. Whether it is through writing, photos, or videos, media has a significant role in globalization as “transmitters of instrumental symbolizations—in all the dimensions in which globalization proceeds” (Kuang 70). Along with this new approach to a culinary gaze comes the term “foodie,” which is any person who has a love for eating, publicizing the experience of, and trying new ones, too. A foodie’s participation in the culinary media realm shape and give rise to globalized cuisines, encouraging voyeurism and degrade the attractiveness of home food production (McDonnell 242). Correspondingly, there becomes is an increased pressure for restaurant-owners and chefs to constantly evolve dishes that cater to this up-and-coming generation of food connoisseurs that will, in essence, publicize and criticize the food and restaurant for free. While some foodies and tourists are attracted to the idea of trying many styles of familiar dishes, others look for new exotic flavors and composition. Unfortunately, the concerns to make food desirable and edible for a global audience still largely dilutes the meaning of authenticity.

When it comes to food, the definition of authentic can mean anywhere from the environment, the people, ingredients, flavor, recipe, and even the technique. But out of all of these conditions, authenticity most often associates itself with the concept of home. However, the continuous diaspora of immigrants and migrants inevitably impacts the authenticity of many tastes and cultures as they make themselves at home in new regions outside of their place of origin. Cultural exchange can occur over communication or trade, which makes food vulnerable to such external influences that can alter recipes, techniques, ingredients, and introductions to new flavors. Italy and China happen to have deep histories with much geographical diversity that also face the challenge of their own regional influences, especially pasta. (Italy’s Culinary Heritage 8). However, immigrants embrace the burden of bringing the most authentic forms of themselves under specific boundaries when it comes to culinary tourism. It is no easy task to introduce anything unfamiliar, foreign, or exotic when it comes to food practices without any negative connotations that derive from stereotypes and cultural biases. Unfortunately, Italy and China already have contrasting reputations that are in place – romantic and exotic – and face different obstacles when it comes to meeting global spectators’ expectations.

The globalization of cuisines means it has been generalized to embody the perception of the home-country; advertising the good, testifying the bad, and hiding the ugly. This is where media is both a helpful and hurtful tool when it comes to establishing a national image. Although some photos and videos can be set up to prejudicial information, others act as a very transparent lens that give a firsthand look at the culture and lives of native people. The problem with this is that like many countries, some regions are more developed than others. But media has the scary ability to twist reality and words to exhibit any type of visual evidence in support of any sense of barbarity, immediately putting one’s own culture superior to the other as an excuse to form a valid, but possibly incorrect, opinion. From personal observation, media and entertainment in America, associates Italian food with fine-dining, romance, familiarity, and professionally made. Contrastingly, Chinese food is synonymous with take-out, cheap, exotic, and family-owned and operated. It is important to distinguish the differences between the familiar and the exotic as part of the presentations for Italian and Chinese cuisine. Though many of these characteristic traits are used as methods to further promote culinary tourism, the immigrants are, in essence, accepting their new identities that foreigners have established for them to assimilate themselves with. Therefore, not only does globalization drag out the lineage of food away from the country of descent but also the people. Regional dishes “are living records of the way in which a society lives, thinks, and feels,” which makes food a very central aspect towards the understanding of distant culture (“Italy’s Culinary Heritage” 8). As globalization and the popularity of culinary tourism grows, so does the fabrication of foodstuffs and the loss of historical records and tradition, slimming the chances of recognizing pure authenticity.

The demands for culinary tourism of any globalized cuisine is made possible in almost every major city in the world due to ethnic enclaves. The irony of globalization is that it disassociates the native people farther out from home and attracts foreign people in. It is a common misconception that the best place to get authentic food is the country itself of that particular cuisine because culinary tourism around the world is synthetically fashioned to any newcomers. The same then applies to ethnic enclaves that were once sources for some of the most authentic versions of food one could get outside of the home-country since the first ethnic businesses to open are usually food related (grocery stores, butchers, and restaurants) for the sake of recent immigrants to have access to ingredients native to their country and prepare dishes from home (Il Ventre Di Torino 95). Constant language barriers and cultural pressures for immigrants over an elongated amount of time led to the production of their own jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors, which ultimately formed communities such as Little Italy and Chinatown. These small businesses “offer employment opportunities for newly arrived migrants, who might not have language skills to find jobs in the host country” (Il Ventre Di Torino 95). Interestingly, the labels of these two ethnic enclaves seem to reflect the same perceptions of Italy and China as previously mentioned. “The establishment of food-related businesses [usually] indicates that migrant communities are putting down roots,” but it seems that Italy’s so-called roots were given more room to grow than China’s (Il Ventre Di Torino 96). Italy has been given the title of a little-country whereas vast China is confined to a town. This observation ties back to the stigmatization of China’s association with the exotic and dirty and Italy’s style of familiarity and cleanliness as a branch of European culture from a Eurocentric standpoint. A more in-depth observation for the so-called confinement of Chinatowns is that “in a restaurant kitchen that is largely mono-ethnic or where entry is closed by religious, linguistic, or other barriers, the culture of that kitchen will spread in a more limited fashion” (Farrer 14). But when it comes to Chinese food, the preparation may require some extra knowledge, skills, and tools to execute a noodle dish that simply cannot be imitated by any restaurant.

Due to culinary tourism, ethnic enclaves are not always the best representations of their home countries. In fact, it is quite opposite, as ethnic enclaves have become a spectacle rather than an embodiment of so-called true culture. For Chinatowns, the evidence of this is embedded in the elaborate gates of Chinatown, splashes of red and names such as golden, panda, wok, lucky, palace, jade, dragon, and garden are displayed to capture the crux of China’s civilizations. On the other hand, Little Italys around the world are also a spectacle with the air filled with the voices of loud Italian accents, open kitchens that showcase pizza dough being tossed up, and the Italian flag as the color scheme for many shops. As much as the food and culture in both Chinese and Italian cuisines have undergone many changes, the common theme across all ethnic enclaves is that they are frozen in time. There are no imperial gates in modern China or fast-pizza joints on every block in Italy, but these are the consequences of rebranding or traveling cuisines, which “are usually still identified through place names and are re-grounded in new settings, through indigenization, rebranding, and other processes of adapting to local circumstances” (Farrer 1). As a brand, Littly Italys and Chinatowns go untouched and are never elaborately updated amongst the rest of the urban cityscape they are located in, perhaps because it is the only way to keep the essence of the culture visual to the eye. Again, it all comes back to the notion of the heavy reliance of aestheticism in modern-day life. This is at no fault of the immigrant families because it is their role as business-owners to tailor to the demands of consumers. The diminishing sense of authenticity is largely at the fault of society and the consumers for the lack of knowledge in cultural relativism and bias.

Unfortunately, culinary tourism and the efforts to be widely accepted even effects the home-countries themselves. The Porta Palazzo, a multiethnic market environment located right in Italy, just recently experienced a change in the 2000’s. Author Rachel Black recalls her second visit to the market without a couple who sold live chickens. It turns out that during renovations, the administration prevented the long-time vendors from returning because of public health concerns that derive from live poultry. Another fellow vendor “noted that this was a huge loss to the market in terms of authenticity” (Il Ventre Di Torino 115). Even ethnic enclaves within Italy itself has lost a sense of its own domestic authenticity, which is the harsh reality that culinary tourism dawns upon many ethnic communities. One of the many dilemmas attached to indigenization is the association with Asia and dogmeat, where the traditional and ethnic practice is criminalized in the western world especially, in the United States. It is one example of a part of China’s select regional cuisines that cannot be embraced, as dogmeat is used as an excuse to humorize Asian culture and evidence to further support the claim of such primitive behavior (Wu 42). This stems from the cultural bias of American families forming close relationships with their pet dogs, and the failure to understand the medicinal practice of eating dogmeat that Chinese people for thousands of years have benefitted from. There is undoubtedly a hypocrisy and cultural ignorance towards Chinese cuisine’s traditional medicinal usages, as the iconic dish chop suey that usually incorporates recognizable meats, “derives from the Chinese phrase zasui, which refers to a miscellany of chicken livers, gizzards, fungi, bamboo shoots, pig tripe, and bean sprouts in a brown sauce” (Chan 178). As a result, cultures must willingly be rebranded under a specific list of conditions that are conventional to a widely Eurocentric audience.

However, countries have utilized the soft power of food by enacting policies and organizations not only to increase tourism, but to encourage agricultural exports and express cultural diplomacy (Farrer 15). The overall objective of government involvement is to establish a set of conditions that becomes nationally, and later globally, accepted for a recognizable identity under their own terms. Therefore, culinary soft power can be utilized by “local, regional, or national governments to promote and sustain culinary styles or traditions that are meant to be representative of a nation” (Assmann 1). In this case, food is a great tool to infiltrate the lives of others and provide a learning experience, not just a dining experience. Italy has done this by establishing the first annual World Pasta Day on October 25, 2006 mutually around the same time the Porta Palazzo was making its adjustments (“The Truth About Pasta” 25). The global celebration of pasta on this day is also a moment to educate the world about pasta’s cultural significance and honors Italy as its birthplace. China has taken the direct-route of media and took a federal investment on a state-run food docuseries called, A Bite of China, to showcase stories of the connections people have with food, the diversity the country’s true regional cuisines, and the elaborate preparations real Chinese food requires to counter the conventions of general ts’s chicken and lo-mein (Kuang 69). For Italy, the country makes efforts to overcome the stigmatization of the unhealthy attributes of pasta whereas China broadcasts different regions of China and reflects on its national history to highlight the details of “the country’s foodscape in terms of its discursively constructed history, culture, and materiality (Kuang 69). By backing up knowledge with factual statements and evidence, nations intend to transform the misinterpretations or misunderstandings behind many of the stereotypes that impact one’s experiences from any predispositions.

It is worth recognizing the industrialization of food as an experience, because the epidemic of culinary tourism has undoubtedly affected every globalized cuisine’s chance in the world to re-trace the roots of its own past in the search for authenticity. With the multiplicity of skewed impressions and records on food experience through the parallel growth in media, it is very confusing for the consumer to understand a strict definition for authentic Italian and Chinese cuisine. However, food is still revered as a part of daily life, which means an opportunity for nations to perpetually educate and familiarize themselves through food every day. So, to answer my question earlier – yes – it is indeed too late for Italy and China to turn back from globalization and revive a traditional authentic identity. On the bright side, there is a promising future for countries such as Italy and China because globalization is an opportunity to redefine a nation’s identity and reputation to shape a whole new meaning of what is authentic. By enforcing the establishment of national cuisine and utilizing the power behind food, it is time for new traditions to take place.




Works Cited

Assmann, Stephanie. “Global Engagement for Local and Indigenous Tastes: Culinary Globalization in East Asia.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, 2017, pp. 1–3., doi:10.1525/gfc.2017.17.3.1.

Farrer, James. “Traveling Cuisines In and Out of Asia: Toward a Framework for Studying Culinary Globalization.” The Globalization of Asian Cuisines: Transnational Networks and Culinary Contact Zones, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 1–19.

“Il Ventre Di Torino: Migration and Food.” Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market, by Rachel E. Black, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012, pp. 93–118.

“Italy’s Culinary Heritage.” The Classic Italian Cookbook, by Julia Della Croce, Dorling Kindersley, 2000, pp. 8–17.

Kuang, Lanlan. “China’s Emerging Food Media: Promoting Culinary Heritage in the Global Age.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, 2017, pp. 68–81., doi:10.1525/gfc.2017.17.3.68.

Mannur, A. “Culinary Nostalgia: Authenticity, Nationalism, and Diaspora.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, vol. 32, no. 4, 2007, pp. 11–31., doi:10.1093/melus/32.4.11.

McDonnell, Erin Metz. “Food Porn: The Conspicuous Consumption of Food in the Age of Digital Reproduction.” Food, Media and Contemporary Culture: the Edible Image, by Peri Bradley, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, pp. 239–264.

The Truth About Pasta.” The Truth About Pasta, Oldways Preservation Trust , 2006,


Cultural Significance of Chinese Noodles

Ryan Xu

Cultural Significance of Chinese Noodles

Having a history of over four thousand years, the noodle is a significant and inseparable part of the Chinese culture. Despite the fact that the Chinese people have eaten noodle dishes for thousands of years, the ingredients and cooking methods of noodle dishes varied greatly throughout the history of China, as well as in the different regions of China. The noodle has the capability to adequately reflect the history, regional differences, social changes, traditional values and cultural identity of China.

Chinese noodles have more than two thousand different kinds of cooking methods, and have influenced the noodle culture of the entire East Asian region, including countries such as Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Mongolia, Indonesia and Thailand. However, the noodle, as well as the main ingredient for making noodles, wheat, did not originate from China. Wheat was first cultivated in the Mesopotamian plains about nine thousand years ago. Six thousand and five hundred years after the birth of wheat, wheat planting technology, together with noodle making techniques, began to spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, across the Balkans and the Alps, and eastward through Central Asia to China. Therefore, the “Silk Road,” which started from Chang’an and passed through Gansu, Xinjiang, Central Asia, Western Asia and even Mediterranean countries, was also called the “Noodle Road”. Arab traders traveling along the Silk Road carried dough with them as dry food. Before eating the dough, they would divide it into small pieces, roll them into strips, dry them and roast them on fire. Therefore, these Arab traders created the earliest form of noodles. The noodles they made entered the mainland of China along the Silk Road and began to flourish in the Central Plains of China. However, Chinese people who lived in the Central Plains liked to eat soup dishes, so they would boil noodles in water. Another important representation of the Chinese food culture, chopsticks, were also created in this process of boiling noodles.

Although China was not the originating place for noodles, the earliest form of noodles was discovered in a village in Northwest China. The uncovered noodles was more than four thousand years old, which provided evidence that Chinese had a culture of eating noodles for over four thousand years. In ancient China, noodles were originally called bing, which means “cake” in the modern Chinese language. The noodle had different shapes, names and cooking methods in different time periods of Imperial China. According to the Han dynasty scholar Liu Xi in his book Shi Ming, the noodle was called suo bing during the Han dynasty. Later, during the Northern Wei dynasty, shui yin bing, which literally meant “water induced cakes,” was documented in the book Qi Min Yao Shu, written by the scholar Jia Sixie. In his descriptions, shui yin bing was a kind of boiled noodle that was about a foot long and as thin as “leek leaves.” During the Tang dynasty, a kind of noodle dish called leng tao, or cold noodles, gained popularity among the Chinese people. Cold noodles are still popular among Chinese people today, and it is sold in noodle restaurants all around the country, especially during the summertime, when the weather is hot outside. However, instead of its ancient name leng tao, cold noodles are now called liang mian or leng mian. Noodle dishes had even more variations during the following Song dynasty. During the time, food markets and restaurants served over ten different kinds of noodle dishes. Two of the most famous dishes were cha rou mian and jiao tou mian. Jiao tou mian was a type of noodle dish that had gravy with meat or vegetables poured over it, and even until now, it is still a famous and popular noodle dish in southern China. During the later dynasties, new cooking techniques and methods for noodles were invented, and thus creating new noodle dishes. Some of the most famous ones were gua mian during the Yuan dynasty, pulled noodles and sliced noodles during the Ming dynasty, and yi fu mian during the Qing dynasty.

Even though people from almost every region in China have a culture of eating noodle dishes, noodle dishes in northern China and southern China are vastly different in noodle making techniques, ingredients and taste. Even the Chinese character for the noodle, mian, has different meanings in northern China and southern China. To the northern people, mian usually means flour, while to the southern people, mian refers to processed noodles. Noodles in the south are mainly made of flour and duck egg yolk, while noodles in the north are mostly made of wheat flour and alkaline water. Comparing to southern noodles that use egg yolk, northern noodles that use alkaline water can be digested more easily, and therefore, for the northern Chinese people, noodles are considered the main and staple food. Because noodles are the main food in the north, the quality and quantity of noodle dishes are more important in the north than in the south. Northern people often season their noodles with green onions, raw garlic and coriander. Since the climate in the north is also much colder than the climate in the south, northerners would also use large amounts of cooking oil and salt in making the noodle dishes, so that they can keep their bodies warm when eating the noodles. Northerners would also eat noodles with mantou, bread or pancakes in order to fulfill their stomachs. On the contrary, southern Chinese people consider rice as their main and staple food, and noodles are only regarded as snacks. Therefore, noodle dishes in the south are usually much less in quantity than noodles dishes in the north, and seasonings such as ginger, garlic or coriander are usually not included in the dishes. Instead, southerners often season their noodles with soy sauce, pickles and vegetable oil. Therefore, the differences in noodle dishes can also represent the difference in the climates and traditions for the northern and southern Chinese people.

The cultural identity of China can also be found in the noodles, considering their interesting styles, meanings and background stories. Food plays a significant role in the Chinese culture, and among the numerous categories of Chinese foods, the noodle is one of the most representative of the Chinese traditional values, beliefs and cultures. Chinese people eat different kinds of noodles at different occasions, seasons and festivals. For example, it is the Chinese custom to eat the longevity noodles during birthdays, noodles with gravy when moving into a new house or at the time of a marriage, and dragon whisker noodles on the day of lunar February 2. There are also noodles with interesting stories associated with them, such as the “dutiful son’s noodle,” “dan dan noodles,” “sister-in-law noodles” and “old friend noodles.” (Zhang, Noodles: Traditional and Today, 210) These noodles reflected the love, dreams, care and friendship of the people who cooked the noodles. Therefore, each of these noodles is not only unique in cooking style and tastes, but is also special in its meanings and representations of the emotions of the people who cooked them. The interesting background stories of the various types of noodles reflect the important traditional Chinese values of filial piety, family relations, friendship, and care for others.

One of the most famous types of Chinese noodles is the Crossing-the-Bridge noodles, which is a rice noodle soup from the Yunnan Province. Crossing-the-Bridge noodles also has an interesting story associated with it. The story described a boy who was ordered by his father to study for the Imperial Exams in the cottage of an island, and the boy was not allowed to leave the island until his studies were completed. Since the island was far away from his house, and the story took place in the coldest months of the year, all the meals that the family cook had cooked for the boy would become cold and unpalatable when the meals reach the boy. After being troubled by this problem for a long time, the cook finally came up with an idea and invented a new type of noodle dish, Crossing-the-Bridge noodles, by adding an extra layer of hot chicken broth and chicken fat to the noodle soup. According to the story, the noodle was invented to have the capability of keeping warm for a long time under cold winds and temperatures, so that when the cook brings the noodle soup across the bridge to the boy who was studying for the imperial examinations, the noodle soup would still be hot and warm enough to eat. “ ‘It is too hot!’ he said, and began laughing. ‘I know,’ said the cook, nodding happily. ‘It is the fat that keeps out the wind, the cold, and the bad spirits. Now that you have the nourishment you need, learning will come naturally and gracefully.’ The boy ate the delicious soup with a hunger that he did not know he had as he watched the chef skipping like a child across the bridge back to his kitchen.” (Durack, Noodle, 183) Therefore, Crossing-the-Bridge noodles reflected the cleverness and mastery of the cook in cooking, as well as the love and care he had for the boy, and the passion he had for pleasing people with his food.

Similar to China, Italy is also a country where the noodle plays a significant role in the food culture. Italians also have a long history of eating noodles, and pasta is one of the most important and representative foods in the Italian culture. As the writer Massimo Montanari mentioned in his book Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture, “Pasta means Italy. No other food identifies more effectively the many parts of Italian gastronomy and, in a way, unites them.” (Montanari, Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture, 159) Montanari asserts that pasta can be viewed as a metaphor for both unity and variety in Italian food culture. Although pasta is a single type of food that can serve as the cultural identity for Italy, pasta is also divided into a large number of varieties, each of them unique in their shape, cooking methods, sauces, and purposes. Therefore, for the cultural identity for Italy, pasta can represent both unity and differences, which is important for Italy, a country that had a long history of being divided into different parts, but were eventually united together into one country. Although Italy is one single country now, many of its regions have different cultures and traditions, similar to the fact the each region has their unique style of making pasta. Therefore, noodles are important cultural representations in both China and Italy. Both Chinese noodles and Italian pasta can represent the history, geographic differences and traditional values and beliefs of the Chinese and Italian culture. However, the symbols of the Chinese noodle dishes themselves add an extra layer of complexity to the representation of Chinese culture, while Italy and Italian pasta, with reliance on the alphabet, might find it difficult to reach this layer of complexity.

To further investigate the cultural and social significance of Chinese noodles, I performed an interview with my father on the topic of noodles. The reason I chose to interview him was that he had lived in both China and the United States for extended periods of time, and had experience in the food cultures of both countries. Additionally, he also enjoyed eating noodle dishes, and had some insights in the food cultures of China and the United States. During my interview, I tried to explore two main themes, the reflection of Chinese society in noodles and the cultural influence of noodles on my interviewee. My father’s answers provided me enough information to answer these two questions. In our dialogue, he first mentioned two changes in the noodles, which were that instant noodles were once regarded as a high-quality food in the Chinese society, but not anymore, and that noodle dishes today were becoming more delicate and more expensive. He also mentioned two changes in his preference for noodles which reflected changes in the Chinese society. First, he mentioned that he could not afford to eat braised beef noodles and eel noodles when he was a child, but he ate them frequently now, and the second change was that he loved to eat instant noodles when he was young, but now he tried to avoid eating them as much as he could.

These changes that he mentioned all provided evidence for that fact that China’s economy had grown rapidly over the last several decades, and the Chinese people are becoming wealthier and have more money to spend on food. China has become one of the most rapidly growing economies in the world ever since the economic reform began in China in 1978. According to the World Bank, China’s poverty rate fell from 88% percent in 1981 to only 0.7% in 2015, and more than eight hundred and fifty million Chinese people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. Such rapid economic growth and dramatic social change are reflected in the changes and improvements in the ingredients, design, taste and price of noodle dishes in China, as well as the Chinese people’s impressions and relationship with noodles.

Transitioning to the other theme of how noodles have influenced my father culturally, I asked him about his thoughts on the noodles he usually ate when he was living in the United States. He answered that he did not like to eat the instant ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese, but he enjoyed some Western noodle dishes such as pasta and spaghetti. Since he grew up eating the traditional Chinese style noodles, he preferred Chinese noodles and noodles with soup base, and he would often make traditional Chinese style noodles by himself at home when he was living in the United States. Following this topic, I asked him directly how noodles had influenced him culturally. According to him, he thought that noodles had become one of the necessary foods for him, because he had eaten noodles for over forty years, ever since he was a child. Even when he was living in the United States, he would find Chinese restaurants and order some noodle dishes to eat, and he would also buy noodles from Chinese supermarkets and cook noodle dishes by himself at home. He even claimed that if he did not eat noodles for a long period of time, he would feel like something was missing from his life. Additionally, whenever he ate noodles now, especially traditional Chinese soup-based noodles, it would remind him of his childhood memories and his hometown. Therefore, from the thoughts and examples my father gave in this answer, I came to the conclusion that noodles were becoming a culturally inseparable part of him, and for him, noodles would represent his childhood as well as his hometown. Such influence is common for almost all the Chinese people, as the noodle is one of the favorite foods of the Chinese people for thousands of years, and it is also a large part of the Chinese diet, both in northern China and southern China.

Thus, the history of Imperial China and the differences in traditions between northern and southern China are reflected in Chinese noodles. The cultural identity of China and the important traditional Chinese beliefs and values can also be found in the background stories of different noodle dishes as well as in noodle itself. Through the interview I conducted, it is also evident that social changes and rapid economic growth in modern China are also mirrored in the changes of noodle dishes, and noodles have become a symbolic cultural representation for the Chinese people.



Works Cited

Chiu-Duke, Josephine, and Michael S. Duke, editors. “Food in Chinese Culture: The Han Period (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.).” Chinese History and Culture: Sixth Century B.C.E. to Seventeenth Century, by Ying-shih Yü, Columbia University Press, NEW YORK, 2016, pp. 91–121. JSTOR,–17858.11.

Durack, Terry. “Crossing the Bridge.” Noodle, Pavilion, 2001, pp. 182–183.

Feng, Li. Early China: a social and cultural history. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Fodor’s. Kelly, Margaret (ed.). Fodor’s China. Random House, 2009, p. 135. ISBN 978-1-4000-0825-4.

Montanari, Massimo. Let the Meatballs Rest: and Other Stories about Food and Culture. Columbia University Press, 2015, pp. 156–163.


“Poverty Around The World — Global Issues”.

Regions of Chinese food-styles/flavours of cooking, University of Kansas.

Roach, John. “4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China”. National Geographic. 2005.

Zhang, Na, and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, no. 3, 2016, pp. 209–212., doi:10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.003.


Noodles Around the World

Zoe Walker


In the course of their migration around the world, noodles have been significantly influenced and changed by the culture around them. Starting with the background of noodles and their homelands in both Italy and China, this paper will discuss the forms of travel noodles have taken to expand throughout the world. I will explore the role of noodles on multiple different continents and talk specifically about different noodle dishes from different countries on those continents. Using each dish as a representation of the country, I will discuss the history and culture of those regions and its association with that noodle dish. The importance of this paper is to show how the rest of the world took noodles from two predominantly noodle countries, Italy and China, and incorporate their own styles to make these noodles a part of their own personal history. In summary, noodles are multicultural and universal, they are not limited to a specific region and have adapted and changed throughout history.

            Food is culture. Food has influenced history, and in turn, historical events, customs, and traditions have influenced the food that is made and consumed. The ingredients used, the design of the dish, the flavors incorporated, and even the names of foods are all influenced by society and the culture surrounding it. One food that has been constantly growing, changing, and evolving over time is the noodle. Throughout this course, I have gained countless insights on the noodle and its journey throughout time, starting with the various theories of origin in either China or Italy 4,000 years ago. As we learned, a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles was discovered in northwestern China providing evidence for the evolution of noodles beginning in China. There has also been the Marco Polo theory that Marco Polo traveled from to China from Italy and then returned to Italy with noodles which he introduced into the Italian culture. However, as the reading History of Pasta states, pasta was in Italy long before Marco Polo in forms such as lasagna mentioned as early as 1st century AD. Just as there are multiple theories that change and evolve, so do the noodles themselves throughout time. Classic Italian and Chinese noodle dishes have been created and perfected and over time they have become well established globally. With this expansion of noodles and noodle dishes around the world, various countries have created their own spins on pasta and noodle dishes that incorporate their past culture and history. Throughout this paper, I would like to delve into the spread of noodles around the globe and how countries have created their own noodle dishes to reflect their history and culture just as China and Italy have done.

            Noodles have traveled the expanse of the globe in various forms. One form that is well known is through the Silk Road. The Silk Road was established during the Han dynasty and established trade between the East and West, mostly between European countries and Asian countries as travel across the seas was not well established. In 1453 the Silk Road closed but, in its place, came the travel of noodles across the seas during the Age of Discovery, Columbian Exchange, and Triangular Trade. This form of trade expanded noodles across the sea to the New World such as North and South America. Over the course of time, new noodle dishes have been established around the world due to the massive global trade routes that were created over the years. In various continents such as Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa, renditions of Italian and Chinese noodle dishes have manifested. Dishes such as ramen from Japan, pho from Vietnam, Kaesespaetzle from Germany, sopa seca from Mexico, boerewors pasta from South Africa and so many more.

            Starting off in Asia, there are millions of noodle dishes that have been created from various countries in Asia full of culture and history. One of those countries is Japan with its famous noodle dish ramen. Ramen is considered the national dish of Japan and has grown in popularity worldwide. The dish consists of the noodles, broth, meat and vegetables. The noodles are made from wheat flour, salt, water, and baking soda which are simple ingredients similar to Italian and Chinese noodles. There are eighty-thousand ramen shops in the country of Japan and varying regions in Japan have different styles and variations of this dish. While this noodle can trace its roots to China, it migrated to Japan via Chinese immigrants in the 1880s where it gained its popularity and notoriety. Following the immigration of the Chinese noodle, in the 1910s ramen took on a Japanese spin with the inclusion of ingredients such as soy sauce, bamboo shoots and pork. This turned this dish into a hearty lunch food that was shared among Japanese workers. During the 1920s and 1930s ramen grew rapidly alongside the rapidly growing urban cities. This cheap, fast and nutritional dish fit perfectly within the confines of the modernizing and industrial lifestyle. However, following this boom in economy and ramen production came World War II. Shortages associated with war lowered the production of wheat noodles making it impossible for Japanese to enjoy ramen. By the end of the war in 1945, ramen dish consumption was extremely low. Over time the production of wheat noodles and other products increased as people returned to jobs in construction and heavy industry and the economy grew. As ramen culture continued to expand it began gaining attention globally. This reached its pinnacle in global popularity with the introduction and spread of instant ramen in the seventies. This invention created the fad that is instant ramen throughout the world. Since then ramen has become an international dish that is beloved around the world.

            There are many cultural ties associated with ramen throughout Japan’s history. Over the years there have been different variations of ramen dependent on regions, food preferences, religion, etc. According to the article 10 Types of Ramen and Where They Are From, ramen from regions of Hokkaido such as Sapporo, with its hearty rich flavors, and Asahikawa, with its layer of oil to trap in the heat, are designed to fight the harsh winters of the region. While it has been signature for the ramen broth to be made with meat, the adaptation of vegetarian broth has also manifested due to cultural shifts. Tantanmen which is a broth that incorporates tastes made from black or white sesame has allowed for the creation of vegetarian ramen throughout Japan. There has also been the creation of halal ramen which has becoming increasingly prevalent in Japan and other countries of the world.

            Another personal take on noodle dishes in Asia is pho noodles from Vietnam. Unlike the origination of Japanese ramen, the history of pho is not quite clear. There have been varying speculations of the origin story of Vietnamese pho. In the article Pho: The Vietnamese Addiction there are various theories such as it evolved from a Mongolian dish called Hot Pot. However, another theory suggests it came from Vietnamese nationalists living in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Here they learned to create local dishes such as a goat meat noodle soup which they took back to Vietnam and provided their own spin to it. Another theory speculates that pho was created to use up the leftover beef from the Vietnamese Tet (New Year’s) celebrations. While all of these origin stories claim to be the original, one theme is common: pho originated in Hanoi, northern Vietnam, and remained largely a northern Vietnamese dish for a long time. That is until 1954 when millions of Vietnamese fled south and settled in Saigon to escape the communist regime of the north. With this mass migration to the south came the spread of pho to the southern region. This also created a separation between Hanoi (north) and Saigon (south) pho noodles. The different styles of pho noodles created in these parts of Vietnam and smaller regions throughout the country have all been influenced by local cultural ideas and customs. There are northerners who believe the purest form of pho contains beef, fish sauce, lemon juice, chilis and sliced onions. There are southerners who enjoy the addition of sprouts, hot peppers, or chili black bean sauce. There have also been versions that substitute beef for chicken which is a lighter healthier taste. With all these regional variations of this beloved Vietnamese dish, there is still a standard requirement that must be met when making pho. The broth must be clear and void of any blood or fat indicating that the cook properly skinned and cleaned the bones. The proper bones must be used to create a harmonious broth that ties together all the ingredients and spices. There is also the importance of the freshness and quality of the ingredients. All ingredients, especially the meat, should be fresh not frozen to maintain all the rich flavors. In regard to the making of the noodles, they should be made from a paste of ground rice, alum and water then rolled flat and cut into thin noodle slices. If all of this is followed, you are sure to create an authentically delicious pho noodle dish. Throughout all these cooking criteria, the theme of fresh, handmade, local ingredients is integral to the making of pho noodles. This theme of using fresh and authentic ingredients can be seen throughout the course on Chinese and Italian noodles as well and it is clear to see that this idea and belief has spread through other countries along with the noodles themselves.

            Moving into the continent of Europe, there are many countries and many cultures that have taken the noodle and created a dish with a sprinkle of their own personal history. As stated, the Silk road provided the means of transportation of goods between the East and the West. While it is believed that noodles weren’t brought to Italy via Marco Polo and the Silk road, this means of transportation still provided noodles with the access to spread into other European countries. In Germany the pasta dish Kaesespaetzle is an adaptation of the noodle which is similar to the American dish macaroni and cheese. Kaesespaetzle is made with spaetzle pasta which is beloved in Germany and is used to make many different pasta dishes. Spaetzle originated in the region of Swabia in Germany and is a staple in this region. Dating back to medieval times in 1725, spaetzle has been a big part of German culture and heritage. Various poems and songs were written about it as it was celebrated and loved by the people. In the article The History of Spaetzle the author mentions a poet Josef Eberle who called it “…The Foundation of our cuisine, … the glory of our country, …the alpha and omega of Swabian cuisine….”. Along with the culture and heritage of the pasta itself there is significance in the name spaetzle. It is speculated that the name comes from the German word spatzen which translates to little sparrow. The implications behind this name are widely speculated. Some believe the food got its name by how the people held the dough in their hand like it was a little sparrow to mold it and get its shape. Others believe that the dough was formed into 2 oval shapes resembling a sparrow’s body. Whichever theory is believed, it is clear that there is a lot of culture surrounding this German pasta.

            Spaetzle is pieces of dough cooked in boiling water. The pasta is made from flour, egg, and water and the pieces are non-uniform. From this pasta comes a variety of dishes one of which is Kaesespaetzle. This dish is referred to as the German macaroni and cheese, but it has a denser pasta, regional cheese, and fried onions. As a result, this creamy dish has become a source of comfort food throughout the country. Homemade spaetzle is made using a spaetzle board and a scraper. It is then layered with shredded Emmenteler cheese and caramelized onions and baked in an oven.

            Moving into the country of Spain, a pasta called cannelloni has moved from its origins in Italy and has become more popular and celebrated in the region of Catalonia, Spain. Cannelloni became popular in Catalonia in the 19th century and was renamed canelons in this region. In the past, when these dishes were gaining notoriety in Catalonia, they were filled with the leftover meat from celebrations on Christmas day including the one called the “one-pot meal tradition”. As a result, this dish is most commonly consumed on December 26th which is called Boxing Day or Saint Stephen’s Day. Due to the tradition of using the meat leftovers, canelons (Catalonia) have gained their distinction from cannelloni (Italy). In Catalonia they are stuffed with the cooked meat while in Italy they use minced meat mixed with tomatoes. The tradition of eating canelons on this day still exists; however, these pastas can also be filled with a variety of different ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables or cheese. These stuffed pastas are then covered with béchamel sauce, which is said to also originate from Italy, and grated cheese. This Catalonian dish can also be paired with Spanish wine and nutmeg to tie the dish together.

            Noodles are non-conforming and adapt depending on the region they are in. Through this dish you can see how these noodles travel and other countries apply their own culture and tradition to it. While the pasta is the same in both Italy and Spain and there are still commonalities, you can see how the region of Catalonia has created its own dish that breaks away from the Italian version. Starting with the name and ending with the drinks paired with it, these two adaptations of this pasta are different and indicative of the culture of that region.

            In the continent of South America there are countless countries that have their own form of noodles. In Mexico there is the dish sopa seca de fideo which translates to dry noodle soup. According to the article Sopa Seca de Fideo, Mexican Noodles, this dish is very common in Central Mexico and the process of cooking this dish is similar to the making of Mexican red rice or sopa de arroz. The noodles used in this dish are typically very thin, fideo or vermicelli noodles, and are cut then cooked before being added to cook with the other ingredients. It is traditional to use chicken cooked in oil for the broth. Then ingredients such as garlic, onions, peppers, and ají panca are added to the broth with tomatoes. The noodles are added to the broth and the noodles absorb the flavors marinating in the liquid. This dish has been deemed a comfort food in Mexico, but it is believed to have originated in Spain. However, it can also be traced further back to Italy since the pastas for this dish originally came from Italy. This noodle then traveled to South America during the various trade routes that were established such as the Columbian Exchange. Mexico has made this dish its own by including ingredients that were native to the land before the Columbian exchange such as chili peppers. This shows that like the history of the canelons dish from Spain, while the pasta may have formerly come from Italy, as it has traveled the expanse of the globe and established roots in Mexico, new ingredients and flavors have been added to the dish to make it uniquely Mexican.

            Traveling to the continent of Africa, there is the boerewors pasta from the country of South Africa. The headliner of this dish is boerewors which is a type of sausage that originated in South Africa and is an integral part of the South African cuisine. According to the article What is Boerewors? the name boerewors comes from the Afrikaans language and is broken down into “boer” (farmer) and “wors” (sausage). The sausage is traditionally made up of 90% meat such as beef, lamb, and pork and 10% spices such as coriander and black pepper. While it is a staple in South Africa, it is also common in other southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana. This sausage is thought to derive from a form of sausage that was made in southern France or the original recipes for this sausage came from South African migrants who brought them from the Netherlands. It is tradition to cook this sausage in a spiral shape during a “braai” meaning barbeque. Boerewors cooked over a braai is a part of the South African culture and is a strong patriotic tradition associated with national holidays. Moving into the pasta of this dish, various noodle shapes can be used such as penne or spaghetti, but it is common to use a tomato and basil sauce along with the grating of cheese on top. While it is clear the focal point of this dish is the boerewors, it is interesting to see how with the travel of noodles and Italian dishes to this region, you can take an Italian dish and add a South African twist by integrating the sausage that has so much cultural significance to this area. This shows the immersion of African culture in these European noodle dishes that have traveled over time due to colonization and expansion.

            In summary, it can be seen that noodles are a multi-national food that have traveled the expanse of the globe and been picked up and modified by different countries. No country’s adaptation of the noodle is the same as the next and each country finds its own way to incorporate its’ history and culture into the various noodles that cross its borders. This is indicative of history and culture itself. While various countries have various beliefs, customs, and traditions, they can all find a connection with the noodle and incorporate it into their lifestyles. Along with that, the noodle is able to change and evolve from region to region. This can be seen in the different names given to the same noodle in different regions, the different ingredients used dependent on what’s more suitable for that area, and even the occasions in which they consume these dishes. From the very beginning 4,000 years ago, noodles have left a mark on history and will continue to for 4,000 years more.


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