History of Pasta and Its Influence in the U.S. – June Sohn

Ever since the Portuguese explorer Magellan set foot on foreign land, the humanity has been passionate about exploration and globalization. In a society where technology is so advanced and trade prospers, countries have interactions with one another. Such has led to immense dissemination of cultures. Everything from food to language has crossed borders to reach people all throughout the world. This is the case for Italian culture as well; its culture has expanded beyond its territory to countries all over the planet, especially the United States of America. A famous dish in Italy, pasta has endearing meaning to Italians. Its influence is so prominent in the U.S. that Italian cuisine, such as spaghetti, is often confused as American dishes. The history of Italian pasta in the United States is fairly short, but its significance to locals and immigrants alike is substantial.

            Pasta has multiple meanings in Italian, but it most directly translates to the term “paste” (History Kitchen). This term is used to define various food items in Italian, from noodles to pastries, but in the context of this essay, it means a form of noodle made from “unleavened dough consisting of ground durum wheat and water or eggs” (History Kitchen). It is crucial to specifically highlight the use of durum wheat in traditional Italian pasta, for this is the key ingredient that distinguishes it from other wheat noodles. The durum wheat dough is cut into different shapes of varying sizes well suited to each type of dish being made. A precise chronicle of pasta is difficult to delineate, but its cultural significance has been growing and abounding in the nation since about the 13th century (History Kitchen).

            Some theorize that pasta was brought to Italy by Marco Polo in the 13th century (Lopez). Many believe that Polo brought the concept of wheat-based noodles from his adventures in Central Asia, particularly China (Lopez). This theory is heavily based on the book Polo wrote called Divasament dou Monde, commonly known as The Travels of Marco Polo (Culinary Lore). Polo supposedly wrote extensively about a new type of pasta that he discovered in China, leading people into assumptions that Polo brought this newfound food into Italy (Culinary Lore). A frequent mistake in anthropological studies have been made in such assumption; meaning was lost during translation and oral retellings of this book, for its original copy had been lost (History Kitchen). If one goes back in time and examines a relatively accurate Italian version of the text, however, he or she will learn that the descriptions of Chinese pasta was based off of what Polo had already known about (Culinary Lore). The illustration of “Chinese” pasta was far too familiar to be something Polo had never seen before, as if he was describing something that already had designated terms for (Culinary Lore). With many more texts and evidences that exist that dates well before Marco Polo’s travels to China, this theory is rather incredulous (Culinary Lore). The very first introduction of pasta still remains a mystery.

            Early renditions of pasta were called “macaroni,” which translates to “kneading dough with energy” in Sicilian dialect (Demetri). It did not simply refer to the shape of pasta that we normally see in a macaroni and cheese dish; it described any type of noodles that were served as a meal in the olden days. Macaroni dishes gained its popularity in Sicily, for durum wheat was a staple in this sunny island. As more people were exposed to macaroni, durum wheat traveled to mainland Italy, where it thrived (Demetri). Pasta became a well-known dish all throughout Italy.

            More variations in shapes came to rise as more people came to favor pasta dishes. Cooks and mothers began to invent more shapes to make pasta more suitable for the sauce they were making, and today, more than 300 different types of pasta shapes, from penne to racchette, exist, all made out of durum flour and water (Demetri). Often these noodles are dried to ensure longer shelf life (Demetri). As the world was getting ready to expand, more voyagers set sail into the new world, where these pastas were often cooked and eaten on boats (Demetri). Drying the pasta allowed explorers to eat an adequate meal, even away from home (Demetri).

            These voyages into the New World were not just important for the invention of dried pasta commonly consumed today, but it also played a major role in the stereotypical pasta sauce eaten this very day: tomato sauce. Italy did not have tomatoes to eat until the 19th century, when the Spaniards brought this plant to Italy during their invasions (Demetri). Tomatoes weren’t the only things that the Spaniards introduced to Italians; through these invasions that Italy faced, the concept of family, a key principle in Italian families today, grew thicker and prevailed in the hearts of Italians. Through many invasions in addition to Spanish invasions, Italy faced numerous struggles. This allowed families to bond and share the true importance of one another.

            This significant strand of culture was brought to the United States in the late 18th century (Cannato). Destruction and dejection left behind by World War I sparked a massive surge of immigration into the United States (“How Pasta Came to America”). Shrugging off the impact of the war, Italians, typically those from Southern Italy, headed to the U.S. to live the American dream, settling mostly in the East Coast, such as Boston and New York City (“How Pasta Came to America”). When immigrants arrived in the U.S., it was common for them to assimilate into American culture, for it was their new home (Cannato). Yet it was significant for Italians to integrate into American culture, not in a “melting pot” kind of way, but in a “salad bowl” way (Cannato). Though many settlers learned to speak English and adopted American customs, it was critical that they maintain their culinary traditions (Cannato). Language and ways of thinking can go, but food needed to remain. Customarily, before immigrating to the U.S., Italians were famous for pride in their regional recipes. Cooking culture and methods differed from one region to another, and it was important for individuals to abide to their local recipes. However, those who relocated to the United States soon realized that they were living with Italians of diverse origins (Toscana Divino). There were people from Sicily, while others traveled from Rome. Naturally, these groups of people began to cooperate with one another, and culinary cultures fused into one culture known as Italian-American cuisine (Toscana Divino).

             Because most Italian settlers in the United States was from Southern Italy, restaurants mainly served dishes typical of Southern Italy: pizza, pasta with tomato sauce, and pasta with olive oil (McMillan). Meatballs, already popularly consumed in the U.S., was eaten together with Italian pasta, giving rise to a widely favored and accepted dish: spaghetti and meatballs (McMillan). The ingredients that were ordinarily found in Southern Italy could not be found in the U.S. For instance, the type of tomato that was used to make tomato-based sauce in mainland Italy was called plum tomatoes (Montany). Plum tomatoes were ideal for making quickly making pasta sauces, for its skin was thin and lacked seeds (Montany). However, settlers in the U.S. found that the tomatoes commonly found in American markets during the 19th century were completely unlike plum tomatoes; these American tomatoes had thick skin with a great deal of seeds (Montany). This dissimilarity of ingredients, though technically the “same” ingredient, called for a deviation from traditional recipes. Immigrants had to adjust their recipes by adding increasing the amount of sugar and garlic added to the sauce (Montany). The sauce also had to be cooked longer to fully cook the thick skins of American tomatoes (Montany). As a result, the pasta sauce became thicker and chunkier, just like the sauce in a classic Italian-American dish. Slowly, more Northern Italians began to emigrate out of Italy and immigrate into the United States, cooking less with tomatoes and introduced risottos and wine-based pasta sauces (McMillan).

            Upon the arrival of non-tomato-based pasta dishes, there was an introduction to the well-adored dish today: Fettucine Alfredo. This creamy dish with thick, wide noodles was not initially cooked in the U.S. Though this story may not be accurate, it is widely believed that this dish was first developed by a man known as Alfredo. A chef at a renowned restaurant, Alfredo was struggling to keep his wife satiated; she was pregnant and was suffering from nausea that could not be controlled (“Is Fettucine Alfredo”). Just like the majority of Italian homes, Alfredo’s house placed great importance on unity and care for families, and this was brought to his family through noodles. Rumor has it that Alfredo made his wife pasta with parmesan and butter, and his wife was in love with it (“Is Fettucine Alfredo”). At his restaurant, Alfredo introduced his customers to his newly invented pasta dish, and it received extraordinary praises. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, a couple from the United States, was able to buy this recipe from Alfredo and bring it back to the U.S., where different variations of this dish arose (“Is Fettucine Alfredo”). Instead of the relatively light nature of butter and cheese, Americans demanded thicker, creamier texture and flavor. More ingredients, such as chicken, seafood, and broccoli, were added to this pasta to enhance the flavors as well. An initially Italian dish made to satiate not only hunger but also values of a family in Italy, Fettucine Alfredo became a prominent dish in the U.S. as an Italian-American dish, perhaps bringing together both the locals and immigrants together.

            Preference held by Americans also altered the ways in which Italian immigrants cooked, especially in their restaurants. As a consequence of immense invasions, Italian food had Spanish and Mediterranean traces. One of the main sources of ingredients was eggplants and cheese. As a result, an extremely popular dish in Italy was Mellenzana alla Parmigiana, or Eggplant Parmigiana (“The Story Behind”). This dish called for deep-fried eggplants to be topped with a light tomato sauce – one made with traditional Italian recipe with thin plum tomatoes (“The Story Behind”). The dish is finally garnished with Parmesan cheese, making the dish saltier and creamier. Mellenzana alla Parmigiana is hugely homologous to a quintessential Italian-American dish: Chicken Parmigiana, or more commonly referred to as chicken parm (“The Story Behind”). In fact, Chicken Parmigiana uses the same recipe as the Mellenzana alla Parmigiana, only substituting chicken with eggplants. Contrary to Italians whose diet was often based on fresh vegetables and seafood, those living in the U.S. preferred protein-heavy dishes, such as chicken, to light, vegetable-based meals (“The Story Behind”). Immigrant chefs began to use chicken instead to suite the American palate (“The Story Behind”). In addition, due to an increase in acceptance of Italian-Americans, these expatriates began to rise in social status. Thus, their income increased, making it possible for them to afford meats (“The Story Behind”). Also, the mild, fresh sauce used in Mellenzana alla Parmigiana was also adjusted to the thicker, American version of the sauce, as mentioned earlier. The immigrant chefs also added pasta to serve alongside these chicken dishes, possibly to share with Americans what was important in their culture. This dish is eaten and enjoyed by people all throughout the globe, often referred to as a classic American dish.

            Despite the widely modified versions of Italian cooking in the U.S., there is one thing that never changed: significance of family and food. These two things remained important to a typical Italian-American family, according to a second generation Italian-American blogger, Paul Nauta. They combined to bring out the inner Italian of these immigrants. “Nothing brings more joy in an Italian home than traditional food influenced by the old country,” Nauta mentioned in his blog. The importance of pasta and noodles in general are “a way of life that, although a family may be generations removed from the old country, still permeates every element of the family culture from generation to generation” (Nauta). Paul Nauta’s family, though citizens of the United States today, still emphasize the importance of cooking at home, so they can better connect to their roots back in mainland Italy.

            It was common for Nauta’s family to eat at home growing up. It’s not that their family did not have the money to afford food outside, but the love for cooking was handed down to Nauta’s mother by his grandmother, who, in fact, passed down her very own recipe book to all her children. Cooking was what Nauta’s mother, Anna Michelli, grew up seeing, and she continued to do the same for her children. Although Anna Michelli was a chef at a local school cafeteria, she proceeded to cook at home, never letting go of her culinary work (Nauta). To Nauta, this is what “made everyone feel like family” (Nauta). Cooking was not just limited to mothers of the family, though they became symbols of fine, homecooked meals. Everyone was taught how to cook some sort of family dish, for it was considered a “family affair” (Nauta). Together, as family members learned how to cook, they were brought together, with children learning to respect elders and adults teaching kids about the importance of Italian heritage. As Professor Christine Ristaino mentioned in lectures, it is common for Italian immigrants in the U.S. to actually spend three days to make a sauce the traditional way, whereas those living in mainland Italy often take a couple hours to make their sauce. It seems as if immigrants are able to connect with their traditions by pouring their best efforts into cooking, learning about the efforts and values that is included in a dish of pasta.

            Another vital element of Italian family is religion, specifically Catholicism. Prayer and thanksgiving start and end each meal, and every Sunday is dedicated to masses. Without Catholicism, Italians would not exist. Especially to immigrants, going to church and praying every day were important aspects to keep up, for it connected them to the roots back home. Churches formed communities, and these communities allowed Italian-Americans to share their culture and indulge in their traditions in a foreign land. These families and communities were of great importance to Italian-Americans, so many families and friends visited one another to share meals. Italian mothers often cooked more than just for their family members, according to Nauta, for there were always guests that came over to eat with them. The amount of food cooked each night was sufficient enough to feed everyone until they were full, not leaving anyone out, but welcoming visitors as family. Pasta and other dishes “brought groups of migrants together each day,” genuinely underscoring the importance of food in Italian culture (“Il Ventre di Torino”).

            Over a meal of pasta, Italian-Americans are able to connect with their roots in multiple ways. The importance of family in Italian culture was certainly emphasized when Italian-American families ate and cooked with one another, appreciating one another’s presence along the way. In addition, the value of religion is also clearly evident in noodles in subtle ways. Before and each bowl of pasta, prayer is spoken, and thanks are given. Pasta eaten away from home touches the heart and soul of each Italian-American in multifaceted ways, possibly more than any other cultures in the United States.

            Pasta is not just a simple dish without depth. Its profundity expands beyond borders and brings people together, especially Italian-Americans. Because of pasta, first Italian immigrants were able to withstand homesickness and discrimination and climb up the social ladder to where they are today. Because of pasta, Italian-Americans are able to connect with their heritage. And because of pasta, people of other cultures and origins are able to experience a glimpse of Italian culture away from Italy. Through pasta, the world is brought together, and it most certainly is an important ingredient in global peace that cannot be removed whatsoever.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









Work Cited Page



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




The Revolution of Ramen: How Ramen Conquered the World of Noodles by Julia Rogers

This is an image of the ramen I ate during my ethnographic observation of ramen noodles at Genko Ittetsu Ramen, a restaurant near my home in Boston, Massachusetts.

Delicately drawing a cluster of thin wheat noodles to her lips, I watch as a wave of bliss carries over the woman at the table next to me. Her cheeks immediately flush a rose color as the corners of her lips slowly curve upwards. She gestures for the man sitting across from her to try the soup. His face hovers over the bowl as steam clouds his reaction. He draws a bundle of noodles from the pot and suddenly a magical smile sweeps across his face. A smile that emulates a growling stomach being soothed by the slick flow of ramen noodles sliding into his impatient stomach. It seems as if their love for each other is shared through this oversized clay pot of noodles. They take turns experiencing the love and the warmth of the soup; of each other. The waitress shuffles over to ask for my order but I cannot seem to break my gaze from the steaming pot of ramen noodles. I am unable to hear her over the powerful slurps of noodles that the couple next to me alternatively takes with each mouthful. The waitress patiently repeats the question. My gaze is shattered and I eagerly reply, “I’ll have what they are having please!” Hesitantly, the waitress informs me, “I must warn all customers, our ramen is extremely spicy…if you’re okay with that.”  My mouth begins to salivate, “Of course, bring it on!” Not long after, the same oversized black pot flooded with ramen, drenched in seasoning, sprinkled with chives is carefully placed in front of me.

My ethnographic observation of ramen noodles continues, this time, from a perspective that is my own. The rich and lightly salted broth coats the noodles, tastefully heating them in preparation for each bite. Slices of pork, protected by a lining of fat, glisten in the boiling soup as spices waft into the air, tickling my nose. I raise the noodles, sopping with broth, steadily to my lips. Almost instantly, my mouth ignites in flames. Sweat crawls down the side of my forehead but I cannot put down the chopsticks to wipe the droplet before it becomes immersed in my eyebrow. I repeatedly lift the noodles to my lips, craving the intense spice and chewy wheat with each slurp. The soup is no longer clouded with spices, broth, and noodles; the clay pot exposes its bare, empty shell. Ramen noodles are like a drug, so addicting. No one can resist the thin yet chewy noodles as they slither across your lips leaving traces of spices and broth. Ramen-lovers crave the dish on the hottest days and coldest nights. It revives the sick and evokes joy in those seeking happiness. “Ramen is one of those things that elicits that kind of nostalgia and longing that people want.” (Moskin, The New York Times). The renowned New York Times Food author, Julia Moskin, perfectly encapsulates the essence of ramen noodles in a simple sentence. Ramen is such a dominant noodle dish in many countries. The harmony of spices swirled among the infinite noodles is what lures customers hungry for satisfaction. Ramen brings flavor to the lives of those who consume them. Although many seem to enjoy the dish, very few have stopped to study the noodles within the broth and understand their history. I have taken the time to ask the question that many wonder but few ask: the question of how ramen noodles became such a revolutionary noodle dish in Eastern Asia as well as across the world in other countries such as The United States.

Just as historians argue on the topic of how the noodle traveled along the silk road between China and Italy, many ponder the same questions about ramen noodles transported between China and Japan. The question as to who formulated the first bowl of ramen noodles remains a fight between the two countries of Eastern Asia. The history of ramen is spicier than the dish itself. While many people claim that ramen noodles originated in Japan, historical evidence proves this statement wrong. Renowned professor and author of “The Untold History of Ramen Noodles: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze”, George Solt, unraveled the dish that has become a favorite across the world. Professor Solt, partially blind to the gustatory aspects of the dish, approaches his views of ramen strictly from a historical standpoint. While he is overwhelmingly educated in every detail involving the complex origin and history of the noodles, his taste buds are lacking perspective. In fact, he does not know how to make ramen nor does he know the best places to find the dish in one of the largest hubs of ramen noodle soup, New York City. This, though, surprisingly makes him an adequate source to determine the true root of ramen. He is now easily able to set aside all personal feelings for the noodles in order to zoom in on solely the facts. For years, Professor George Solt unraveled the tangled history of ramen as the soup “evolved over the decades from a staple of the Japanese working class, to a mainstay of American college students now, to one of New York’s trendiest foods” claims Alison Herman in her article The Messy History of Ramen. He notes that while ramen noodles are a staple food of Japan, they originated in China. How the infamous noodles immigrated from one coast to the other remains a question even for Solt. The path of ramen noodles is merely a theory supported by historical facts that Solt has pieced together.

While, the history of the origin of ramen noodles still remains cloudy, Professor George Solt is able to clear some of the confusion and claims with a few concrete facts. In his acclaimed novel, “The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze,” Professor Solt notes that Ramen did not originate in Japan as many would like to believe. In fact, the Chinese noodle dish, he claims, was brought to Japan from Chinese traders about two centuries ago. Many people choose to believe that the Japanese discovered the irresistible noodle soup, though, because “ramen is one of the most minutely document foods in Japan,” he insists. The dish conquered Japan in a time of increasing development, rising from a blue-collar associated soup to a high class, soon to be, world renowned dish. It is for this reason that many maintain the belief that ramen originated in Japan rather than China. Ramen grew alongside the development of Japan, so the rest of the world viewed the two hand in hand which completely erased China from the history of the noodle dish. While Solt believes in the theory of ramen noodles sailing to Japan via Chinese tradesmen, he continues to mention several other theories involving the journey of ramen from China to Japan that he claims to be more plausible. These theories are more credible in the sense that they are more recent in time and therefore are able to be supported by more documentation and evidence.

One of Professor Solt’s additional theories that he mentions tells of a customs agent, originally from Yokohama, China, who opened his own ramen shop in Tokyo, Japan called Rai-Rai Ken. The Chinese native welcomed his first Japanese customers in 1910. He employed only Chinese chefs, skilled in noodle preparation. The now world-wide famous restaurant, Rai-Rai Ken, is responsible for the popularization of a dish many Japanese came to know as “Shina Soba”. Author Alison Herman explains the literal translation behind the dish in her article The Messy History of Ramen. She writes, ““shina soba”: shina for China, soba for the noodle dish already well established in Japanese cuisine.” The noodle dish, or ramen noodle soup, was literally identified by the Japanese as Chinese noodles. This explanation of ramen noodles is much more factual and conceivable when analyzing the history of the origin of the dish. One reason this story may not be highlighted in the common history of ramen, though, is due to the expulsion of the noodles from Japan and China. Not long after the opening of Rai-Rai Ken, ramen noodles were viewed as illegal in the two countries as a result of the rise of World War II. In his novel, Professor Solt explains, “Selling ramen could and did land people in jail.” Today, marijuana is more legal in the state of Massachusetts than the harmless noodle dish was after being outlawed in the 1940s in Eastern Asia.  Various factors such as the famine as well as limitations on the entrance of certain food items including wheat into the country during the war led to the criminalization of selling such noodles. The initial revolution of ramen was now completely demolished by the war, simultaneously wiping away the Chinese reputation associated with ramen noodles.

Upon the rebirth of ramen noodles, the dish began to identify as a part of Japanese culture to other countries. The revival of ramen and identification with Japan arrived at a time of industrialization. Post WWII, ramen noodles once again became acceptable in Japan. This was due to factors such as cheap, accessible flour provided by the United States as well as a longing for Chinese inspired noodles by Japanese soldiers returning form the war in China. Each of these factors, along with others, influenced the resurfacing of ramen noodles in Japan and the commencement of one of Japans most notable dishes around the globe. As Japan rapidly industrialized, so did its noodles. The Japanese took hold of the opportunity to revolutionize ramen noodles and quickly made them their own. National Geographic writer Nancy Gupton depicts ramen as, “A nuanced noodle soup, it was carried from China by tradesmen in the 1800s but brought to life under the hands of Japanese cooks.” Nancy makes an interesting point involving the culture and identity of ramen noodle soup. Clearly knowledgeable on the history of ramen, she acknowledges the proper origin of the dish but takes a different stand culturally. Nancy attributes the idea to the Chinese but the final product and much of the credit to the Japanese. The Japanese were able to insert the raw DNA of their culture into the once Chinese inspired ramen noodles, making the dish their own.

The Japanese were able to claim ramen as their own by inserting their culture into the noodles of the dish during the industrialization of the country. The migration towards major cities in Japan brought a demand for increase in pace among the daily lives of the Japanese.  The alteration in the country resulted in an opportunity for the Japanese to identify as a country with ramen noodles. The World of Instant Noodles Association explains, “It was the time when the advent of television as new media was about to drastically change people’s consumption patterns.” The drastic shift in Japanese lifestyle meant that the culture of Japanese food simultaneously had to develop into a more immediate eating culture. Momofuku Ando, the creator of the infamous instant ramen noodles, was among the first to seize this opportunity. Momofuku was able to culturally influence not just Japan, but the entire world with his minute made noodles. Ramen noodles suddenly began to develop from a Chinese soup to an instant dish, ultimately molding into the identity and culture of Japan. The accelerated lifestyle of the Japanese had now become embedded into the noodles of ramen. Momofuku completely revolutionized the market of ramen with his brilliant design. It is no surprise that such an innovative take on food spurred out of Japan as the country is notably “one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations” according to U.S. news. What is now recognized around the world as Cup Noodles, paved the way for a new and improved market for instant food. Cup Noodles was progressive in that the entire process of packaging, storing, cooking, and eating could be contained in this single Styrofoam cup. Momofuku completely eliminated physical waste of various materials needed as well as the elimination of time wasted to actually make the soup. This design promoted the rapid lifestyle of Japanese both from the vendors perspective as well as the consumers. Even beyond these instant ramen cups, customers within physical ramen shops can be found hunched over their bowl noodles, quickly slurping their soup. There is no time to be wasted in the eyes of the Japanese. Japan embedded their rapid lifestyle into the dish, evolving ramen noodles for customers on the go; those who crave a good meal but do not have the time for one.

In addition to the influence on Japan as a country, the Japanese-inspired instant ramen noodles have also managed to affect the culture of people over 6,000 miles away in The United States. Instant ramen today is almost unrecognizable, culturally, from the recipe of ramen brought to Japan about two centuries ago. The significance of instant ramen has evolved from Shina soba, which literally translates to Chinese noodles, into a late-night snack for desperate college students. Similar to Japan, The United States is also a highly industrialized country, allowing ramen noodles to perfectly slide into the American lifestyle. Today, in The United States ramen signifies a cheap and accessible food to satisfy hunger. The average instant cup of noodles contains a whopping 875mg of sodium in a single serving. This is over fifty percent of the recommended daily sodium intake. Given this shocking health deficit, many people wonder why the dish remains influential in both Japan and The United States. Those who consume ramen, though, are not necessarily concerned with maintaining a healthy lifestyle as they are focused on surviving. For those who consume the salt-riddled noodles, the dish culturally signifies convenience. Cup Noodles can be eaten anywhere from the library to the bus, the possibilities are endless. While the introduction of ramen noodles form Japan to the U.S. did not initiate the movement of comfort and convenience in The United States, the noodles did emphasize and instill these principles into the culture of the country. In addition to the influence of convenience on American culture, ramen also impacted the culture of prestige food in the United States. Once manual laborers began to level out in the 1980’s, Americans became obsessed with ramen as a fad or a high-class trend. While instant ramen still remains popular among college students in debt to their universities, the health deficiency of the instant noodles began to worry those who consumed them. Not long after these statistics began to arise, homemade ramen picked up again among a newer class of people labeled as hipsters.

As the old ramen restaurants and street vendors steadily declined, ramen took a cultural shift within The United States towards a growing group known as hipsters. Hipsters are defined by Urban Dictionary as “a subculture of American consumer for whom the idea behind the marketing holds more value than the product being marketed.” Typically young adults in their twenties and thirties, this subgroup of people instantly became fascinated by ramen upon its cultural revival from instant noodle soup back to a Japanese inspired, handcrafted delicacy. Professor George Solt recalls, “Ramen chefs were appearing on television, writing philosophical treatises, and achieving celebrity status in Japanese popular culture, while their fans were building museums and Internet forums.” As the industrial era faded, so did the culture of minute made noodles among many Americans. Cup noodles still remain popular among certain subcultures; however, hipsters are paving the way for the arrival of a new cultural significance of ramen which is the polar opposite of instant ramen. With the help of hipsters, ramen gained a high-class status. The noodles now culturally signify wealth and social status among other meanings. This shift in the cultural significance of ramen among Americans highlights the everchanging presence of ramen. There is no singular meaning of ramen noodles, which leads many to believe that it may not necessarily be the dish that is altering the culture of each country, but rather the country that is altering the DNA of the noodles within the soup.

While historical facts prove that ramen is from China, the food is globally identified with Japan. So, the question still remains of how ramen influences Chinese culture, if at all, and what exactly happened to the dish following the ramen expulsion in China during WWII.  The answer to this is simple yet complex. The simple answer is that no current dish in China resembles the  ramen noodles exported world-wide from Japan today. However, this does not mean that ramen remained completely exiled from China. This simply means that most ramen recipes consumed by the Chinese are exported from Japan. In fact, China is the number one consumer of instant noodles in the world. This is in part due to the overwhelming population of the country although another main reason was the 2014 earthquake that resulted in a need for easily accessible food. While the ramen recipes scattered throughout China are no longer distinctly Chinese, the country is still greatly influenced culturally by the dish. In China, noodles signify expression of love for one another regardless of the origin of the noodles. The Chinese choose to focus on the culinary aspect of the noodles along with the cultural significance shared among the people they are eating their noodles with rather than a few uncertain historical facts.

Ramen noodles remind the Japanese of their history and culture. Although this specific type of noodle did not originate in Japan, this does not mean that they cannot hold cultural significance to the country. The cultural significance of the noodle dish alters based on the table the ramen is being served at. The meaning behind the dish is as fluid as the ramen noodles floating in broth. Just as it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of ramen and when it immigrated from China to Japan, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific cultural meaning of ramen noodles. The consumer defines the meaning of the noodle whether it signifies survival, love, or prosperity. Within each simmering bowl of flavored broth, lies a scramble of noodles intertwined with ajituski tamago (ramen egg), coated with chili flakes, star anise, and negi (shredded green onion). “Thanks to its affiliation with urban workers, it also became the object of nostalgia for a time when Japan was still on the rise rather than settled into affluence.” (Messy History of Ramen Herman). The Japanese were, and still are, proud to embed their cultural DNA into the squeaky Styrofoam cup of dried noodles and the writhing wheat noodles of homemade ramen. They continue to instill their own unique meaning into ramen, different from that of the Chinese and Americans. It is this aspect of the dish that makes ramen so popular throughout the world. Ramen is easily adaptable to any restaurant, any home around the world. No matter what table ramen is served on, the dish is sure to hold a unique cultural significance with each bite.



  1. https://firstwefeast.com/eat/2014/05/george-solt-on-the-messy-history-of-ramen
  2. https://instantnoodles.org/en/noodles/index.html
  3. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/americas-ramen-obsession-from-maruchan-to-momofuku
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/10/style/dining/here-comes-ramen-the-slurp-heard-round-the-world.html
  5. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-history-of-the-ramen-noodle
  6. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/japan
  7. https://www.tofugu.com/japan/history-of-ramen/
  8. https://timeline.com/ramen-path-global-domination-b4d9831dbce
  9. https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/10-things-you-didn-t-know-about-ramen-slideshow/slide-6
  10. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/asia/japan/sponsor-content-sushi-and-ramen-japan/

“Ramen Again?” : The Meaning of Ramen in Korean Culture (Yujin Choi)

Introduction – The Start


The instant ramen noodles that we know today was first invented by Japanese. inventor Momofuku Ando. In 1958, he dehydrated seasoned noodles in oil heat to create the texture of the instant noodles, which allowed the noodles to be reheated in hot water in a matter of minutes, quickening the process of noodle making and eating. This revolutionary way of consumption set ramen apart from any traditional noodles, and rapidly spread throughout Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. It was introduced in Korea as well after the Koran War.

The 1960’s after the war was rough to all the citizens of Korea. Industrialization had not taken place yet and many were in poverty, barely being able to scrap anything to eat today. According to my mother Sang Eun Cha, who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, ramen had a place in society for the impoverished people. Rice instead was a symbol prosperity and those who could afford to eat it every meal was considered privileged. When people said they ate ramen today, it would even evoke sympathy to others.

However, as the years passed and many in Korea were able to enter the middle class, ramen slowly molded into a different meaning. My mother was especially surprised by how drastically the meaning of ramen changed from a symbol of poverty to a symbol of Korea. In this essay, we will delve into how much ramen today has become integrated as a common dish in Korea and how much of its DNA has manifested in the Korean culture. 


Ramen DNA Manifested in Korean Culture


The DNA of ramen is expressed in countless cultural aspects of Korea. First, the meaning of consuming ramen for college students can be a metaphor of laziness and loneliness. Because cooking ramen takes about 8 minutes max, students resort to eating it in order to save time and effort. The less complicated cooking and cleaning methods appeal to these young adults with barely any time to spare. There is a bit of prejudice when one says they ate ramen for lunch. Friends may reply something similar to these: “Wow, you’re such a lazy bum,” “Get off your butt and eat a real meal!” Not used to offend anybody, conversations such as these take place very often as ramen can be seen as almost the last resort to meals. However, because people eat ramen regularly, this attitude does not particularly antagonize or target individuals who eat ramen.

This meaning can be found reflected in pop culture. In 2013, the song “Ramen Again?” by Akdong Musician hit the top charts in Korea because of its relatable lyrics. The song talks about a dry, slow-going day someone is having. With a lack of desire to do anything, they simply contemplate about what their next steps should be. When the motivation to do something is just about to materialize, they end up eating ramen instead and resort back to their lazy life. Many students have resonated with this daily routine, as ramen stands as a symbol of laziness and indifference to life. This shows how much ramen is related to the culture of Koreans and how it can be used to relate and possibly even integrate all those who have been in the same situation.

Ramen can be also extremely helpful to the same audience above: as hangover stew. Many college students also eat ramen as a quick and easy method to get over that grudgy feeling in the morning after alcohol consumption. The alcohol culture is especially large in Korea for young adults; many college organizations hide behind the name of extravagant titles but instead are actually excuses for drinking. Research has reported that an average college student drinks at least one standard drink per day. To save them from the massive aftermath, people eat ramen. Although not scientifically proven, many have said that the spicy hot soup helps calm the stomach in the morning. They also state that the familiarity of ramen provides them with reassurance that they are eating something Korean. Very different from how ramen was viewed above, ramen as hangover soup is a all-cure remedy to many who are prone to excessive drinking in Korea. 

The concept of ramen is also used in a daily funny pick-up line. The phrase “Do you want to eat some ramen before you go?” metaphorically means the same as “Do you want to stay overnight and have sex?” It portrays ramen as a tool for seduction. After the phrase was used in the Korean Saturday Night Live back in 2013, it went viral among young adults, and now people use the phrase and ramen as a symbol of temptation. One of the reasons why it became so popular was because of its provocative statement. Although it might not mean much in the Western culture, in Korea, talking about sexual culture openly was considered taboo and not a norm in the deep-rooted conservative nature. The innuendo in this phrase used with ramen gave Koreans a nudge of familiarity and comfort that nullified that sexuality. I personally thought it was a good breaking out of the shushed sex culture and stepping into the freedom of expression, therefore progressing forward into the future. Funnily enough, ramen had a considerable part in this progression, and thus can be observed how much ramen has also helped shape culture.

Another identity of the ramen is its usage as an emergency ration food in Korea. Due to its long durability and quick cookable nature, ramen is easily delivered as a replacement energy source to affected disaster areas. Homeless shelters also ask for any leftover ramen as donations for food. In the Korean TV Show “Sports,” where celebrities hold various sports games, the producers asked each individual audience member to bring one pack of ramen as an entrance fee, of which they would donate to the nearest homeless shelter. This method was most likely not that difficult because most Koreans always have a stack of ramen in the house as emergency food. In the storage basement of my home, we have a whole cabinet filled with a variety of ramen. I remember as a kid, whenever our family ate some of the ramen on a weekend, the cabinet was quickly filled to its capacity. It never became empty. From this, it can be inferred that Koreans believe the ramen is a soul food that can energize them at the worst occasions.

Slightly different from all the meanings mentioned above, TV commercials for ramen are portrayed very peculiarly in Korea. In these ads, one can always observe a group of two or three smiling family members at a proper dining table, slurping ramen noodles from fresh white porcelain bowls alongside extravagant side dishes. The ramen can be observed as the main dinner dish. There is a sense of happiness and family that is evoked from consuming ramen in these short 30 second videos. While that may be true for Koreans, the choice of using ramen as a replacement for an actual meal is quite unique.  Despite the prevalence and popularity of ramen in Korea, it is still not considered to be a completely filling or nutritional dish, definitely not enough for a proper meal. Instead, it is more of a snack or a poor alternative to lunch or dinner, due to the purposeful fortification of unhealthy chemicals in instant ramen. People also tend to be less formal when eating ramen, such as eating straight out of the pot, crouched on the floor, or without anything else except kimchi. The clean white bowls and multiple sides observed in the commercials are contrary to real life, as Koreans like to save the delicate china and spend time making other foods for “real” meals. Nonetheless, these ads are enticing people to eat ramen as authentic meals. I personally thought this portrayal was very intriguing because whilst it may not be accurate, it is a metaphor of how ramen has manifested itself as a proper dish in Korea. People do treat ramen as a common source of food, despite its lack of nutrition, because it is cheap and easy to make. Surprisingly, these ads are what truly reflects how much of a large part of ramen occupies the Korean culture and how much it has manifested as a ‘proper’ dish. 


Development of Meaning of Ramen in the Recent Decade


Gradually, as the younger generation becomes appealed to the fitness lifestyles, people desire healthier alternatives to fast and junk food. In America, this manifestation can be observed in a lot of vegan foods, gluten-free bread or milk substitutes. Korea, instead of creating replacements for ramen, decided to change the ramen noodle itself to attract the same audience who are now willing to make healthier choices. While the reputation of ramen had been confined as an unhealthy meal in the past, the new nutritional ramen developed today has changed that notion. In an interview with personal trainer Mr. Sang Park, he said, “I have a lot of clients who are especially tempted by that one bowl of ramen at midnight. If they really can’t contain themselves, I tell them to eat gonyak ramen instead.” 

Used traditionally in Japanese cuisine and Chinese medicine, konjac, otherwise pronounced as gonyak in Korean, is a plant whose roots, called corm, are high in the dietary fiber glucomannan. Konjac can be incorporated into noodles after it has been ground down into a flour-like texture. The plant is pretty much a superfood: it is known to keep blood sugar and cholesterol levels low, improve skin and gut health, help heal wounds and promote weight loss. These health benefits show why konjac products have suddenly begun appearing in grocery stores and thriving in sales. It has especially become increasingly popular in Korea as the ultimate diet ingredient. Popular ramen companies such as Pulmuone and Nongshim have used konjac in a new series of instant noodles. It is quick to serve, requiring only a few minutes in hot water to be ready, just like real ramen. This type of ramen became famous quickly among dieters, as one could have the experience of tasting real ramen with better health benefits. 

This truly shows how Koreans’ love for ramen cannot be contained. No replacements can match the long-term embodiment of ramen in Korean culture. Like in the case of konjac ramen noodles, depending on the state what makes up ramen may shift depending on what the society favors currently; however, the core manifestation of ramen in Korea remains intact throughout all.


Meaning of Ramen Inside the Army Base


In South Korea, there is a military conscription for men, in which all males above 18 must serve in the army for the course of 18 to 24 months, depending on their base. Even inside these army boundaries, the ramen dish continues to prosper. Having had the chance to interview a real Korean soldier, I was able to discover what ramen means for almost 50% of Koreans in these special conditions. 

“Ramen is a delicacy to soldiers.” This is what KATUSA(Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) soldier Sungmin Choi replied when I asked what ramen means to him. Ramen is rationed out to soldiers as special treats after difficult trainings, and Sungmin said sharing these snacks with comrades who also endured the same hardships became the most memorable times and helped create special bonds. He also mentioned that the ramen is associated with “outside” food, and makes soldiers feel one step closer to home. During the Intensive Training sessions in KATUSA, trainees and soldiers are not allowed to contact people outside the base nor are they allowed to leave. For 8 weeks, they are confined to army foods that are mostly bland and simple. Thus, being able to taste the flavorful ramen brings nostalgia to these soldiers of the outside world. “We treasure it like no other. Not just the food. It’s a time where we can come together and just be boys again, talking about ramen and mindless things,” explained Sungmin. Ramen inside the army base truly means more than just another source of food. Associated with happiness and reminiscence, ramen for these Korean soldiers are manifested as a food for the soul. 




For each individual, there may be slightly different ideas in what ramen means to them. Ramen manifests countless identities to Koreans, from hangover soup, to diet products, to emergency rations. Ramen is so embodied in Korean culture that it cannot separated thus far. It definitely became a source of fuel one can’t live without, not just the food itself, but also the emotions and meanings it is evokes. Settled in as a common and popular dish in Korea, ramen has not lost its popularity within the many grandiose foods over the course of many years. Although at the beginning, it may have had a rocky start, it being a symbol of poverty, ramen now has a great deal to offer in Korean culture with many positive influences and manifestations that shapes the Korean individuals to who they are today.



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Park, S. (2019, August 2nd). Phone Interview

The History of Ramen in Japan

Cydni Holloway


Professors Li and Ristaino

9 August 2019


The Complex History of Ramen

Abstract: In this paper, I attempt to explore the history of ramen. Ramen is linked to the different stages of Japan’s development, and I thought it was important to show. Ramen has ties to both World Wars, and the industrialization of Japan. Ramen transformed from a food that was associated with working class communities to a food that was enjoyed by trendy youth. Additionally, the food was so fundamental to Japan that was able to survive the food rationing system during the second World War. Ramen is Japan, and this paper seeks to explain why.

            The new food craze in the United States is ramen. Trendy ramen restaurants are popping up left and right in buzzing cities, and food enthusiasts are flocking to the restaurants to try one of Japan’s most famous dishes. America’s newest exotic and trendy dish has been a staple in the Japanese diet for centuries. The dish gained popularity over a century ago in Japan because of its affordability and accessibility. Ramen and Japan are inextricably linked to one another. The history of Japan has been reflected in the history of ramen noodle soup. In this essay, I will be examining the complex history behind Japan’s national dish.

            In everyday American life, ramen is associated with college students who have limited budgets and new trendy eateries. One of those trendy eateries opened in New York City a few years ago and is known for being one of New York’s best ramen restaurants. When the owner of the restaurant, Ivan Orkin, was asked what ramen is to him, he responded by saying that “you would think it’s just soup noodle-I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking that-yet it’s really anything but” (Kasper). In just a couple of sentences, Ivan was able to summarize what ramen means to so many people. Essentially it is just a soup noodle dish. Ramen is a soup dish with noodles, stock, and flavoring sauce. The noodles in ramen are particularly unique because they are made from wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui, which is baking-soda flavored water. The kansui is what makes ramen noodles unique. It gives the noodles it’s slick texture and distinct yellow color. Like China and Italy, different regions in Japan have their own techniques of making ramen noodles. Western Japan is known for having less Kansui in their noodles, while the east and northern parts of Japan have more Kansui. The broth component in ramen is made from cooking meat, usually chicken, pork, or seafood, down to a simmer. The meat used in ramen broth also varies by location. Ramen shops in Tokyo almost exclusively use chicken for their broth, while ramen shops in Kyushu make a very distinct broth with pork and pork bones. The last component of ramen is the season sauce known as tare. The main three flavors of tare are salt, soy sauce, and miso. Almost every ramen chef makes their own version of tare that they keep unique (Solt 3). Ivan Orkin is known for making his ramen unique with a Sofrito tare. Sofrito is a seasoning blend made of garlic, onion, and bell peppers that originated in the Dominican Republic. Orkin says that the sofrito gives the dish “layers, and layers of flavor” (Kasper). Ivan’s ramen shop is located in New York City, and New York City is known for having a large population of Dominican Americans. The intermingling of Japanese and Dominican cultures is the perfect example of how cultures mix to transform traditional dishes, and believe it or not, ramen itself is another example of that.

            Japan’s national dish is actually a Chinese food. Historians debate over when and how the noodle soup was brought to Japan. Some scholars say that a neo-Confucian, Shu Shunsui scholar brought the noodle dish to Japan when he escaped the Manchu dynasty in China and fled to Japan to be an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni, a Japanese Lord. Despite this story being a great example of how the history of Japan is reflected through the history of ramen, by showcasing the close relationship between Japan and China, many scholars think that this narrative is an attempt by Japan to elevate the cultural beginnings of Ramen. The main issue with that theory is that there are no records of Sshunsui cooking ramen(Herman). The more accepted theory is that ramen was brought to Japan in the late 1880s as Chinese migrants moved to Japan and worked as chefs in Chinese restaurants in Japan. An authentic Chinese version of ramen was served by Chinese cooks to other Chinese migrants who worked in the Japanese port city of Yokohama. As time passed and as Japanese workers began enjoying ramen, the dish began to resemble Japanese food culture more. Chefs began to include soy sauce, pickled vegetables, and pork into this dish (Solt 5).

            In fact, the dish was originally referred to as “Shina Soba”. “Shina” means China and “soba” means noodles. The term “shina soba” is not frequently used anymore because of its ties to Japan’s imperialism in China. After the United States and its allies defeated Japan in World War II, the Chinese government began to protest Japan, and the term was no longer used on a mainstream level in an attempt to separate Japan from its past that was heavily criticized. However, the term is still used by Japanese nationalists who look back on Japan’s imperialist decade with nostalgia. The other term for ramen, Chuka soba, was popularized in the 1940’s, and is still used to refer to ramen until this day. Chuka soba is used interchangeably with Ramen(Herman).

            After its initial appearance in the late 19th century, ramen quickly grew to be one of Japan’s most popular dishes. The growth in ramen was synonymous with the industrialization of Japan. As wages for Japanese laborers increased in the 1890’s, so did the amount of independently owned eateries in Japan. A survey conducted by the Tokyo municipal government shows that “by 1897 there were 476 formal restaurants, 4,470 small eating and drinking establishments, 143 tea houses, and 476 sake houses (Solt 22). Industrialization in Japan continued to grow after the first world war. In fact, Japan’s “industrial output rose from 1.4 billion to 6.8 billion yen” (Solt 22) within only 4 years. As Japan’s manufacturing and industrial industries began to grow, its agricultural industry remained stagnant. Additionally, the booming agricultural industries in Japanese colonies, Taiwan and Korea, began to out produce Japanese farmers, driving profits from Japanese goods down. As working in the agricultural industry began to be less appealing, men and women moved to metropolitan areas to search for better work. When these people moved to cities to find better jobs, they also found shina soba. Shina soba fit the needs of their busy lives (Herman). It was convenient, affordable, hot, and delicious. The dish was made relatively quickly and consumed even quicker. Additionally, compared to traditional Japanese soba noodles that were made without meat, the meat in ramen made it hearty and filling.

            Another factor in the popularization of the noodle was the invention of the noodle making machine. The machine initially appeared in Japan in 1883, and in only a few decades, using the noodle maker became more popular than making noodles by hand. Similarly, raw goods such as flour and soy from the countryside began to be delivered quicker to the city quicker, and this sped up the popularization of ramen (Solt 24).

             Ramen’s humble beginnings and controversial political ties stayed with the food for decades. The “low status of Shina soba- a dish introduced by people from Shina (a defeated nation, no longer considered worthy of emulation after the Sino-Japanese war), unlike more highly regarded foods such as bread and cake, which had been introduced by westerners- illustrated the class differences associated with the primary consumers of each type of wheat- flour-based- food”(Solt 23). Part of the reason western foods like bread and cake were seen as more elevated than ramen is because the west represented the imperialization that Japan was trying to emulate.  This is another example of how ramen mirrored the socio-political forces of the time. The idea that ramen was a food for and by the common people of Japan was illustrated by the first Shina Soba Producers’ Trade Union of greater Tokyo in 1928(Solt 24). This trade union also shows how the working class were beginning to emerge as a political force in Japan.

            However, the noodle soup’s popularity died out during Japan’s involvement in World War II. After Japan was defeated in the second World War and lost its food producing territories like Taiwan and Korea, the nation began to face food shortages. Additionally, one of Japan’s staple foods, rice, became limited as rice harvests began to fail in East Asian countries(Lombardi). In fact, the United States government issued this statement regarding rice harvests and the quotas that rice farmers were expected to meet:

                        “the delivery of rice is annoying the farmers so much that so much that some of

                        the most needy have even hanged themselves. The newspapers avoid reporting                                such tragedies. It is not a bit necessary for farmers to deliver any part of their                                hoyu-mai (rice quote for living) in order to complete their rice delivery quota; as                                     long as they do not sell all or part of their delivery quota to illegal channels. Some                youth organizations posted bulls, etc., warning farmers against the black market,                                   but I contend that before doing so, they should make the authorities decide on a                                     more reasonable quota so that farmers can complete their delivery one hundred                                 percent” (Lombardi).

This quote shows how food was used as a political force after World War II. The United States government issued this statement to make their control over Japan and its resources seem reasonable. The wanted to seem like they were prioritizing the needs and wants of the Japanese. However, in other political sectors, like the Communist Party, used this statement to show the inefficiencies in capitalist governments. The Communist Party wanted to show that major decisions should be made by working class everyday people, and not large corporations or detached governments. At this time, America was in control of Japan’s post war government and began to flood the nation with wheat. The wheat was turned into both bread and ramen that was entirely controlled by the government. In an attempt to make sure that everyone was able to receive the same amount of food, and to limit the threat of food shortages, the government made it illegal to buy or sell foods during this time(Herman). The major problem with Japan’s food rationing system is that it ran almost 20 days behind schedule at some points in the year. This caused black market vendors to open up. In order to avoid starvation, Japanese people began to depend on the Black markets as a method of survival. Wheat that was secretly meant to go to flour mills, was sent to the black market where ramen was made. This was a very dangerous job, and the chance of being arrested was extremely high. In fact, the Japanese mafia controlled most of the Black-market shops and they extorted vendors for money. In Tokyo alone, an estimated 45,000 black market stalls existed(Lu).

            As the government started to remove restrictions on food, especially wheat flour, the number of ramen shops in Japan began to rise. The number of shops rose quickly, because creating a ramen shop was easy to set up and an easy way to make money. The only things you needed was a set of equipment that included bowls, chopsticks, noodles, soup base, hot water, and toppings that large corporations would rent out to smaller vendors. Additionally, as people returned to Japan from the war, they began to look for ways to make a living. The food that was initially known for being a dish of and by common people kept its reputation intact. Many Japanese people used ramen as a method to reinstate themselves in Japanese everyday life(Lu). By the mid 1950’s ramen reached its pre-war glory. From the 1950s-1970s, Japan began to experience another huge economic boom. Transportation infrastructure was being constructed and new developments were being made for the 1964 Olympics in Japan, much like the ramen boon that took place in the early 20th century, many industrial workers who helped to build many of these new projects ended their work day craving a nutritious and filling meal that they could afford. The food soon became an everyday item, especially for people who grew up during the World War II period that used ramen as a way to get by(Lombardi). In a sense, ramen provided a sense of nostalgia to the Japanese who lived through the war.

            Another reason for the popularization of ramen was the shift in what was considered healthy and nutritious during the United States occupation in Japan. The ministry of Health and Welfare began to heavily promote the idea that wheat was far more nutritious than rice, and that rice eating people were extremely different from wheat eating individuals. One article states that “The character [seikaku] of rice-eating peoples and the character of wheat-eating peoples are naturally different, where the former believe that people eat because they exist, while the latter believe that people exist because they eat. Each of these are the result of the types of food that they eat, and while the former is resigned and passive, the latter are progressive and active” (Lombardi).  Another nutritionist went as far as shaming parents for feeding their families rice by saying “Parents who feed their children solely white rice are dooming them to a life of idiocy. . .. When one eats rice, one’s brain gets worse. When one compares Japanese to Westerners, one finds that the former has an approximately twenty percent weaker mind than the latter. This is evident from the fact that few Japanese have received the Nobel Prize. . .. Japan ought to completely abolish its rice paddies and aim for a full bread diet” (Lombardi). The quotes show that food culture goes above and beyond what is available to eat most of the time. It is partially about being able to keep up with a certain image. Japan saw the western world as something to aspire to be. And in some ways, Japan was very influenced by western ways of life. While the quotes are extreme examples of portraying the western diet as the better diet, the food intake was linked to the intellectual levels in the smarter countries. In fact, when instant ramen was initially invented, it was initially marketed to housewives and people with families, because the wheat based dish was seen as being extremely nutritious (Solt 67).

            By the 1980’s, what ramen stood for began to change. The dish that was quickly made at pushcarts on the street for just a few yen, began to have a different association. The pushcarts began to close and were replaced with ramen shops that specialized in different styles of ramen. Ramen became trendy and began to be associated with the “young urban consumer who was labelled with the term Shinijinrui, “new breed” (Lombardi). Ramen went from being a dish that resonated with less affluent people to a trendy dish that was more about taste and eating out with friends that a nutritious meal. As the status of ramen elevated in Japan, ramen chefs began to create their own twists to the dishes. Ramen chefs even began to reach a certain level of acclaim in Japan. Ramen chefs. including Ivan Orkin, who was mentioned earlier in this essay began to talk their specific ramen styles. Orkin explained that his “ramen style is a very small, niche market. The most popular style is the tonkotsu, where ton means pork and kotsu means bone. The pork bone soup is very milky and rich. I like it very much, but I tend to like to cook a lighter style. As a chef, I love sending people home to feel good for many hours after they eat my food” (Kasper). A ramen museum was even built to praise the food and introduce people from all over the world to the complicated history of ramen.

            Finally, ramen turned into a Japanese dish. In an attempt to dissociate ramen from its Chinese origins, ramen chefs began to wear traditional Japanese clothing while preparing the dish. They also began to remove the red and white decorations that symbolized China and replaced them with traditional Japanese decorations. In the early 2000’s, Japanese people began to migrate to different parts of the world, and brought their culture with them. Ramen became a worldwide phenomenon(Lombardi). Ramen shops all over the world began to open up, and many people, particularly, trendy younger people, began to catch on. Today, ramen serves as a symbol of Japanese culture on an international level.





















Works Cited

“The Art of the Slurp (or, How to Eat Ramen).” The Splendid Table, www.splendidtable.org/story/the-art-of-the-slurp-or-how-to-eat-ramen.

Herman, Alison. “The Messy History of Ramen.” First We Feast, First We Feast, 1 June 2018, firstwefeast.com/eat/2014/05/george-solt-on-the-messy-history-of-ramen.

Lombardi, Linda. “The Social History of Ramen.” Tofugu, Tofugu, 11 Aug. 2014, www.tofugu.com/japan/history-of-ramen/.

Lu, Hunter. “The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 24 Aug. 2018, www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-did-ramen-become-popular.

Solt, George. The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. University of California Press, 2014.



This essay encompasses the pasta that is heavily eaten in the continent of Africa. Vermicelli noodles used in African dishes are extremely thin and lightweight compared to the noodles used in spaghetti. Vermicelli’s significance in the African community of the Mande countries  and North Africa are always pronounced because other than that Africans are not familiar to pasta dishes. This essay will go in depth of the culture of these African countries in significance to cuisine and how vermicelli became socially impacted. I will also include anthropological theories such as interviewing and observing. I also found recipes on different African vermicelli and included my mom’s in order to exhibit its similarities even if they may be done differently.  

In the majority of Africa, food is a way to bring people together. It creates friendships, relationships, and can be a tool used to end a quarrel. The Mande countries in West Africa include Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea. These countries speak the same language: Mandingo in different dialects, but with these dialects they are still able to understand each other.  They also share the same traditions and they are known for their own specific way of making vermicelli. The relationships between the Mande country is sisterly. They may tease one another on certain things like their flag colors or the way they say different verbs but they come in unison when it comes to how good their food is. The people of these countries take so much pride in their food because for hundreds of years and still today in Africa, the woman of a household’s cooking determined its value. The rating of a household’s cuisine determines if that household has a ‘good’ woman and wise man.  This culture of food is extremely embedded in African tradition and that is the reason for so much importance to be on the dishes.

I researched two different Vermicelli recipes from West Africa in order to specifically state its reason for certain differences and usually these reasons were due to environmental changes, lack of resources, or simply because it’s something the family always did when cooking the dish. Ghanian food is known for their jollof rice so it’s something that’s included in many of the dishes. For this reason most of the vermicelli in Ghana is cooked with jollof rice and included in the main ingredients for this dish. 

Ghanian Recipe


400g Vermicelli noodles or rice noodles

5 cups jollof base sauce

1 cup mixed vegetable

1 Maggi cube

2 bay leafs

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp thyme  

salt to taste 


Preparation time: 5 mins Cooking time: 30 mins


  1. Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil
  2. Place noodles in a large bowl and fill to the brim with water. Use a spatula to ensure all of the noodles are immersed in the water
  3. Place a large pan on medium heat and add in the jollof base sauce
  4. After one minute remove the noodles which should of softened but not be soft from the bowl of water and place in the with the jollof sauce
  5. Add in the Maggi, curry powder, salt, bay leaf and thyme
  6. Stir to ensure that the noodles are covered in sauce and seasoning
  7. Wrap lid in foil and place on low heat for 15 minutes
  8. After 15 minutes add in the mixed vegetables and stir gently
  9. After a further 15 minutes remove from heat and check for consistency
  10. If soft, leave to rest with the lid off
  11. If not soft enough, take off heat but keep the lid on for a further 10 minutes

The vermicelli dish is really popular in Senegal and it can be found in every Senegealese restaurant. Meat is in a significant amount of African dishes because of the major influence of Islam. In an article on the meat consumption in an African country, the author found that Islam influences meat products consumption by recognizing where the animal came from and how it was killed for consuming. In order for a Muslim to eat meat it has to be cut in a halal way, which means the animal should be cut by his throat first in order for the animal to not die in pain. The meat in the vermicelli dish from Senegal is really important because of the diet of meat that is present there. Meat is eaten with every dish that’s cooked in Senegal and most African countries. In the article on the Senegalese vermicelli, the author notes that the origin of this dish in Senegal is to enjoy with family. 


Senegalese Recipe


4 chicken legs

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

4 large onions, diced

1 maggi cube

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons ground red pepper 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups water

2 eight ounce packages broken vermicelli rice noodles

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups water



Heat a large pan with 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat and saute the vermicelli lightly until it turns pale golden brown. Add 2 cups water, boil, cover and cook 3 minutes. Once done, remove the vermicelli and set aside. In the same pan heat oil then add chicken, mix the flour into cold water and add all ingredients to chicken. Cover and simmer 25 minutes until sauce is thick. Serve chicken over vermicelli.

I then interviewed my mom on her way of making the vermicelli that I absolutely love but only eat when there’s a baby shower or wedding. Vermicelli is easy dish that my family makes a lot of for celebratory events that introduce new beginnings. This is a tradition that I have observed in the Mande countries. One woman would get appointed to make the vermicelli on the biggest pot that can serve an entire audience. The woman chosen to make the vermicelli is honored and respected because it’s the most important dish during these events. 


My mom’s Vermicelli recipe


3 packs of vermicelli noodles


2 Pots

sazon seasoning

Meat (as much as you like)



Red and green peppers



Put water in the pot and heat it on the stove until it boils. Put vermicelli noodles in pot and leave it for about 35 minutes. While the noodles are on the stove, cut up the peppers, tomatoes, and onions and put it in the second pot with oil. Put fire under it so it can fry. After the sauce has become thicker, season the meat and put it in the second pot. Mix it in with the sauce and let it cook. After the meat cooks in your desired way , put the fire low. The vermicelli should be done by now so drain it and put it in the second pot. Close the pot for 35 minutes and constantly check and stir it. The meal should be done after 35 minutes.


Works cited 

Seleshe ,Semeneh. “Meat consumption in Ethiopia.” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597829/

Senegalese Chicken Vermicelli Recipe. Theafricangourmet. https://www.theafricangourmet.com/2018/01/senegalese-chicken-vermicelli-recipe.html

Flavour of the Diaspora. “Vermicelli Noodles- Jollof Style!” https://flavourofthediaspora.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/4-vermicelli-noodles-jollof-style/

Noodles: The Shape’s the Thing (Final Paper)

            When it comes to eating pasta, we rarely take note of the unique texture and formation of the particular pasta that we are consuming; however, long ago, the shape and size of each pasta type was chosen with specific purpose in mind.  Moreover, contrary to popular belief, shape does matter in the world of pasta; not all types of pasta taste the same or hold the same value.  Believe it or not, different noodles were created with a plan—a topic that I will now explore and analyze from two crucial sides; first, through an Italian perspective, and next, from the Chinese approach.

            In Italy, it all started with Marco Polo’s arrival and the introduction to spaghetti—known as macaroni at the time.  “The modern word ‘macaroni’ derives from the Sicilian term for kneading dough with energy, as early pasta making was often a laborious, day-long process” (History of Pasta).  On that note: “Spaghetti means ‘a length of cord’ in Italian.  This long noodle works well with a variety of sauces, and can even be used in Asian stir-fries” (An Intro to Italian Pasta).  In addition, different spin-offs on this basic form of pasta evolved as a result of modifications in width, such as spaghettini—a thinner version—and spaghettoni—a thicker version.  One example of a sauce with which spaghetti pairs well is tomato sauce—a staple dish on any ‘kid’s menu’ in a restaurant—which leads me to the discussion of another major discovery in Italy—that is, the “discovery” of the tomato in the 19th century.  Interestingly, while tomatoes had been around for quite some time, people stayed away from them, believing them toxic:

“Although tomatoes were brought back to Europe shortly after their discovery in the New World, it took a long time for the plant to be considered edible.  In fact tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family and rumors of tomatoes being poisonous continued in parts of Europe and its colonies until the mid 19th century.  Therefore it was not until 1839 that the first pasta recipe with tomatoes was documented” (History of Pasta). 

From that point on, the tomato took off in Southern Italy and led to its establishment as a staple for spaghetti—that is, in the form of tomato sauce.  Early on, pasta was made by hand and typically required drying—a time consuming and laborious process—a rate-limiting step for the variability of pasta shapes at the time; however, with the rise of technology and machinery, the pasta “ensemble” of expanded dramatically.  On that note, Oretta Zanini De Vita’s book, Encyclopedia of Pasta, discusses the importance and arrival of various pasta shapes.  In terms of technology and production, the pastaio was a great advancement for the Italians, as it eased the drying process.  Moreover, further improvements brought multiple “variations on a theme”—there were many more shapes and sizes, and of course, a lexicon to go with them:

“The pastaio was still needed, however, to dose out the water, the quantity of which was his secret; he made the dough harder for the largest sizes; softer for fettuccine, vermicellini, and capellini, and softer still for spaghetti and bucatini.  If the pasta came out defective, the pastaio would eliminate it as munnezzaglia (trash).  The shapes multiplied with the invention of new dies, now made not only with bronze but also with nickel and other noncorrosive materials.  Local scholars have estimated that the number of formats grew from about one hundred fifty to eight hundred or more” (Encyclopedia of Pasta, 8).

With that in mind, the next question we must address is the “deeper meaning” underlying pasta shapes in Italy—what purpose do such shapes serve, and how is each one special to an Italian?

            One major difference between pasta shapes is geographical, as various pasta shapes hail from specific parts of Italy.  Another major difference is the way in which they are made and the ratio of ingredients from which they are comprised.  One of the greatest differences, however, (per a plethora of sources) is how each is designed to be served.  From the owner of an Italian restaurant himself (whom I interviewed for the final project), pasta shapes are of utmost importance when it comes to deciding which sauce or “supporting” ingredients with which to serve the pasta; Antonio—proprietor of Bacio Trattoria, who is from the isle of Capri—told me that pastas with holes, such as penne or ziti, go really well with meat or cream sauces, as the holes allow for the chunks of meat or cream to become “trapped” inside of the pasta—hence the common pairing of Bolognese with ziti, and the creamy dish, penne alla vodka; Bolognese sauce is comprised of ground beef, tomato, onion, and herbs, while vodka sauce is a tomato-based sauce that incorporates a few additional ingredients—the most important one being heavy cream, giving it the creamy flavor, and rich mouth-feel.  On the other hand, Antonio firmly believes that long pastas, such as linguini and spaghetti (mentioned earlier), go really well with seafood or substantial meat, hence the two popular dishes: linguini with clams and spaghetti with meatballs.  The length of such pasta shapes allows for the pasta to be twirled around the fork, followed by the seafood or meat at the end of the fork, in order to keep the pasta “in place.” These lengthy pastas do not go well with thicker or meat-based sauces, as such sauces or small chunks of meat would tend to slip off.  Pastas with ‘pockets’—such as ravioli or tortellini—go well with any sort of filling, often cheese-based or of a similar consistency to ricotta cheese.  From a personal standpoint, mushroom-ricotta is my favorite filling, having tried many raviolis over the course of my life, from eggplant-ricotta to “three-cheese “ filled; after all, ravioli is my favorite food to this day.  The formal definition of ravioli stands by the earlier statement—Ravioli: “These square or round pasta pillows can be filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables” (An Intro to Italian Pasta).

            Antonio’s belief, that there are particular pairings for each pasta type—is widely held; it can be found across the internet and is prevalent in literature as well: “Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes, and each shape helps trap the sauce, stand up to a casserole, or elevate a salad” (An Intro to Italian Pasta).  On the site, life in italy, writer Justin Demetri discusses a brief History of Pasta, in which he further discusses the variety in pairings for two main categories of pasta—first, dried pasta, and second, fresh pasta.  Dried pasta is a category that includes the many popular, ever-evolving (and somewhat ridiculous) pasta shapes: “Shapes range from simple tubes to bow ties (farfalle, which actually means ‘butterfly’), to unique shapes like tennis rackets (racchette)” (History of Pasta).  Moreover, Demetri lists the common pairings for a variety of dried pasta shapes and the logic for such pairings: “Dried tube pasta (ziti or penne) often has ridges or slight abrasions on the surface to hold onto the pasta sauce as well.  These ridges and bumps are created during the extrusion process when the pasta is forced from a copper mold and cut to desired length before drying” (History of Pasta).  Here stands yet another reason for pairing tube-shaped pastas with meat or cream-based sauces, in that the ridges give the fine chunks of meat or thick, creamy sauce, a surface to which they can adhere.  Fresh pasta, on the other hand, is made differently and is meant to be eaten “soft;” “Many northern regions of Italy use all-purpose flour and eggs while southern Italy usually makes theirs from semolina and water but it depends on the recipe” (History of Pasta).  In addition, fresh pasta serves a different purpose from dried pasta, and it is often argued that the former is inherently better:

“Fresh pasta has been made in households throughout Italy for generations but the region of Emilia-Romagna has the reputation of making the best.  Here fresh pasta is often served with cream sauced or a simple sauce of butter and safe while light tomato sauces are reserved for the summer months” (History of Pasta). 

The above quote describes another reason for why fresh pastas, such as homemade linguini—which are less often found in unique shapes—are should be “married to” thinner sauces, such as butter or tomato-based sauce. So not only are these ingredients less likely to “slide” off the elongated noodle, but because of the freshness and simplicity of the “shapeless” noodle, it does not invite complexity: “A good rule is to remember simple pasta works best with simple sauces while complex shaped pastas are ideal for thicker sauces” (History of Pasta). 

So, why do the Italians have such a wide variety of pasta types?  The answer should be easy—and it is far from being for mere “looks.”  Cesare Marchi states it well:

“The introduction of dies for extrusion meant that there were no longer any limits on the number of possible pastas, whose shapes had very much to do with taste and enjoyment.  Cesare Marchi stresses the importance of the various shapes: ‘Try to drink a spumante first in crystal glass and then in a coffee cup. . .’” (Encyclopedia of Pasta, 19).

In other words, Cesare Marchi says here that the taste of spumante—an Italian sparkling white wine—is appreciated much more when served in a crystal glass versus a coffee cup, similar to the way flavors of different sauces are appreciated more when served with certain pasta shapes than with others.  Overall, Marchi’s quote serves as an accurate summation of the role the pasta shapes plays for an Italian. And the array of Italian pasta shapes is so wide that it impossible to count them all. The sky’s the limit to the assortment of pasta shapes and their assigned nicknames—hence the reason that a true encyclopedia of pasta types has neither been attempted nor does it exist, as the amount of varieties that exist is infinite.

            On the other hand, in the Chinese culture, different types of noodles  differ not only in terms of how best to pair, but also—and especially—in terms of the ingredients comprising the noodles.  The history of Chinese noodles began in the Han dynasty, during which noodles were originally referred to as cake; from then on, two staple noodles emerged in the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, giving rise to the expansion of noodle shapes for the future: “Two special kinds of noodles, called shui yin and bo tou, were included in the book Qj Min Yao Shu in the middle ancient era.  Shui yin is cooked by pulling the dough into strips as thick as chopsticks, cutting these into segments 30 cm long, soaking in a dish of water, then pressing them into flat noodles shaped as a leek leaf and cooking in a pot of boiling water.  Bo tuo is especially smooth and delicious” (Noodles, traditionally and today, 1).  Following this, the variety of noodles expanded at a rapid rate:

“There was a kind of cold noodle with a unique flavor, called Leng tao. . .There was another kind of noodle with full tenacity, referred to as ‘one of the seven wonderful health foods,’ which was saying ‘wet noodles can be used to tie the shoe.’  In the Song and Yuan dynasty period, fine dired noodles appeared, such as pig and sheep raw noodles and vegetable raw noodles sold in Linan city during the Southern Song period. . .In the Qing dynasty, five spicy noodles and eight treatsure noodles were included in Xian Qjing Ou Ji by dramatist Li Yu.  These two kinds of noodles were made of five and eight kinds of animal and plant raw material powder, respectively, and mixed into flour, which were considered top grade noodles” (Noodles, traditionally and today, 209).

The point is made that the emergence and growth of difference noodle types in ancient China arose not only from the ability to change the shape of the noodle, but most importantly, they sprung from different combinations of ingredients—unlike the Italian culture, in which some (but not all) of the noodles were modified solely by shape, via machinery.  The following quote summarizes this idea, in that the composition of noodles varies from one noodle to the next:

“Most kinds of noodles are made of flour (the powder made from wheat).  There is also another special composition of noodles: rice noodles. . .In addition, noodles can be classified according to thickness: they can be as thick as chopsticks or as thin as hair, such as the dragon beard noodles.  Some can be classified according to the how they are made, suchas hand-pulled noodles, shaved noodles, and so on” (Noodles, traditionally and today, 211).

Additionally, noodles can be otherwise categorized by methods such as seasoning, cooking crafts, and so on. In contrast to Italian noodles—which are classified mainly by their appearance and by their accoutrements—Chinese noodles are more often recognized in terms of their composition.  In comparison to Italian noodles, variations of Chinese noodles tend to go hand in hand with corresponding variations of sauces, broths, or seasonings.

            Ramen noodles—one of the biggest revolutions in Chinese noodle history, especially with the rise of instant ramen noodles—are almost always served in a meat or fish-based broth, sometimes with additional seasonings such as soy sauce or miso.  Instant ramen noodles come in a dry package, and are boiled in water.  The instant ramen noodles that I ate as a child  were seasoned with a small packet of ‘chicken,’ ‘beef,’ or ‘shrimp’ flavored seasoning.  It was not until I was much older that I learned how much sodium these seasonings contained, and I finally had to limit my intake! At authentic ramen restaurants however, these noodles are served in a natural broth, often accompanied by a soft boiled egg, cilantro, and meat—thin slices of pork or chicken, for example.  Udon noodles are a thicker, wheat flour-based noodle, often served in one of two ways—the first being in a stir fry, and the second being in a broth, mixed with vegetables.  Rice or rice vermicelli is another type of noodle that I have eaten on multiple occasions—these noodles are thin, white, rice-based noodles (gluten free, for those who require this!); these noodles are often served in stir-fries, soups, spring rolls, and salads, and it is of utmost importance that these noodles are not boiled, but soaked in hot water until tender, then drained, and patted dry (Rice Vermicelli Noodles).  One of my favorite Chinese noodle dishes, lo mein, is comprised of Chinese egg noodles—wheat noodles with egg.  Common variations of lo mein at several of my local Chinese restaurants include chicken, beef, shrimp, or vegetable lo mein.

            Another special characteristic of the different noodle types in Chinese culture is the fact in that certain types of noodles are designated for certain special occasions, whether it is a sickness, birthday, or family gathering, for example.  To expand on this principle, the following provides examples in support of the previous statement:

“In the aspect of noodles, Chinese people have lots of customs, which essentially mean ‘human nature’ and ‘worldly common sense’ materialized in the noodles.  At birthdays, people eat longevity noodles; at the time of marriage and moving into a new house people eat noodles with gravy, which means flavored life; on the day of lunar February 2 ‘dragon head,’ people eat dragon whiskers noodles to look forward to good weather.  We eat different noodles in different seasons and different festivals” (Noodles, traditionally and today, 210).

These are only some of the many special noodles that are designated for specific life events or occasions.  All in all, in the Chinese community values the different types of noodles for reasons that are very different from that of the Italian community—the two most unique ones being the actual composition of the noodles, and then the special occasion with which each type of noodle fits.  While Italian noodles may taste the same when ‘unseasoned,’ aside from its differing shape, size, and texture, overall, they are often made with the same ingredients when served plain; whereas, Chinese noodles do not taste the same by any means, as they are comprised of entirely separate ingredients.  While Italian noodles vary mostly by how they are served or what they are served with, Chinese noodles not only vary along these same lines, but also by their link to a significant moment or life event. It is this latter connection which matter most to the Chinese.

Noodle Narrative – Adrienne Liou

Noodle Narrative

Adrienne Liou

For my interview, I interviewed my childhood best friend, Paul Kim. We have been family friends our entire lives and went to the same school kindergarten to twelfth grade. He is half Korean and half Taiwanese and was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Paul is currently a student at New York University, and he is studying journalism with a concentration in food studies. I felt as though he would be a good interview candidate, as he has had an interesting experience with food in general as an Asian who was born and raised in the United States. Paul would also have an interesting perspective on noodles because he is currently studying foods in his classes.

Paul was born and raised in the south and because of this, he did not have to chance to really identify with his Asian identity. The staple southern foods are not the same as the foods he had at home as a kid. As one of few Asians in a predominately white school, he felt as though others were not accepting or understanding of his complex cultural background. Others lumped Asians into one category, but Paul was aware that there were distinctions between his Korean and Taiwanese cultures. Because of his environment, he grew up with a vague Asian-American identity. This all changed when he moved to New York for college. There is a higher population of Asian Americans there than there is in Atlanta, thus there is more Korean and Taiwanese food for him to experience. This allowed him to understand his two cultures better than he had been able to while growing up.

Because his childhood lacked a lot of the authentic and distinct Asian culture, he grew up eating noodles such as lo mien and ramen noodles. These noodles are not a good representation of true Chinese noodles as dan dan mien, zha jiang main, or dao xiao main are. While these are types of noodles that Americans label as “Asian noodles,” they are not quite traditional or authentic noodles that would be eaten in Asian countries. However, like these noodles, Paul also does not follow the traditions of someone from Asia. These noodles represent Paul as they incorporate some Asian characteristics, but they are also American.

As a New York resident, his favorite noodle restaurant is in the heart of New York City, Momofuku Noodle Bar. Not only is this restaurant in a convenient location, but it is owed by a Korean-American chef, David Chang. This chef also does not really identify strongly with being Korean. He is able to make ramen, but it is not ramen in a traditional sense. David Chang is known for his combination of Asian flavors with a French Technique. Paul is able to relate well with these noodles from Momofuku Noodle Bar and this chef because they all have Asian aspects to them, but they have a blend of other cultures as well.

Next, we discussed how Paul’s habits of eating noodles have changed over time. He describes his way of eating noodles as “chaotic.” When he was younger, his way of eating noodles and food in general was set to a specific schedule. He would eat breakfast before school, lunch at the same time every day, and dinner when his mom had finished cooking. When he started cooking on his own, he cooks when he has the time, whether it is for dinner or 3 o’clock am. He describes noodles as his favorite late night snack due to the burst of energy you get right after eating them and then the “crash” that happens shortly after.

Later, we discussed how the changes in society are influencing the noodle. Paul has become aware that Asian culture is now more prominent in western societies. As the fastest growing ethnicity in America, people are less compromising with food. There has been a shift from eating Asian-American food to eating true traditional Chinese food. There has also been an increase in distinct flavors from the different provinces in China. The phrase “Chinese food” is now too general and can be compared to saying “European food.” There is a large variety and flavors from the different areas that these generalizations are not specific enough. Now, there is more regionalism in food. For example, there is Sichuan food, Guangdong food, and different flavors from many other provinces in China.

Later in the interview, we discussed how other cultures are manifested in the noodle’s cultural DNA. Other cultures are influencing Chinese foods and noodles because people themselves are influenced by other cultures. Because of globalization, there are more foods that are merging, creating a type of fusion of cultures in food. Paul brought up an example of Vietnamese Cajun pho. This is a noodle in a soup that is traditionally from Vietnam, but when the Vietnamese refugees moved to America during the Vietnam war, they were influenced by the Cajun flavors in Houston and gulf area. This led to a fusion of flavors which became a pho noodle soup with crawfish instead of the usual beef.

Finally, we discussed Paul’s favorite noodle recipe. His favorite recipe is a Cajun pho noodle soup. This was the food that truly got him interested in writing about food. He realized that there is a lot of history to be told through food. His Cajun pho recipe took a total of four hours to complete. He was so happy with his finished dish that he went back for two more servings. When he does not have the time to make this pho dish, he enjoys making instant ramen, as most college students do. These noodles may not be as labor intensive as the pho noodles, but they still put a smile on his face.


Interview: https://youtu.be/CuvHJay52RI


Dominic Lal: The Missing Chair

Inspiration drawn from Le Due Sedie


The Missing Chair


This evening

I was thinking

How much of our


Revolves around food

Four chairs

And a table between us


For you

I will ignore how

one chair sits empty.

All wishing for time

To rewind to simpler days

I say, nothing,

Eyes watering I keep my head

Down facing the plate of sac and rotli

*main course*


Over a bowl of rice and kurri

*second course*

I suggested

We eat it with our bare hands

Teleport me back to my childhood

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

The warm heat radiating steam

From my hands and my mouth

While breathing fire

I lick the deserted rice

*deserted was used to reference my feeling of desertion*

Off of my fingertips


Tonight we feasted on

*dessert occasionally*

Deep fried Jalebi

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

To bring our spirits up

Its bright orange hue

And sugar sweet taste

Act as the perfect vibrant distraction


The sticky Indian food
Has left our fingers glued together

I motion jokingly

For you to lick your fingers

We unglue them

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

Without a second thought


Ba cooks for me

Without asking her typical

“What do you want for dinner”

Surprised to see my favorite

Mug and rice

I fumble to break my kitchu

Refusing to use a single utensil

Even though it would easier

I like to entertain you

As the rice concoction dribbles down my chin


You ask me how it taste

I tell you that it taste like family

We try hard not to cry

Both knowing this was Anandmama’s favorite

Eager for him to come back home

We take another bite in silence

I ask if she would like anything else


A hug


We are quiet and eating

We are happy


You gave a gift

By enjoying this food

I still feel connected to you

I take one bite and am back

At a dinner table

With all 5 chairs full


This is why I love you


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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Men Mian, Memory of the north (Haopeng Xue)

Among thousands of different kinds of noodles I have heard about or tasted in life, whether it is western pasta, Japanese udon or Cantonese style egg noodles, the taste of Men Mian lingering on my taste buds would never fade away. 

Men Mian is completely different from any other noodles that I have tasted before. It does not require water to boil, but rather uses the heat from the water vapor that was created within a large steel pot. Men Mian is a common type of noodle that is very popular in Inner Mongolia and Henan province. According to the legend, it originated in Qin dynasty when General Meng Tian is leading a group of workers to build the Great Wall. Because they do not have enough time, and the emperor is pushing the construction date, they had to find a way to cook all the food at once to save time while keeping their body energy. Therefore, they learned from the local residents to put green beans, pork belly, potatoes and noodles all into a large pot at the same time and close the lid. The vapor pressure gradually build up inside the pot and cook the ingredients rapidly. It will only take twenty minutes for the Men Mien to be ready to serve on the table. Due to its convenience, Men Mian became one of the major dishes in our family table when my mother did not have much time to prepare a fancy dinner. 

I did not give much credit to Men Mian much credit until I grew sick of America food when I came to America for high school. Yearning for the smell and taste of hometown food, I decided to make Men Mian by myself instead of going to the school dining hall for pasta. This task seemed so easy at first, but after trying to remember the cooking process for hours, I still could not figure out which ingredients should go into the pot first and for how long. Finally, I called my mom and wrote down every ingredients I will need to buy and every steps to cook the perfect Men Mian. 

On the following weekends, I took a Uber to the nearest Asian supermarket and tried to look for those ingredients. Most of the ingredients are easy to find such as soy sauce, green beans, pork belly and potatoes. However, one thing that my mother emphasized on buying is pure pork fatty oil. Back in my home town, the butcher shop likes to save chunks of pork fat and fry it to extract the oil. After that, the oil can be stored in a large glass jar for sale. It works the same way as butter but has a much better taste and smell due to its high purity. However, after asking the shopping assistant, she suggested me to go to another bigger Chinese supermarket, which is two hours drive away. My stubbornness rendered me to go further, and I asked my RA to give me a ride. On my way to this market, I prayed for finding the jar of pork oil and even planed to extract the oil by myself if no where else is selling it. Finally, after looking through all the aisles and the each grocery sections, I saw my last saving straw—a bottle of cloudy white pork oil, the very last one on the shelf. I can’t help screaming and laughing joyfully like a kid receiving his or her Christmas gift. 

On our way back to the dorm, I went through all the procedures in my brain for hundred times, and my mouth began to salivate as if I was already slurping Men Mian down my throat. As soon as I got back to the kitchen, I turned on the stove and started to heat the pot. Then, I poured some oil and scooped a large chunk of pork fat to add to the pot. Right away, the aroma of the pig fat spread all around the room. I added the sliced pork and vegetables and stirred for about five minutes. Finally, I added garlic, scallion, soy sauce and hand made noodles into the pot with a bowl of water and closed the lid. The water vapor pushing up the lid 

contained the smell of all the ingredients braised together. It is very important to not to open the lid too soon due to lack of patience. At exactly ten minutes, when I removed the lid and saw the familiar color of dark red noodles, I knew it was ready. Quickly taking a bite of the noodles with pork, I immediately felt home. I thought for one second that I was sitting at my house’s dining table and chatting joyfully with my parents. My first Men Mian was a great success.

Five years have passed since then. I have made Men Mian by myself for dozens of time and still have not grew tired of it. My mother had taught me other ways of making different kinds of noodles and dishes, such as braised pork belly and tradition vegetable stew. However, Men Mian was always there with me, since it is the most convenient noodle to cook and has the best taste among all the dishes. And I know I will continue to making Men Mian throughout my college and future career.

I choose to imitate the article “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story”, written by Susannah Chen in 2014. This article grabbed my attention closely because I once had the same struggle like the author, because I did not learn how to cook back in China. Since both the author and I came from the same culture, China, I understand how Ping An Mian and other types of noodle can be a meaningful representation of best wishes from family members. On contrary to cooking method simplicity and easy production, noodles can contain powerful idea of love and longing for somebody who is far away. Similar to the memoir that I imitated, my journal also reflects how noodles can be used as a bridge that connect people that are apart from their homes and families. By cooking and consuming the noodles by myself, I can bring back some memories deep down in my heart and feel instantly at home. Despite the fact that there are many Chinese restaurants in Atlanta, none of them serve Men Mian on their menus. Therefore, the only way to revitalize my taste buds for home, is to cook by myself. The overall tone of this memoir is light hearted and nostalgic. I am able to vividly feel the care that the author is trying to show for her husband and how much her mother wanted her to inherit this tradition of making Ping An Mian. Both the author and I embedded cultural DNA in our pieces. For the Ping An Noodle, the noodles were assigned as the representation of Safety, which are much valued by many older generations toward their children. For my memoir, noodles were regarded as a symbol of my memory with my families and my childhood of living in Inner Mongolia.