An Analysis of Food as a Powerful Tool that Brings the World Together in the Context of the Noodle

An Analysis of Food as a Powerful Tool that Brings the World Together in the Context of the Noodle

People around the world share a common need that exists despite differences in race, religion, ethnicity, and gender. That need is for food. It is perhaps a one of the greatest equalizers in the world. Many different cuisines exist based on global location and resources, but they take hints from each other. Chefs are influenced by dishes they have tried from different cuisines and subsequently try to incorporate some aspects into their own dishes. This sharing and appreciation for differences is what makes food such a great equalizer. It provides an avenue for people to exchange and share ideas while learning and growing together. One such dish that perfectly exemplifies this is the noodle. With origins in both China and Italy, this item has become a global phenomenon to the point where so many different shapes, sizes, sauces, flavors, and smells exist. With so many different countries having their own renditions, noodles have come to represent humanity as whole, showcasing that while superficial differences exist, they are all still noodles. Food is reflective of the people that prepare and enjoy it and when so many people enjoy and prepare variations of the same dish, it can be said that it reflects a similarity in all of them. The noodle is a unique dish that has the power to blend all sorts of different flavors into one unique experience, and just as with flavors, noodle dishes from around the world bring people together regardless of their differences because like different noodle dishes, in the end at our core people are all the same.

To truly appreciate and understand the noodle and its power to enact change it is helpful to understand it origins and first steps of expansion. Some of the earliest mentions of the noodle in China goes back to the Han dynasty which existed from approximately 206 BC – 220 AD. The first mentions of the dish actually called it a “cake” of sorts. This early definition is just one illustration of how the noodle has grown and changed drastically over time. After the Han dynasty, the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern dynasties innovated even more noodle types from the original cake form. The new forms of noodles were called the Shui Yin and Bo Tuo styles. For further context, the shui yin was described as, “flat noodles shaped like a leek leaf cooking in a pot with boiling water” (Zhang, 2016). This style represented some of the first variations from the original noodle style and was just the beginning of the worldwide expansion that took place. The Sui, Tang, and Five dynasties continued the trend and introduced even more types. The noodle continued to grow and expand over time across China to a stage where each region had its own signature type of noodle. This is extensively detailed in the article, Noodle, Traditionally and Today, as the author provides an extensive list showcasing the many different types:

“In East China, there are Shanghai noodles in superior soup, Nanjing small boiled noodles, Hangzhou Pian Er Chuan noodles with preserved vegetable, sliced Pork, and bamboo shoots in soup, … In Southern China, there are Guangzhou wonton noodles. In Central China, there are Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste. In North China, there are Beijing fried bean sauce noodles… In Northwest China, there are Xinjiang pulled noodles, Shanxi oil-splashing noodles…” (Zhang, 2016)

This is just an excerpt of the very extensive list that if fully included would take up the whole page. That level of variety shows how the noodle became a staple in many different regions because of its ability to be incorporated in with the local resources and customs. What makes the noodle so unique is its ability to adapt across so many different regions in China, and more importantly, beyond China.

Noodles continued to span across Asia and the rest of the world, tying together different cultures with an appreciation for a common dish. In her book, On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta, the author Jun Lin-Liu discusses noodles in different countries along the original silk road. In one portion, she mentions a dish that seems to be popular from China through central Asia, “In the northwestern region of China and Central Asia, Uighurs and Uzbeks make a dish called manta, steamed dumplings filled with mutton and pumpkin and served with cream” (Lin-Liu, 2013). This dish, manta, is based off of a dumpling which is a classic Chinese dish, so the influence can be clearly seen. However, the author goes on to detail how the dish changes as different regional influences are added, “In Turkey, the dish evolves into manti, tiny tortellini-like dumplings that are boiled and served with yogurt, mint-infused oil, paprika, and crushed walnuts” (Lin-Liu, 2013). From the description, it is clear this similar dish, manti, is based off the original dumpling while also incorporating some Italian influences, which led to the “tortellini” shape. The Italian influence that is present is very important as it illustrates the expansive presence that noodles have. This connection across Europe and Asia ties the many different cultures across the two together.

So far, the focus has primarily been on China and how their noodles connect to other cultures, but it is also important to consider the other main origin of the noodle, Italy. According to studies, the noodle can be traced far back to the Etruscan times in ancient Italy. Sometimes it is said that Marco Polo discovered them in his travels but that has been shown to be more of a re-discovery of the dish. Italian pasta is famous across the world and is a staple in many different households. There are so many different pasta shapes and sauces that have all been carefully crafted for a specific purpose and to make the dishes the best they can be. An interesting point about all these different shapes and such is that they are not unique to just Italy. In her book, Lin-Liu continues discussing the relationship between Chinese and Italian noodles stating, “Chinese “cat’s ear” noodles resembled Italian orecchiette. Hand pulled noodles, a specialty of China’s north west, were stretched thin as angel hair. Dumplings and wontons were folded in ways similar to ravioli and tortellini. Even the more obscure shaped of Italian pasta…had their Italian counterparts” (Lin-Liu, 2013). This resemblance between the two cultures is very important as it showcases a direct link between two seemingly different cultures. This link illustrates how theses cultures that admittedly are very different, still share some very important connections. The connections show that the two cultures have more than just a common food preference and that they both understand things like the nutritional value of noodles and pasta and how they are perfect dishes for tying together many flavors. Furthermore, it was noted that, “Italians, like Chinese, drank liquor infused with other ingredients in order to relieve everyday ailments” (Lin-Liu, 2013). All these connections illustrate an important fact and that is that the people of these cultures are more similar to each other than expected. Enjoying the same food is one thing, but expanding it and perfecting it to the degree that these two cultures have, showcases a different level of similarity in commitment. Food is representative of the culture behind it, therefore it stands to be reasoned that when two cultures have such similarities in their food choices, the reflected cultures have the same similarities.

All across the world from Asia to South America, unique noodles dishes can be found that reflect the culture and resources of the people in the area. The power of Italian and Chinese cuisine to be taken and adapted to cuisines around the world is what truly sets them apart. In an article from Condé Nast traveler, Around the World in 12 Noodle Dishes – From Ramen to Saimin, the author, Mary Holland, discusses and illustrates the wide variability of the noodle. She introduces the article stating, “A dish can tell you so much about a place. It’s more of an experience than just a meal – it’s an entry point into a culture…” (Holland, 2015). It is this sentiment that drives this analysis of food as a method of measuring similarity between different peoples. She goes on to introduce different noodle dishes from around the world starting with Pho, a Vietnamese dish featuring long and thin rice noodles in a broth with spices and topped with various vegetables. This dish is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine and is believed to have originated as a mix between French and Chinese dishes. Similarly, Saimin was originally a Chinese dish, but it became what it is known as today in Hawaii from a mix of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. It features egg noodles, a broth, and several other vegetables. Dishes like these are just a few examples of how noodles have spread across the world. What is perhaps more interesting is how noodles have spread to countries that one would not expect, like Iran and Peru.  In Iran, there is a popular dish called Ash Reshteh. This dish is described as, “linguine-shaped reshteh noodles, khask (Persian whey) and a variety of wholesome ingredients including spinach, lentils, chick peas, turmeric, and parsley, this vegetarian soup is brimming with flavor” (Holland, 2015). The connection to other countries is undeniable as this dish has a symbolic value similar to Chinese culture in that it is considered to be associated with good luck and is eaten around the New Year. The belief in the power of noodles reflects on the Persian culture behind the dish and reveals its unexpected similarities with Chinese culture. Peru also features similar connections to Chinese culture. In Peru, there is a whole segment of cuisine called Chifa which is a mix between Cantonese and Peruvian cuisines. Within this unique segment, there is a dish called Tallarin Saltado which is often described as, “fried noodle dish made from linguine or linguine-shaped noodles… tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, green onion, cilantro and beef, all stir fried in a piping hot pan” (Holland, 2015). Given the roots of this dish in Cantonese and Peruvian cuisine, there is clearly a link between the two cultures. This time the link spans the Pacific Ocean and reflects that despite the distance that the cultures are still linked. These different twists on the same dish illustrate the wide-spanning reach of the noodle across the world. These different interpretations encourage the sharing of styles and methods of cooking and thus cultural ways. Cultures and cuisines vary, but regardless of form the noodle is a constant that reflects that there are more similarities than expected between different people.

One of the earliest instances of food bringing different peoples together is a holiday that many Americans celebrate every year, Thanksgiving. While this holiday does not feature Chinese or Italian cultures, it is still a very important illustration of the power of food as a connector. This famous feast featured the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sharing food to celebrate a successful harvest. This interaction brought two completely different cultures together through a mutual love for food. This is just one example of the phenomenon and up until his recent tragic death, Anthony Bourdain, was a strong advocate for the power of food and connecting people. In season 8 episode 1 of his show, Parts Unknown, Bourdain shared noodles with President Barack Obama at a small noodle restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam. They each enjoyed some classical Vietnamese Bun Cha, which features rice noodles with pork and other delicious garnishes. In their conversation, Bourdain spoke about exploring the world and stated, “The extent to how you can see other people live seems useful at worst, and incredibly pleasurable and interesting at best”. This statement of encouragement to explore the world resonated with many. Bourdain spent his own life exploring the world through food as it is one of the best ways to understand the culture behind it. He would dine at the small family owned establishments that were close to the roots of the country and get a true feeling for the reflected culture. He did perhaps the best job of illustrating the power of food to reflect the cultural DNA of a country and how that DNA was more connected than one might expect. Running with that point President Obama then stated, “It confirms the basic truth that people everywhere are pretty much the same, the same hopes and dreams…”. This statement from a very influential figure of the modern era supports the sentiment that noodles are truly representative of people. Noodles come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes but in the end, they are all still noodles. This may seem like a stretch to connect humanity and noodles but the ability of noodles to reflect differences and similarities in various cultures truly draws the two together. In a separate instance Bourdain stated, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody”. Food has an uncanny ability to draw people together. Trying new and exotic foods often seems daunting to some people, but when a dish has a sense of familiarity, it eases the transition. Noodles do just that, as they have a familiar sense for many people that draws them in along with a new twist to introduce them to the new culture. This allows people to take a step into a new world and share and enjoy which as Bourdain said is, “a plus for everybody”.

This idea of using noodles to bring people together all comes down to people sharing food. Sharing food allows people to share their cultural differences. It is the avenue by which information is passed in all sorts of settings. In a National Geographic article titled, The Joy of Food, the author states, “Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings” (Pope). This sentiment is not unique. It is not something that people often think about, but instead do inherently because it is so tightly engrained in the cultural DNA. Business meetings, dates, family gatherings, and even work is planned around food without a second thought given to it. This level of inclusion is no mistake but rather an appreciation for the concept that keeps the world running. That may seem like a grand statement but recent highly important political meetings have been supported with food. Regardless of political opinion, it can be stated that the recent meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a landmark political event. The summit featured an elegant use of food as both leaders and their delegations enjoyed dishes native to both countries. While this may seem like a small gesture, it was symbolic of the two countries coming together and provides yet another example of food being used to connect the world. This is no modern concept either, as the same National Geographic article from above also states that, “The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. From Quesem Cave near Tel Aviv come evidence of ancient meals prepared at a 300,000-year-old hearth, the oldest ever found, where diners gathered to eat together” (Pope). This piece of evidence further supports the claim that sharing food is a part of human DNA. Given that the same practice has been going for at least 300,000 years, it provides almost irrefutable evidence that sharing food is a part of being human. It is a quintessential trait that links all humans and encourages all to find the common connection between each other. By eating together people share stories, and learn about others who may be similar or very different from themselves.

People around the world are brought together by food. The noodle is a prime example that metaphorically illustrates the bringing together of people through different flavors that are tied together. The term noodle is viewed in many different ways around the world, but in the end, they all share the same core, which shows that humans are the same despite surface differences. By sharing food, people are able to learn about each other and the different cultures reflected by different dishes. Food is a very personal tool that can be used to share and connect with others, thus creating an environment of shared differences. Understanding and appreciating different cultures is very important to coexistence as it mitigates misunderstandings that lead to conflicts. It seems odd to attribute a large phenomenon like coexistence between cultures to the noodle, but its adaptability and ability to reflect the cultures highlights similarities that are not often initially apparent. Whether it’s a high stakes political summit or just some friends at a potluck, noodles tie together flavors and people, bringing everyone a little closer together.


Works Cited

Bourdain, Anthony, director. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Netflix Official Site, 16 June 2018,

Daniels, Shannon. “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” Girlswritenow, 23 Dec. 2011,

Holland, Mary. “12 Of the World’s Most Incredible Noodle Dishes-From Ramen to Saimin.” Condé Nast Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, 9 Nov. 2015,

Lin-Liu, Jen. On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta. Riverhead Books, 2014.

Pope, Victoria. “Joy of Food.” National Geographic,

Plimoth Plantation. “Plimoth Plantation.” Thanksgiving History | Plimoth Plantation,

Sietsema, Tom. “The Culinary Diplomacy of the Trump-Kim Summit Lunch Menu.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 June 2018,

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





Nostalgia and Pride: Who we Cook for

Take me on a journey

Show me how you got to the kitchen today

Take me from the fields in Italy

Take me from the farms in China

Take me to the fragrant smell of spices dancing together

Take me to the sounds of vegetables sizzling

Take me to the sounds of laughter and enjoyment

Show me how recipes were born of yesterday

Remember the days of being afraid of the flame,

unsure of the possibilities it held

Remember the time when the cutting board and knife were never yours to use

Remember the start, when you first cracked an egg

When you first licked batter off a spoon

When you first frosted a cake

When you first rolled some dough

Think of the teachers

Think of the ones who fought off your fear

Think of the ones who taught you to wield the knife

Think of the ones who introduced you to the possibilities of food

Think of the ones whose recipes you follow today

When you serve your dish, serve it with pride as a representation of those who cooked before



What piece did you choose to imitate?

            I chose to imitate the style of The Exegesis of Eating, by Alane Salierno Mason. While this piece is not a poem, I chose to imitate the message and general feeling of the written piece through my poetry.

Why did you choose this piece?

            I chose this piece because I felt a personal connection to it. In the piece, the author engages the reader’s imagination with a rich description of her childhood in her grandmother’s kitchen. She describes how she would observe her grandmother cooking and how she would listen to her grandfather and learn from him about the world. This reminds me of when I was growing up. Often times I would go over to my grandparents’ house and experience exactly what the author experienced. My grandfather would tell me stories and while listening to them, my grandmother would be making delicious food. The author goes on to discuss how she lost touch with her Italian cooking roots when she became busy with adult life. I feel a connection to that sentiment as well. As I have become more and more involved in college with classes and other activities I find that eating has become something that I try to fit into my schedule so I can keep focus on my other commitments. These personal connections are why I chose to write a poem that imitates The Exegesis of Eating.

What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

            By imitating the author, I learned a lot about the Italian immigrant experience in New York City. One concept that has become apparent over the past five weeks is that Italians put time and effort into their food. No shortcuts are taken as hastily made food can be differentiated very easily from the high quality Italian food that we have come to expect. This piece taught me that this standard did not end when Italian immigrants left Italy but instead became even more apparent. The incredible effort and precision put into Italian food became readily apparent in comparison to the cheap and hastily made American counterparts. The piece showed me that the effort is what set Italian food apart and helped it become the world spanning cuisine we know and love today. The author’s grandfather is quoted saying, “Pizza is everything he doesn’t like about America: quick, sloppy, cheap, eaten on the run, away from home…”. This line illustrates some of the very qualities that are often associated with quality Italian food. It often comes with a rustic home-made vibe and is no small affair that is eaten quickly as an afterthought. It is the focus of attention and is held to the highest standard. By imitating her style of remembering the culture that made us who we are today through food, I was able to understand what set Italian cuisine apart from others. It is the precision and effort that is put into the dishes, a practice that is generations old and still apparent on the plate today. 

What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

            While writing this piece I learned quite a bit about my own culture. As mentioned above, this piece helped me to see what sets Italian cuisine apart. In imitating that style, I was forced to look inwards and analyze my own culture. In my first blog post I mentioned how I learned that my family is a mix between classics and modern new twists. In writing my poem I looked back at my childhood and learned about my family and others like mine. Growing up we always had the classic Indian dishes of dosas, idlis, curry, and so much more. As I went through middle school and high school however, my family started branch out more. My mom tried her hand at dishes from all different cuisines and my father and I loved them. This balance of classics and new age twists worked well for my family. When I went off to college, I was excited to eat whatever I want whenever I wanted it, but something changed. When I went home for break I craved those classics like my mom’s fish curry or my grandmother’s biryani. Come Thanksgiving time I would always be looking out for the famous soup that my aunt would make. Meanwhile in the summer I could not wait to eat the wings my mom would always makes. All these different dishes became my version of “classics”. In writing this piece I have realized that I have re-defined what classics mean to me. They are not the same classics of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation. Instead they are mine and they are different. This may not be the case for every Indian family, but it is what defines my family culture. This piece forced me to look inwards at my own family culture and I certainly learned a lot from it.

Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

            I definitely believe that there is a cultural DNA embedded in the piece I read and my own personal piece. I believer that DNA manifests itself as a sense of both nostalgia and pride. The readers of both pieces feel a sense of nostalgia while reading them as they are taken on a journey back to the culinary experiences of their youth. Both pieces aim to stimulate the senses to remind the readers of the time when they first experienced various culinary aspects and who they experienced them with. Whether it was a distant relative or a close family member, food helps tie people together. This nostalgia is an important element and helps to give rise to the pride. After experiencing all the emotions and sensations of their early culinary experiences, readers lead towards the life they are currently leading and the dishes they are currently serving. This ending point helps to tie together all the feelings from above as it gives the reader a path by which to go forward, which is by remembering those who cooked the same dishes before you. While we may stray from the path sometimes, in the end we will find out way back as it is culturally engrained in our DNA to cook with pride to represent those whose recipes we prepare.


The Identity of the Noodle: Bringing together flavors from around the world

The Identity of the Noodle: Bringing together flavors from around the world

Rama Bikkina

The noodle is an integral part of cuisine around the world. No matter where you are, there is a good chance that you can find a Chinese or Italian restaurant and subsequently have a chance to enjoy some noodles. I remember once when my family visited Alaska on vacation and we spent one night in the small town that was only accessible by boat. Despite this isolation, there was still one Chinese restaurant and one Italian restaurant. This reach of the Chinese and Italian noodles is what makes them such an integral part of their cultures. Around the world, those cultures can be defined from one food item, the noodle.

The reason this item is associated so strongly with Chinese and Italian cultures is because of how strongly it is tied into the history of these great cultures. In Chinese culture the noodle can be traced far back to the Han Dynasty when they were originally classified as “cake”, as detailed in the “Noodles Traditionally and Today” article. The article goes on to detail how the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern dynasties created new noodle shapes from the original called Shui yin and bo tuo styles. The shui yin style for example now looked like, “flat noodles shaped like a leek leaf cooking in a pot with boiling water” (Zhang, 2016). This was just the first of many new variations of the noodle which has led to all the different kinds of noodles that exist today. The differences can often be classified by region as the same article details how East China features “Shanghai Noodle in Superior soup”, Southern China features, “Guangzhou Wonton Noodles”, and Central China features “Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste”. These are just a fraction of the different kinds of noodle that exist within China. Each region has a different environment and thus different resources which illustrates why these noodles are indicative of different regions and the people who cook them. Noodles however reflect more than just regional differences, they also illustrate the cultural background that ties them so tightly into society. One example are the Quishan minced noodles which have also been called sister-in law noodles and ashamed son noodles. These unorthodox names have a story behind them which carries the value of these noodles. The story goes that there was an orphan scholar who was raised by his brother and sister-in law. She was a great cook and made special noodles which “helped him read for fame”. The orphan was successful and as a result the noodles became famous for prosperity as “sister-in law noodles”. Attempting to mimic this success, parents began cooking these noodles for their kids to encourage the same success, however the same results were not achieved and the noodles took on a second name as, “ashamed son noodles”. These stories and names illustrate how the noodles are reflective of the culture and people who cook them. This is just one of many stories as there are many that cover all sorts of topics including friendship, business, weather, and many more. What they all have in common is that they directly reflect the people and history behind the dish.

This reflection of the noodle on region, culture, and people is not unique to China. Italy is another country that is undeniably linked to the dish. Pasta has become such a household item across the world now that it is hard not to find someone who at least knows of a type of pasta. Pasta/ noodles can be dated back to the Etrusco-Roman times where dry pasta was a staple. It was later rediscovered by Marco Polo. Italy is a much smaller country than China but still it has vast regional differences in the dish. The biggest difference is between the north and the south. In the “History of Pasta” article, the author details how Arabic invasions during the middle ages resulted in a heavy Mediterranean influence that is still present to this day. That influence is particularly noticeable in Sicily with ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins. Given its shape as a peninsula, southern Italy has been a strong recipient of various Mediterranean influences from all sides. Meanwhile, in the north the pasta has a very different style. Northern Italy draws from French and German influences which highlights the different resources that are present in the area. These regional differences help to illustrate how pasta reflects on the region and people who cook them. It highlights the rich history of the Italian peninsula and how so many different forces have come together to shape what we know as pasta today. This historical implication is one reason why pasta is so tightly engrained in Italian culture. While pasta can be traced all the way back to the Etrusco-Roman times, one reason that allowed it to become popular all over the world was the age of exploration. The “History of Pasta” article detailed how the high nutritious value and ability to stay good for so long made it the perfect dish for voyagers on long journeys. This dry pasta made its way around the world through these voyagers and helped spread the dish to its high level. Another type of pasta, fresh pasta, soon made its debut and brought a whole new type of noodle to the table. With the introduction of the fresh pasta with sauces, the need for new noodles to hold onto these sauces became apparent. This need was met by all sorts of new noodle shapes featuring ridges, twists, and ribbons to hold the new flavors. In northern Italy, these dishes were typically prepared using eggs and flour while in southern Italy semolina and water were used. Despite these differences the best tasting pasta came from regions that used “fresh local ingredients”. This is what keeps pasta relevant in Italian culture today. In the modern age of mass-produced pasta dishes, it is sometimes difficult to find dishes that reflect the true history behind the dish, with painstaking effort and precision applied to it. This is Italian culture and how the noodle reflects on the people who make it.

Overall through this process I have learned about many different types of noodle and pasta dishes and more importantly the reasoning behind the variations. All these differences make it very difficult to narrow down just one definition of noodles but one that I feel does a good job encompassing all facets of the noodle would be: a food item primarily made of a flour that is used to draw together flavors from around the world so that whatever resources are available can be enjoyed together. I could definitely go on and add more sentences to cover more aspects of the noodle, but I feel that this definition does a good job of expanding beyond the clinical and technical aspect and really embracing this dish as one that brings together flavors and people from all over the world to encourage unity among all. I chose the picture below because I feel that it really illustrates the different types of pasta while showing that they can bring together so many different types of flavors to make the dish unique to the person who is making it. Eating is a social activity and noodles are a social tool that allow people to share dishes and flavors that are unique to them to encourage a more wholesome and holistic view of global cuisine.

Blog 1: A New Classic

Food is a powerful tool. It is around the dinner table that many meetings take place, around the lunch table that stories are shared and around the breakfast table that plans are made. It is something that brings people from around the world together, a common desire to enjoy and savor great food. Having been born and raised in Franklin Lakes, NJ, I have always been exposed to a wide variety of culture and foods. As an Indian family, Indian food is the cuisine of choice in our household but it encompasses more than just the average rice and curry. Of course, the classics of my mother’s fish curry and rice are what I immediately think of when I think of home cooked food. This fish curry (Chapala pulusu) dates back to my family’s roots on the Godavari River of Andhra Pradesh. However other dishes such as tamarind glazed ribs, represent my family in the present as an American family that enjoys American traditions while adding our own Indian twist. Last but certainly not least is chicken biryani which represents a true Indian classic with the potential to be endlessly customized. All these dishes have molded me into the person I am today through their broad backgrounds and influences.

Fish Curry

When I look at myself and the qualities that I possess, I can see a bit of each of these dishes in who I am. That may sound a bit far-fetched, but this food really represents me. For starters, the fish curry represents my heritage. When I go away to college for months and come back home, it is the first thing that I want to eat. It is something that provides me with a sense of familiarity and security that is rooted in hundreds of years culture and heritage. Growing up, this was always my favorite dish as the flavors felt authentic and connected me back to their origin. The curry has a tangy almost sour taste that is supported by classic Indian heat. Put together, this unique combination creates a dish that is second to none in my opinion. Whenever I come home from college, there is always warm fish curry and rice waiting for me, which is a tradition I hope never ends.

Tamarind Glazed Baby-Back Ribs

Meanwhile, the tamarind glazed ribs represent a different side of me. Growing up in America and having friends from all different cultures, I was always introduced to many different kinds of food. An American classic that I fell in love with was BBQ glazed baby-back ribs. Ribs are not a staple in the average Indian diet, in fact they are quite a rare occurrence. However, in my family those ribs became a favorite. But these are not your average ribs that you get in any restaurant, as they have an Indian twist. Tamarind is common ingredient in many Indian dishes and its addition to the ribs took them to the next level. This take on an American classic truly represents my family at its core as a group of people who proudly enjoy our Indian culture while embracing other cultures and putting them altogether in the ‘Melting Pot’ that is America. We are not afraid to venture outside of our comfort zone and gladly try new things while adding our own personal touch along the way.

Chicken Biryani

Chicken biryani is a dish that has no comparison in my opinion. The dish itself is made up of rice, chicken, onions, and a multitude of spices that flow perfectly with each other. It is a relatively simple dish, but this simplicity allows for great creativity. There is no singular way to make chicken biryani, there is a difference in each and every one that you try. This dish reminds me of my dad and my cousins as we can all agree that chicken biryani is one of our favorite dishes. While I was growing up we would drive all over looking for the best biryani we could find. No distance was too far and we would not stop until we found the perfect one. To this day, we continue those journeys looking for the next best one. The time we have all shared together along the way has been priceless but more importantly it has all been tied to this dish. Lastly this dish represents a multicultural influence that can been seen as biryani is not solely an Indian dish. There are versions of it across the world. For example, last year I ate African biryani in Zanzibar. The different takes on this dish are unifying as it illustrates that no matter the different perspectives on the dish, in the end it is still same at the core.

Atlanta is a very diverse city. On any given street, you have access to several different cuisines from around the world. One ethnic community that I am familiar with is the Indian community that is actually quite close to Emory’s campus. This Indian community mirrors my family background as it has a combination of classics and new age variants. There is no shortage of classic Indian cuisine where one can find the staples in Indian diets. However, there are also up and coming new age restaurants that have modern takes on classic dishes, much like the tamarind glazed ribs. One example is Masti, a restaurant that serves “Indian Street Food”. They serve dishes such as “Masala Fries” which are a spicy new take on an American classic. This dish and many more serve to illustrate that the Indian community of Atlanta is filled with both food and people that have classic roots from which they are branching out to reach new levels. While the Indian community is the one that I am the most familiar with, I know that there are many different ethnic communities that are thriving all over the city. Perhaps one of the best representations of this is Ponce City Market (PCM). The food hall within PCM has almost every single cuisine you can think of and serves to illustrate that Atlanta has a basis for many different ethnic communities. This diversity is unparalleled and provides a unique opportunity for people to have an appetizer in one part of the world, entrée in another, and dessert in yet another. It has been a goal of mine to try something from every single restaurant in PCM and hopefully I will complete it this year.

My family and Atlanta are very similar, two groups that have a strong classic core but at the same time are not afraid to branch out and try new things.

Here are some recipes for the dishes I mentioned above:

Tamarind Glazed Ribs:

Fish Curry (this is just one of many different recipes):

Chicken Biryani (this is just one of many different recipes):

Here are the links to some of the restaurants I mentioned above:


Ponce City Market: