The Historical Role of the Noodle in Indian Society by Vaishnav Shetty

The Historical Role of the Noodle in Indian Food Culture

By Vaishnav Shetty


Food and culture historians have consistently exposed the way that the noodle reflects Chinese and Italian cultural values and traditions. However, while these two nations may be the first nations that come to mind whenever the noodle as an aspect of culture is brought up, there are many other countries around the world that have integrated the noodle in their own way. Indian food culture is often associated with various curries and rotis, but their proximity to China and historical relationships with various European nations have meant that the noodle found its way into the country during the nation’s early history. An interesting avenue for exploration is the extent of this influence, specifically considering the role that the noodle plays in Indian society and culture. This will allow for an assessment of the noodle across three specific time frames, namely the point when which the noodle was first introduced to India, the way that the noodle successfully found itself integrated into Indian food culture, and the space that it currently occupies in contemporary India society. To conduct this analysis, this essay will analyse various historical texts and sources that explore India’s unique relationship with noodles, including those that reference Indian-specific noodles like seviyan, sevai, sev, and falooda to ensure that the breadth of the Indian noodle experience is taken into consideration. Ultimately, this analysis of the Indian noodle across three different time frames ensures that the question of what place the noodle originally and currently occupies in Indian society can be adequately answered.

Historical Introduction of the Noodle to India

The question of when noodles were first introduced to either Indian or Chinese society and the debate about which nation managed to come up with the idea first is one that people fail to agree upon. Constant arguments for either side have been somewhat mitigated by the possibility that both nations managed to come up with the idea on their own. However, one important fact that both sides agree on when discussing the potential introduction and migration of noodles between food cultures is that their consumption well predates Marco Polo’s original travels along the Silk Road. Much like the case for China and Italy, various sources note that noodles have existed in Indian food culture for an extremely long time. Specifically, food historians point o the fact that “finger millet or ragi is one of the anciet millets in India (2300 BC).” (Shobana et al., 2) Whether this food product qualifies as noodles is a discussion that some people may be divided on, but the fact that scientists and food producers in India utilize the same finger millet that they were using in 2300 BC for the creation of food products like noodles, vermicelli, and other pasta-type products (Shobana et al., 16) contribute heavily to the argument for their inclusion. The fact that India has had noodles and its associated products in their food culture for well over 4000 years is extremely telling. As a result of this extremely early historical introduction of the noodle, one can expect it to have successfully penetrated Indian society and its storied food traditions. This idea is reinforced by the way that the noodle is discussed in common publications of this day, with yoga guru Baba Ramdev discussing how “noodles are very much Indian […] they are integral to the cuisine of many of our North-eastern states.” (Kumar, 22) However, even though the noodle had over 4000 years to complete this process of integration into Indian food culture, the food still needed to prove its worth to Indian society as worthy of acceptance. Highlighting the various characteristics and aspects of noodle tradition made it fit into the Indian community is the second important temporal point of discussion and exploration that will allow for a more robust understanding of its place in Indian society.

Integration of the Noodle into Indian Food Culture

The process of integration into a certain culture within a society often requires that the values and beliefs associated with a certain food line up with the values that the people of that society already hold dear. This commonality between the food and the people that consume it ensures that the dish cements its place in their minds and functions as a means of developing experiences that add to the historical food canon. Noodles established themselves pretty early on in both Chinese and Italian society as a means of showing gratitude, love, and respect, especially towards close friends, spouses, or other family members. Their consumption represented the establishment and strengthening of a communal bond, something that resonated with Indian sentiments about loyalty to family and the ideas of religious acceptance that are a significant part of Hinduism. Additionally, noodles adhere to the Chinese food tenet of balance in the meals that people consume, representing a starchy base that could act as a balancing factor for other more adventurous ingredients that the chef might choose to prepare. Additionally, noodles and their many varied shapes and forms coincided with the Italian emphasis on the consumption of fresh ingredients that accentuated specific regional conditions and the various fresh ingredients native to them. Both of these characteristics fall under the umbrella of general health benefits unique to the noodle, which the Indian community greatly valued after the noodle was introduced into their diet. These health benefits ensured continued consumption of the noodle by members of the Indian population and helped cement its place as a regular feature in the society’s cuisine.

Communal Nature of the Noodle

Research into the traditional role that the Indian joint family plays within Indian society highlights the importance of adhering to collectivist beliefs, social cohesion, and interdependence upon each other (Chadda & Deb, S299). This means that the Indian individual believes in the greater importance of the group over the individual and thus utilizes the close bonds that they form with their family and close friends to perpetuate these beliefs. While the importance of these specific beliefs may have been slowly eroding in the recent years, one cannot deny that in the time period immediately following the introduction of the noodle into India, collectivism would have been a commonly-held cultural and societal belief. The noodle is often described as a dish that represented a large amount of love and respect between the individual serving the dish and the individual receiving it. Chinese family ceremonies and traditions, especially those associated with communicating to the spirit world or ensuring familial health, would never be complete without a noodle dish to punctuate the proceedings. Furthermore, family gatherings and labours of love by Italian families can often be tied to the extensive amount of work that pasta preparation demands. Indian cultural histories about noodles often point to a similar mindset being present during the consumption of traditional noodle dishes. Most notably, the communal aspect of this dish often allowed for the formation of connections that transcended the distinct differences amongst the people that exist in India. Datta’s narratives about life in a Delhi squatter settlement titled “Mongrel City” recounts the way that “during Eid, Abeeda would prepare seviyan and meat and organise a small eating place outside her home.” (Datta, 746) When considering this simple act of preparing a vermicelli dish for the larger community that Abeeda finds herself in, one must make note of the extreme poverty that often characterizes these slums and squatter settlements in the fringes of India’s major cities. Even more astounding is the fact that the constituents of the gathering outside Abeeda’s home would be made up of her neighbours hailing from all different religious background, including Hindus and Sikhs. Datta ultimately observed that the collective and communal nature of the festive celebration, with the noodle dish in the centre of it all, “produced a new kind of relationship between Abeeda and her neighbours who came from different castes, religions, and ethnicities into he squatter settlement in Delhi.” (Datta, 746) While this may have been a singular memory taken from a single narrative tale about a specific community in one city of India, one can expect this exact scene to have been mirrored all across the country in the time following the introduction of the noodle into Indian cuisine. This new type of relationship that the noodle helped nurture would translate into countless new experiences for the people of India. Furthermore, the values that the noodle perpetuated would perfectly coincide with the nation’s adherence to collectivist ideology, further cementing the importance of the new relationships and experiences that the noodle helped form. With such a strong and positive impact on the community as a whole, one cannot help but understand how the noodle’s communal nature allowed the food to successfully integrate into Indian food culture.

Health Benefits of the Noodle to the Indian Diet

The parallels that existed between the noodle’s cultural meanings and those that already characterized the Indian community helped ensure that the experiences and values formed by noodle eaters were both strong and positive. This meant that people and the communities that they made up would seek out these noodles in their future meals. However, the supplemental health benefits that these noodles had to the Indian diet was what ensured that these positive emotions tied to the specific food would not erode over time. Repeated consumption would not create food health issues that could overwrite cultural acceptance that shared noodle experiences would have formed, causing the noodle to become a natural and irremovable food in Indian cuisine. The very first proto-noodle that existed in the Indian food culture was the finger millet. An interesting note that historical consumers of this food and the noodles that would be later made with it emphasize the fact that finger millet and the products that can be made from it possess a lower glycaemic index than their wheat counterparts (Shobana et al., 29). The noodles that would ultimately come to be made of this millet was the healthier option over wheat rotis that was the nation’s original starchy staple. Additionally, researchers found that “consumption of millets reduces risk of heart disease, protects from diabetes, improves digestive system, lowers the risk of cancer, increases immunity in respiratory health, and is protective against several degenerative diseases such as metabolic syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.” (Kavitha et al., 3167) Logical assessments of the food’s integration into Indian food culture following its introduction in the form of finger millet point to the added value that such a healthy food item provided from the Indian noodle consumer. The healthier nature of this alternative and its role in promoting acceptance amongst the Indian community has several parallels to the way that the Chinese believed in the balancing nature of the noodle in their dishes as well as the Italian desire for freshness in their food. Ultimately, the health benefits that the noodle provided to the Indian diet served to pave the way for an easier integration process and reduce the likelihood that the noodle would be phased out from Indian food culture at a later date.

Contemporary Role of the Noodle in India

The contemporary role that the noodle plays in Indian society represents the third and final temporal sphere that this historical exploration will cover, allowing for an analysis of the transition from food’s introduction to the role it has within the community now. As was noted earlier, Indian societal values have begun to change in modern times. Specifically, the nation’s adherence to collectivist philosophies have slowly begun to diminish. Some analysts point to the influence of globalization and the introduction of Western ideology towards this shift in perspective. However, regardless of where this influence is sourced from, the impact that this shift in cultural values must have significant implications for the noodle because of the latter’s status as a communal food product. Despite the potential removal of the noodle from Indian food culture because of this potential disconnect between the new Indian social consciousness and what the noodle stands for, analysis of contemporary noodle consumption in India has identified the food’s resilience and adaptability. While traditional noodle dishes like sev, seviyan, and falooda remain an important part of what people eat during celebrations and ceremonies, a new type of noodle has made its way into the forefront of Indian food culture. This new noodle product is one that has been packaged, positioned, and marketed to accompany the cultural shift that is currently taking place in India. This dynamic adaptability ensures that the noodle maintains a role in contemporary Indian society despite the shifting values and beliefs of the community during this time.

Maggi as a Cultural Phenomenon

Since the noodle’s introduction into Indian food culture over 4000 years ago, it has manifested and been consumed in a variety of different ways. These variations on the noodle owe themselves to specific regional differences that characterize the communities and places consuming the noodle as well as shifts in the social and cultural beliefs held by the community. The latter is one that is playing an extremely important role in the widespread acceptance of a new kind of noodle into the Indian food canon, closely tied to the nation’s shift away from the collectivist principles that defined its historical past. Maggi noodles are instant noodles sold by Swiss transnational food company Nestlé and have cemented themselves as the sole market leader in India for the consumption of this food product, commanding 42% of retail value share in the last year (Euromonitor). Furthermore, while retail sales figures may help outline just how large a cultural phenomenon Maggi is in India, this does not compare to the cultural experiences and histories that Indians from all walks of life have developed with the brand. Specifically, researchers note the way that “the product [Maggi] penetrated all possible layers of the consumer population of India” (Sinha et al., 81), showing the perpetuation of the noodles’ cultural ability to transcend boundaries of race, caste, and religion. However, the way that Maggi is consumed by the Indian population is one that has slowly done away with the communal aspect that used to define noodle meals, instead relegating this to specific family celebrations and ceremonies that are associated with more traditional noodles like seviyan and falooda. Instead, Maggi is representative of the individualistic influences that the process of globalization has brought into the nation, as opposed to the collectivist philosophies that characterize the nation’s past. Maggi’s major selling points are its wide variety of flavours to be chosen from, the idea of being able to consume Maggi “your way” and being extremely convenient (Agarwal). All of these contribute to the brand’s popularity and ability to “register a regular top-of-the-mind recall among the upwardly mobile middle-class consumers.” (Sinha et al., 81) The adaptability of the noodle to the new cultural beliefs that have come to characterize contemporary India allowed for the food to maintain its significant place in the nation’s food canon, albeit in a different form to traditional Indian noodles.


A complete historical analysis of the role of noodles in Indian society requires an assessment of three important time periods, namely: the noodles point of introduction over 4000 years ago, the integrative period where the noodle slowly became accepted as a part of Indian cuisine, and a contemporary analysis that highlights the noodle’s ability to transition alongside shifts in cultural values and beliefs. The finger millet proto-noodle has long been a part of Indian food culture, hearkening back to 2300 BC. This represents the earliest known point of noodle existence in India, potentially brought about by historical migrations through either trade or war by neighbouring nations. However, this long history with the noodle did not guarantee the food’s acceptance by the nation’s inhabitants. Instead, the noodle had to undergo an integrative process that required parallels between Indian collectivist philosophies and the noodle’s communal values. The ability of the noodle to bring separate communities together resonated with the Indian people which allowed for the formation of strong, positive memories throughout its history in India. Additionally, the noodle’s positive health contributions supplemented these cultural connections and ensured people remained willing to eat the food. However, as Indian society progressed through the years, significant changes to the nation’s cultural makeup caused shifts in the beliefs and values that the people held. The noodles’ adaptable nature ensured that the food would also make necessary adjustments to accommodate this shift, evident in the significant place that Maggi instant noodles occupies in contemporary Indian society. While this specific variety of noodle maintains a connection to Indian noodles of the past that value connection across cultures, their different form is testament to the shift away from collectivism that contemporary India is currently experiencing. Ultimately, the historical role that the noodle plays in Indian society is one of a loved food staple with a long history in the nation but is also capable of adapting to the nation’s cultural shifts over time.


Works Cited

Agarwal, N. “11 Reasons why Maggi is the Best Comfort Food!” The Times of India. September 18, 2014. Retrieved from

Chadda, R. K., and K. S. Deb. “Indian family systems, collectivistic society and psychotherapy.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry 55.Suppl 2 (2013): S299-309.

Datta, A. “‘Mongrel City’: Cosmopolitan Neighbourliness in a Delhi Squatter Settlement.” Antipode 44.3 (2012): 745-763.

Euromonitor International. “Rice Pasta and Noodles in India.” Retrieved from

Kavitha, V., G. Sindumathi, and K. Chandran. “Small Millets-Food for the Poor or Elite? An Online Market Study in Coimbatore City of Tamil Nadu, India.” International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences 6.11 (2017): 3167-3171.

Kumar, S. S. “Sustainability Through Extension “A Case Study of Patanjali Ayurved Pvt Ltd. Baba Ramdev-Jack of All Trades”.” Episteme 5.1 (2016): 14-27.

Sahadeo, M. V. Standardisation of Falooda. Doctoral Dissertation MPKV, 2015. 1-71.

Patel, S. K. Optimization and Formulation of Nutri-Rich Snack Food (Sev). Doctoral Dissertation JNKVV, 2016. 1-41.

Shobana, S., et al. “Finger Millet (Ragi, Eleusine coracana L.): A Review of its Nutritional Properties, Processing, and Plausible Health Benefits.” Advances in Food and Nutrition Research 69 (2013): 1-39.

Sinha, S., D. Sinha, and G. Gupta. “Maggi as a Youth Icon in India: A Case of Cultural Branding.” Proceedings of ICRBS 2015 (2015): 81-84.

Mee Pok Dry by Vaishnav Shetty

While growing up, travelling was an integral part of what we as a family did. When one adds up all of the hours me, my siblings, and parents spent in planes and airports, travelling to and from our international schools, offices, and family vacations, one can’t help but see the entire travelling process as a home away from home. Now, there’s a certain relaxation that I get from airports and planes, a sense of ease tied to having done the exact same thing countless times before.

However, with travel, as with many other things in life, things can’t be expected to always be smooth sailing. An inevitable part of this constant travelling was the development of several rules that helped our family deal with the countless surprises and stresses that we could be expected to deal with at any time: jetlag, potential flight delays, culture shock, and losing our bags to name a few. A lot of these were practical and sound, built up by my dad from his own personal experience and reinforced through our own insights when travelling as a family.

Pack light, avoiding luggage if you can. Make sure that you have three full sets of clothing in your carry on in case your luggage doesn’t arrive. Stay awake on the flight if you’re arriving at night. Bring refillable water bottles. Avoid drinking tea and coffee served on planes. Each of these rules have specific incidents and memories tied to them that allowed them to be instated into our family’s travelling canon. However, the one rule that has always existed, present even during my earliest memories of travel, is to remember to take the time to eat some food whenever something unexpected or distressing has come up.

Food holds a special space in my family’s heart. One might say it was the true motivation behind the constant travelling that we all did. Amazing explosions of taste and aroma characterize our best memories of the different places we’ve visited. Revisiting these meals automatically cause us to return to these points in our lives, reexperiencing the emotions and feelings that cemented our experience. I’ve included just one of the innumerable dishes that hold a storied place in my head and heart: mee pok dry.

Mee Pok Dry

Waking up a child that doesn’t want to be woken up is hard, even in the best of circumstances. Doing so after they’ve had a fitful sleep in their seat on a turbulent flight, one which landed at three in the morning in Singapore, is impossible. So when six-year-old me was faced with the prospect of having to pull my little roller bag out from the plane and into the brightly lit airport, you can only begin to understand the little waves of fury and resentment rolling off my tiny body. This anger caused me to refuse the help that my mother and father both offered, simply because I could not deal with the injustice of having been woken up. The annoyance that I felt only worsened when I realised the folly of my pride as we trudged down the halls of the all-too-bright airport. My bag suddenly felt far too heavy to drag across the carpeted floor and my feet felt like I was dragging them through thick mud. However, I could not turn back on my original refusal and ask my parents for help, because what kind of six-year-old would I be otherwise?

In my self-contained seething and rage, I had failed to notice that we hadn’t made our way to either the train station or the taxi stand. Instead, we had slipped behind one of the service doors at the airport, led by a member of the skeleton-shift service crew. As we made our way through this maze of doors and tiny service hallways, my anger began to wane as curiosity started to get the better of me. By the time the first little grumble from my stomach made itself heard, our guide pulled open a set of double doors and I was hit with this mouth-watering aroma of seafood, fish sauce, vinegar, pork, and chili. In the face of this stressful time, the wisdom behind the rule to get a little food to reorient myself had never seemed smarter. I eagerly sat down at one of the tables in this surprisingly busy employee food court, deep within the bowels of the Singapore airport. My father and his guide walked up to the counter where a stern old man was blanching several batches of mee pok (flat egg noodles) in noodle strainers. As they cooked, he quickly bustled over four bowls, throwing in a small amount of cooked pork mince, a splash of black vinegar and fish sauce, a large lump of sambal (chili sauce), and some oil. The mee pok came flying out of the strainers, tossed into the air once before being dumped on top of this sauce concoction. Then as if that were not enough, several pieces of blanched fish cakes and fish balls were placed on top of the steaming hot noodles, topping it all off. As my father brought the tray with four bowls of noodles and four extra bowls of hot dried fish broth meant for sipping on the side, my anger had completely given way to awe at this entirely new experience. That first bite of mee pok dry is something I will never forget, as the interplay of salty, sweet, umami, and sour flavours came rushing in on a bed of perfectly bouncy egg noodles. My desire to sleep quickly fell to the wayside as me and my family dug into our noodles, solidifying the importance of making a little bit of time to get some food whenever a problem comes up.

Mee Pok (Flat egg noodles)


Analysis Questions

  1. The piece that I chose to imitate was Nancy Savoca’s “Ravioli, Artichokes, and Figs” from Milk of Almonds, which incorporated an initial section that spoke to the reader and gave background information before delving into several short stories connected by a food theme that gave insight into Savoca’s life.
  2. The relationship that food has to memories and connection is a theme that has often come up in this course. Furthermore, it is one of the most relatable aspects of both Chinese and Italian food cultures, especially when looking at the noodle as a dish. Savoca’s format allows the author to provide readers with snapshots of different experiences based on the food that is closely tied to it. While I only included one dish because of issues of length, it would have been easy to write about another two or three, noodle-based or otherwise. This is because of how wonderfully relatable both the format and Savoca’s experiences are.
  3. Savoca’s tale about ravioli is one that shares some interesting insights about Italian immigrant culture specifically, but also sheds some light on the author’s half-Argentinean background. In this culture, food represented a special place of connection for people that gained significantly larger amounts of meaning when the interaction took place between immigrants. In the sea of foreignness that represents the new home for all immigrants, the familiarity of food can often act like a life preserver. There is something beautiful in the way that a mutual love of pasta between Savoca and the family of her sister’s husband could allow the former to feel both welcome and accepted. The significance of being understood is one that cannot be discounted and is testament to the food’s ability to build powerful relationships and lasting memories.
  4. Interestingly, the decision to write about a noodle dish that did not come from my home did not mean that there weren’t any lessons about my own culture that came from this piece. Instead, I gained insight into a unique perspective on life that my own family developed as a result of our shared experiences. Specifically, the importance of reorienting oneself in the face of adversity is something that every member of our family has come to appreciate. Furthermore, there was an interesting acknowledgement of the way that travel allows for the expansion of one’s horizons, even when it comes to the sort of food that a person eats. Tasting authentic mee pok dry allowed me to appreciate a combination of flavours that I may have never experienced in my original food culture.
  5. Food is an important contributor to cultural DNA not only because it provides necessary nourishment for communities but also because of the experiences, meanings, and lessons that these meals provide. This a central theme that is explored in Savoca’s narrative and something that I sought to replicate with my own. Savoca’s half-Argentinean half-Italian heritage shines through her ravioli story, giving us insight into the familial connections that so strongly define what it means to be an Italian. However, the cultural DNA within “Ravioli, Artichokes, and Figs” extends much further than this, providing commentary on regionalism by highlighting the differences between her family’s Sicilian background and the Neapolitan heritage of her sister’s husband and his family. Finally, there is also a discussion of space occupied by immigrants in a society, specifically through reference to the coming together of people from different areas in the face of foreignness. In my own story, familial connection remains the central aspect of culture that manifests through the narrative and how my father sought to ensure that we were okay despite the situation. However, there is also an interesting exploration of the idea of foreignness from the perspective of a traveller as opposed to an immigrant, with similar ideas regarding how daunting it might be. However, the cultural views diverge in terms of how to deal with this foreignness, mainly due to the difference in circumstance for travellers and immigrants. This reinforces the idea that unique cultural DNA is embedded throughout these two works and are manifested throughout their narratives.

Making the Noodle Our Own by Vaishnav Shetty

One of the most interesting aspects of the noodle as a food has to do with just how much larger the food’s cultural background is when compared to the physical and tangible nature of the food itself. Different societies that have incorporated the noodle into their culinary tradition have absorbed more than just the noodle’s starchy qualities that make it the perfect base for various sauces and meats, but instead have absorbed the traditions of camaraderie, family, and gathering that have become unavoidably associated with it.

To truly understand what noodles means to the cultures that champion their use and consumption, one need look no further than the twin food giants of Italy and China. Both these cultures hold storied places in world of international cuisine, having expanded their reach so far as to have an influence in almost every corner of the world when it comes to food. Their influence has been accompanied with the inexorable introduction of the noodle because of the important role that this food plays in both Italian and Chinese cuisine. The International Pasta Organization’s “The Truth about Pasta” waxes lyrical about the virtues and benefits of consuming this type of food, highlighting the way that pasta provides health and energy without placing undue stress on one’s diet or on the Earth’s environmental resources due to unsustainable farming practices. These benefits are responsible for pasta’s position as a pillar of the Mediterranean diet for the longest time, with versions of pasta existing in the Etrusco-Roman diet as far back as 1 AD, as mentioned in Life in Italy’s “History of Pasta”. While this reflects the importance of healthy and robust food in Italian cuisine, pasta also owes its popularity to the cultural significance that has developed with the dish. The making of fresh pasta involves processes that require a high level of care and precision, which translates to familial love and care due to the large amount of effort some individuals can contribute to give their family’s the best. Chinese food culture mirrors this belief in many ways, as evidenced by the many meanings and cultural connotations around the idea of bing in David Knechtges analysis of Shu Xi’s “Rhapsody on Pasta”. Chinese cuisine at the time had already accepted pasta and acknowledged that the various types of bing present owed itself to unique origins from various villages and towns across the nation. Despite this, bing found itself favoured by all levels of society, holding a unique position as a pillar of Chinese cuisine that was consumed by both villager and emperor. Furthermore, each of these different types of bing are associated with different cultural ceremonies at different types of the year and to celebrate different events, pointing to the ritualistic importance of this food. This cements the cultural significance of the noodle and its variants in Chinese culture, as well as the unavoidable parallels that exist between China and Italy when it comes to the noodle. The noodle and pasta have come to play such an integral role because of a combination of the food’s nourishing qualities and its ritualistic contributions to the act of coming together and the formation of a community.

The importance of the noodle in both Chinese and Italian food has meant that any country that has experienced the influence of these cuisines has been exposed to this food. Considering just how far and wide both these cuisines have spread, it is hard to imagine any country’s cuisine and food being unaffected by the noodles hailing from China and Italy. Indian cuisine is no different, having experienced Chinese influences in its dishes due to the two nations’ proximity and having received Italian food due to the process of globalization.

Much like China, due to extremely large geographical area of the country and its varied topography, India possesses varied regional cuisines. Noodles manifest in a variety of different ways in Indian cuisine, based on the region that it hails from. Oftentimes, these variations revolve around the starch base that the noodles are derived from.

India’s wheat noodles, also known as seviyan, often used in cuisine from the Gujarat region.

One of the two types of Indian rice noodles, known as sevai, which are first made into an idli pancake before being pressed into the more traditional noodle shape

Indian sev, which are a popular munching snack noodle derived from extruded chickpea-flour dough and then fried to make them crisp

Indian falooda, which are noodles made out of cornstarch and then served with sweetened milk or Indian ice cream known as kulfi

These various Indian cuisine noodles utilize a variety of different starches that are combined with water to create a pasta dough. Thus, when creating a definition that combines Chinese, Italian, and Indian ideas of pasta and the noodle, one must emphasize the importance of both the different starches involved in the process as well as the different methods of preparation once the noodle is formed. A tentative one that expands on the basic definitions provided by the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries to include these findings has been included below:

The noodle is a piece of pasta created from a combination of a starch (such as flour, cornstarch, rice, etc.) and water, cut into a variety of different shapes, and then prepared using a cooking process that involves a liquid (boiling, stir-frying, steaming, frying, etc.).

While this definition is a clear expansion on the fairly limited versions that both dictionaries have provided, there is still a significant aspect of Indian, Chinese, and Italian noodle culture that fails to be represented. Our analysis of various texts referring to Chinese and Italian noodle culture emphasize the cultural meanings and connotations that invariably accompany the tangible nature of the food. The place that the noodle occupies in Indian culture is the same and is best represented by what virtually every Indian person will point to when asked about Indian noodle culture. The noodle that I am referring to is the Maggi 2-minute noodle that has become an important cultural phenomenon all over India and holds a place as the nation’s favourite comfort food.

This comfort food is present in a variety of different flavours and noodle types, but the one thing that remains constant is the important role this food plays in the Indian community. People all over the country eat this noodle, lovingly referred to as the nation’s third staple after wheat and rice, available for purchase even in the most remote villages in all regions of India. It exemplifies the companionship and community that is an integral part of the noodle’s cultural significance in China and Italy, providing a common food all over the nation that every Indian can relate to. The cultural significance is made even more obvious when one looks in the bags of every Indian who has to leave the country, as they stock up on Maggi in order to provide them with a quick and easy connection to home whenever they are feeling down. Ultimately, the space that these noodles occupy in Indian food culture showcases the way that this food’s cultural significance has extended past the roles that it plays in Italian and Chinese food culture. With this in mind, I have attempted to provide an expanded definition of the noodle that seeks to incorporate this integral aspect of the noodle:

The noodle is a piece of pasta created from a combination of a starch (such as flour, cornstarch, rice, etc.) and water, cut into a variety of different shapes, and then prepared using a cooking process that involves a liquid (boiling, stir-frying, steaming, frying, etc.), whose consumption promotes a sense of camaraderie, connection, and community to a specific culture or identity.

Food as a Shield and a Weapon

Food is an extremely important of my own personal life because it has always represented something more meaningful than the nourishing physical effect that it has on my body. Despite the fact that food is one of the basic necessities that humans need to continue operating their body, there are symbolic and emotional meanings that have slowly developed over the course of my life and have ultimately attached them to the meals that I eat. They ultimately have become a part of who I am as a person, drawing me closer to the people that I call my family and friends, while also contributing to both my cultural background and my personal interpretations of that culture. Choosing to eat the food ultimately impacts my life by first reinforcing the identity that my collective experiences and relationships have defined for myself and second by allowing me to continue a process of growth and development as I gain more of these experiences and relationships.

My life is one that is characterised by a large amount of travel and exposure to new and exciting cultures, all of which possess different types and classes of food. The idea of remaining static in a single location is not one that appeals to me, due to the immeasurable opportunities that remain unexplored. As a result of this, the foods that are important to me closely mirror this dynamic nature, pulling heavily from the various cultural experiences and unique relationships that I have slowly accrued throughout my life. The very foundation of my experience and identity is closely tied to my Indian upbringing, having been born and raised there and having parents that are both from the country. The stereotypical understanding of foods originating from this area is limited to the idea of a spicy curry paired with the most famous of rotis, the naan. However, to simply apply this broad brush to the multitude of gravies and sauces that constitute the food that I ate at home, a significant number of which did not even incorporate the curry leaf ingredient from which curry receives its name, fails to do justice to the food. The rich creaminess of a perfectly cooked palak paneer (homemade farmer cheese stewed in spinach-based gravy) or the interplay between the sweetness, nuttiness, and bitterness of methi malai mutter (fenugreek-flavoured green pea stew) showcase just how complex and intricate the flavours can be, contradicting the diluted cultural representation of Indian food present outside the country. These are supplemented by rotis of every size and shape, ranging from the layered and oily paratha to the oversized crepe-like dosa, all of which put the simple naan to shame. However, despite the special place that these foods hold in my heart, they do not successfully represent the entirety of my identity. One cannot deny the special importance that I place on foods like takeout pizza and burritos, simply because being a college student in the United States is such an important aspect of my current identity and personal culture. Overall, it is the unique combination of foods from cultures all over the world that I have visited and absorbed that represent my friends, family, and personal identity.

Foods that are important to me achieve this status because they hearken back to certain experiences, emotions, friends, or family that are an integral part of who I am as a person. The ability to draw on this unique characteristic associated with the food that I am consuming is the main reason that I choose to eat them. Depending on what sort of experience I am attempting to draw out, I might choose to look for a place that serves a truly authentic palak paneer in the hopes of establishing a connection to my home and family, during the times that I am feeling down or homesick. This reinforcement helps me stay true to the identity that I have developed for myself, maintaining the connections to people and values I care about. However, my decision to eat certain foods also stems from a supplementary impact that the act of consumption can have on my collective identity. The desire to push boundaries and grow is one that can be achieved through a similar process, due to the tight hold that eating food has on how I define myself. This two-fold ability to either reinforce certain aspects of my identity during times of strife by consuming the familiar or to push myself outside my comfort zone to promote growth by exploring different foods and the cultures that are responsible for them is the main significance of these foods for me. Additionally, the constant redefinition of what foods are important to me that comes about as a result is reflective of the constant changes in my life as I face new experiences and build new relationships.

My most recent set of experiences have revolved heavily around the time that I have spent here in Atlanta, which has resulted in an entirely new set of foods that have developed an importance to me and contributed to my identity. The two main sets of ethnic cuisines and communities that have made a significant impact on me whilst in Atlanta are Korean and Ethiopian. Korean food is currently experiencing an explosion in the United States, which in turn has caused the community to spread out throughout the entire nation. The experiences that I have had with these individuals has been extremely eye-opening because of the unique way KBBQ is served and consumed. Furthermore, the times that I have spent at these restaurants, along with the interactions throughout the university with Korean international students, have given me glimpses into their culture that help provide context towards the food that I am eating. The new experiences that I had while eating these foods are examples of times when the food I eat pushes me outside my comfort zone so as to promote development in my identity. An interesting note that I have to make regarding this specific community has to do with the way that the Korean food that has gained popularity in the US, especially the KBBQ restaurants that I visit all the time, does not represent the actual food consumed back in Korea. There is a clear parallel to my own experiences with the Indian curries that individuals outside of India believe constitutes the cuisine. On the other hand, the connection to Ethiopian cuisine and community instead focuses on the long-standing relationship that has always existed between their foods and the foods of my homeland. It is hard to describe the elation that I felt when I realised that I could order injera, a floppy cake barely distinguishable from the dosas I ordered back home, at a corner restaurant. This ethnic community and my experiences with them are examples of a time where foods instead reinforce the identity that I have already established, providing me with support whenever I need it.



Palak Paneer



  • 1 pound spinach (fresh or frozen), chopped
  • 2 cups paneer cubed
  • 2 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot green chili minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger minced
  • 15 cashews
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt


  1. Add cashews to milk and blend together to make a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  2. Add ghee after heating the pot up.
  3. Add cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and green chili. Saute for 1 minute. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times.
  4. Add chopped spinach, salt and 1 cup of water. Close Instant Pot with pressure valve to sealing.
  5. For frozen spinach – Manual on high pressure for 1 minute, For fresh spinach – Manual on high pressure for 0 minutes
  6. Quick release the pressure when time is up. Turn Instant Pot to Saute and adjust to “less”, this will stop the spinach puree from splattering all over.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of water (optional) and blend to make smooth paste using immersion blender.
  8. Add cashew paste, garam masala and paneer. Gently stir everything together.
  9. Serve hot with rice or parathas. Enjoy!

Recipe by Archana Mundhe at


Methi Malai Mutter



  • 2 cups chopped fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup green peas
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • oil
  • salt to taste
  • To be ground into a paste
  • 4 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp cashewnuts (kaju)
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds (khus-khus)
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste


  1. Make a paste out of green chillies,cashewnuts,poppy seeds and ginger garlic paste by adding some water.
  2. Wash the methi leaves, chop them and add salt. Keep them aside.
  3. In a pan heat oil.
  4. Add cumin seeds and onions. Sauté onions till translucent.
  5. Make puree of tomatoes and add to the onions. Let it cook for 5 mins.
  6. Add the poppy seeds & cashewnuts paste.
  7. Mix well and add garam masala and salt powder.
  8. Now add fenugreek leaves and green peas.
  9. Mix everything well.
  10. Finally add cream and let it cook for 10 mins.
  11. Serve with hot rotis.

Recipe by Anita Mokashi at





  • 2 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour (Whole meal flour or Chapati Atta)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup butter
  • lukewarm water, to knead the dough


  1. Take a mixing bowl, add flour 2 cups of flour. keep 1/2 cup aside for mixing the dough.
  2. Put salt and mix it well with flour.
  3. Knead the dough with lukewarm water. Make a soft dough.
  4. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  5. Take little dough. Make a ball same size as golf ball.
  6. Take a rolling pin. Make a small dough arounf 2″ diameter.
  7. Apply butter, fold it, apply butter again and then fold it again to form a triangle shape.
  8. Roll the dough to make it around 5″ diameter.
  9. Heat griddle and cook the dough for about a minute.
  10. Take some oil in spoon and spread on edges of pratha on griddle.
  11. Flip the paratha and cook other side. Cook for about a minute.
  12. Flip it again, apply some oil on top. Flip again and cook for about 30 seconds.
  13. Serve hot yogurt and mango pickle or with any main course dish.

From GeniusKitchen by cook334446 at





  • 3 cup rice (chawal)
  • 1 cup split black gram lentil (urad ki dhuli dal)
  • 1 tsp salt (namak)
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (dana methi)
  • oil as required


  1. Soak rice, dal and dana methi for 6 hours.
  2. Then grind them to a fine thin batter by adding little water.
  3. Add salt to it and leave it covered for 12 hours for fermentation.
  4. Now heat a non-stick tawa (fry pan) and spread 1 tbsp of the batter on the whole of the pan.
  5. Grease all the corners and then cook it on the other side also.
  6. Put little water on the tawa and wipe it with a clean cloth before making each dosa.
  7. Serve them hot with hot sambhar and chutney.

From Indian Food Forever at