Tracing the Origins of the Noodle

Sehr Mehra

Professor Li & Ristaino


26 June 2018

Tracing the Origins of the Noodle

Mix water and flour and knead into a dough, you now have a plethora of prospects in the palm of your hands. Noodles are the epitome of versatility and flexibility, and it’s this adaptable nature that has contributed to its rise as a world renowned food. Noodles are eaten as pho in Vietnam, chow-chow in Nepal, seviyan in India and many other permutations and combinations throughout the globe. While the popularity of noodles is a widely accepted consensus, its origin is still a prominently debated subject. There are numerous contenders who have claimed to be the creators of the Noodle. Italians profess that they are the pioneers of this plant based food, whereas the Chinese argue that they invented this culinary sensation. In this paper I will endeavor to trace the geneses of this cereal food and subsequently attempt to end the age old dispute surrounding it.

We begin our historical research in the East Asian country, China. Noodles are believed to have originated here, as ‘Bing’, during the early rule of the Han Dynasty. They were then diversified by experimentation and the evolution of additional shapes and cooking methods. Noodles further gained cultural prominence via folklore related to ‘health, religion, economy’ and with the emergence of Chinese superstitions. (Zhang and Ma, 2016)However, due to recent archeological discoveries it’s likely that noodles were around much prior to the rise of the Han Rule. Excavation sites have revealed that wheat grains and early production apparatuses existed from the early to late Neolithic period – an astounding ten thousand years before now. More tangible evidence, which testifies to the existence of Noodles well into the past, was unearthed in 1999. ‘Noodles discovered among relics at the Lajia archeological site in Minhe County, Qinghai Province’. After radio-dating ‘the noodles and bowl of noodles’ found at the site, it was disclosed that they were crafted and cooked four thousand years ago during the early Xia Dynasty. These archaeological findings thus provide us with physical evidence which date back to periods long before the present day. They reveal that the noodle has been closely interwoven into the Chinese society and their culinary practices for eons. (Wei et al., 2017)

 Noodles and noodle bowl discovered at Lajia archaeological site in 1999.

We now move on to our next destination in this culinary dissertation, Italy. Pasta is an integral part of the Italian diet and culture. With shapes ranging from small pinwheels to large sheets, its diversity can be witnessed across the regions of this unified country. Each Italian province has its own rich history with pasta, shaped by its geographical limits and foreign influences, and as a result unique dishes native to these expanses have become a beacon for their identities. The emergence of Pasta in Italy was formerly attributed to Marco Polo, a venetian explorer. He voyaged to China, and upon his return in 1295, he brought back copious amounts of spices and other discoveries which included noodles. (Jackson, P. 1998) However, there is a lot of opposition to this assertion as evident in the following remarks made by Justin Demetri in his article ‘The History of Pasta – Pasta through the ages’. ‘Well, Marco Polo might have done amazing things on his journeys, but bringing pasta to Italy was not one of them: noodles were already there in Polo’s time.’(Demeteri, 2018)

 Map outlining Marco polo’s travels from Venice to China. 

One of the leading counter arguments was thapasta already existed during the Roman-Etruscan era as ‘Lagane’. This view is supported by the words of the famous Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, commonly known as Horace, who wrote ‘I come back home to my pot of leek, peas and laganum’. He wrote the above mentioned to defend himself against allegations that he was trying to fit in with members of the ‘higher society’. This modest meal of pasta and vegetables were meant to portray his own humble nature. While it’s not known if these verses were successful in gaining Horace’s innocence, it’s certain that they are one of the oldest mentions of the Italian Pasta amongst literary works. (Ullman, n.d.) Horace wrote his first book around thirty-four BC, which makes it about two thousand years old. Something interesting to note here, is that the pasta, made by mixing various cereals and water, available during the Etrusco-Roman era was oven baked and not boiled. To advance the point pertaining to the prevalence of pasta in ancient times we can take Apicius’s example. He too was a Roman author, who discussed a recipe of ‘laganon’ in his discourse published in the first century AD. (, 2018) These written accounts date back thousands of years. Pasta has thus been a component of the Italian diet for centuries.

   Quintus Horatius Flaccus (8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC) – Roman Lyric Poet.        

 Apicius – collection of Roman recipes, published in the 1st century AD.

Another theory set forward maintained that the Arabs played a role in the development and spread of boiled noodles or ‘itriyah’. They significantly influenced Italian food and culinary practices when they invaded the country in the 8thCentury AD. Their cuisine and culture was adopted in regions such as Sicily, where the spread of sweet and savory foods such as pasta con la sarde was observed after the Arabic conquest. Macaroni too, gained widespread admiration amongst the Sicilians at this time. (Italy’s Culinary Heritage, n.d.) Charles Perry an American Historian who specializes in mapping the origin of the pasta said the following words ‘…the first clear western reference to boiled noodles is in the Jerusalem Talmud of the fifth century AD written in Aramaic for which the term ‘itriyah’ was used.’ He later goes on to say that during the 10thCentury ‘itriyah’ referred to dry noodles exclusively and didn’t include the fresh ones. (Giacco, 2016)The Talmud additionally discussed the term ‘rihata’ which referred to boiled flour and honey which later gave rise to the word ‘rishta’ which translates to noodles. The term ‘rihata’ has been talked about and mentioned in scholarly works since ages. The Arabs thus have a considerable assertion that they played an important role, which resulted in the dominance of pasta in the diets and hearts of the Italian people. (Cooper, 1935)

 Itriyah – pasta as mentioned in the Talmud.

 Rishta (Pasta) cooked with lentils and caramelized onions.

Moving further east from China, we now travel to Japan. Ramen is not only a culinary phenomenon here; it is a cultural marvel as well. Japan has museums dedicated to this fast-food, ramen stalls throughout the country, and television cooking shows fashioned around this spicy broth with noodles. The widespread consumption of Ramen by the residents of Japan is unparalleled by any other people. These facts beg the question ‘who are the ancestors of these instant noodles’ ‘was there a Japanese predecessor to this curried noodle dish’. On further research it becomes clear that ramen was introduced to Japan in the form of noodles, from China. Chinese chefs, who migrated to Japan, began working and cooking meals featuring noodles at local restaurants. These foods then gained extensive fame and were regarded in high esteem by the citizens of Japan. They had built an appetite for the food, which could only be satiated by mechanizing the industry. Ramen, in present day, has become a national staple food in post-war Japan. Even though noodles weren’t devised here, they have become a vital part of the country’s national identity and the favorite grub of its people. (Solt, 2014)

 The Untold History of Ramen – Book by George Solt, which aims to answer the following question ‘How did ramen become the national food of Japan?’

Now we’ll analyze the influences of the Greeks on Italian foods, and more importantly pasta. These Mediterranean individuals and their practices induced changes in the regional cuisines of Italy, such as in Puglie where Greek food flourished. There was little meat in this region which was compensated by the use of fine sausage products and cheeses. (Italy’s Culinary Heritage, n.d.) When it comes to pasta there is a legend that speaks of its production and history. A Greek woman Talia, became the muse of a man named Macareo. She is alleged to have inspired him to create an iron machine, that could produce long strands of pasta, to feed starving poets. This discovery then remained a secret for several years, until shared with the founder of Naples in the sixth century BC. Utensils used for making pasta were also uncovered around about the fourth century BC. These were found in a tomb in Rome, and the carvings later proved that they belonged to the pre-Etruscan era. These utensils, thus signify that pasta making has been taking place in the history of Italy for an extended period of time. (Shelke, 2016)

 The legend of Talia and Macareo outlined in the restaurant, Da Vinci’s, menu. 

After tracing the origins of pastas from countries all over the world, I think the most plausible birthplace of the noodle is China. This Asian country has the most promising data to support its claim of being the ‘inventors’ of this simple wheat and water based dough. The discovery of the noodle remains and bowl occurred two thousand years prior to Horace’s mentions of the ‘lagane’. With its physical, archeological evidence predating even the written records of Italian, Arabic and Mediterranean pasta, it truly does make China victorious in the contention. However, even though China maybe the site of the first instances of noodles and they may have introduced some countries like Japan and India to them, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they were the ones who introduced the rest of the world to it. Italians were enjoying pasta long before Marco Polo brought back the secrets of the Chinese noodle trade. As there is very little documented data and only a few preserved artifacts related to Italian pasta, it’s not right to make any broad claims about its beginning. It is also plausible that pasta developed spontaneously in China and Italy at different time periods. New evidence is bound to be unearthed at some point in the future, which will give more concrete and reliable sources with information about who introduced the Italians to the noodle.

I personally think noodles are united in their use of flour and water, however, every country takes this dough and molds it according to its own history, culture and terrain. Every noodle is thus separate from the other and there is no single category that these noodles lie in. In conclusion I would like to propose the following theory – there is no one ‘true’ inventor of the noodle, it is a world food which is continuously modified and customized via interactions amongst nations, ingredients and people.


  1. Zhang, N. and Ma, G. (2016). Journal of Ethnic Foods.
  2. Wei, Y., Yingquan, Z., Liu, R., Zhang, B., Li, M. and Jin, S. (2018). AACCI Grain Science Library. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2018].
  3. Jackson, P. (1998). Marco Polo and His ‘Travels’. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies,61(1), 82-101. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00015779
  4. Demetri, J. (2018).History of pasta. [online] Life In Italy. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2018].
  5. Ullman, B. (n.d.).Horace and the History of the Word Laganum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jun. 2018].
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  10. Solt, G. (2014).The Untold History of Ramen. [online] Google Books. Available at: [Accessed 28 Jun. 2018].
  11. Shelke, K. (2016).Pasta and Noodles. [online] Google Books. Available at: [Accessed 29 Jun. 2018].

Final Paper: The Exquisite Sociohistorical Intersection of Brasil and Italia by Willi Freire

The Exquisite Sociohistorical Intersection of Brasil and Italia by Willi Freire

Throughout the duration of my life, I have repeatedly questioned the prominence of Italian cuisine within the context of Brasil. Why did I consume so many pasta dishes, pizza specialties, and why do Italians as a community of people still resonate so deeply with me? These are the fundamental questions that prompted me to explore the vast intersection between Brasil and Italia. In this paper, I will examine the foundation of the connection between these two distinct groups historically, while also exploring the anthropological effects on the population of Italian immigrants in Brasil, which was primarily showcased through the formulation of identity premised around cuisine, language, work, religion and many other factors aligning with Italian values as a whole. Furthermore, towards the latter half of this research project, I will delve into modern-day narratives of persons who have reconciled this dynamic themselves, whether it be throughout the trajectory of their life, or through a deeper glance into this beautiful overlap between these two robust cultures that continue to light up the world today.

First and foremost, it is necessary to comprehend characteristics of Italian immigrants and their original points of origins, as these understandings can help one more closely grasp the synergies between these two groups. The segmentation of such immigrants is best seen by their occupation and socioeconomic status overall: Grain traders shifted over to Odessa, while iron miners fled to Belgium and Luxembourg; construction workers, regardless of skill, worked on infrastructure abroad, primarily in Switzerland, Portugal, Egypt and the United States; lastly, the framers followed a movement to the southernmost parts of South America, particularly to Argentina and Brasil. In terms of numbers, the majority of people came from the north, specifically Veneto (see Appendix, Figure 1); the remaining half were comprised of Italians, who originally resided in the central and southern parts of Italy. The way in which these numbers came to fruition can be seen by two distinct transoceanic migration experiences. First, the time window from the unification of Italy and the end of the century, immigrants overwhelmingly came from the North and migrated to Brasil, Argentine and the United States, with a purpose of “own[ing] and cultivat[ing] a piece of land” (Andreola 11).  The second period is known as the Giolitti Era, from the start of the first century up until the adjournment of Wolrd War I—this period is almost entirely comprised of southern migrants who primarily ventured to the United States. To further break up these movements, this paper is more integrally focused on the first movement of Italian migrants to Brasil. Hence, during that first period, there are two natural distributions: firstly, from 1876 to 1896, the flow of immigrants flocked to the southern inhabited lands of Brasil and Argentina, whereas, from 1896 to 1901, was heavily concentrated to São Paulo to the coffee fazendas in the area (Andreola 11). Lastly, Italian immigration to Brasil was characterized as a family-oriented immigration, as opposed to Italian immigration to Argentina and the U.S. which was more so done on an individual basis. These historical insights are imperative in understanding the compatibilities between these two nations as one further deconstructs this dynamic relationship from a cultural perspective.

Furthermore, it is important to understand the key events that sparked Italian immigration to the western hemisphere and other adjacent nations. A Brasilian historian who greatly studied Italian immigration, Paulo Pinheiro Machado, boils down the principal cause of Italian immigration to one concept:

‘“A grande emigração europeias durante o século XIX foi, principalmente, consequência das transformações agrárias processadas pelo capitalismo. O campo tornou-se expulsar de pessoas em todos os países europeus em épocas distintas, com períodos de duração diferenciados. Objetivamente, o que ocorreu em todas as partes, foi a destruição da ordem tradicional compensa, que mantinha um equilíbrio entre a produção agrícola e artesanal durante as diferentes estações de um ano”’ (Andreola 13-14).

This thought-provoking conclusion claims that the culprit of the instability that plagued Italy was premised around its transition to capitalism, which ignited the “destruction of the peasant traditional order,” since now there was no “balance between agricultural and handicraft production during the different seasons of the year” (Andreola 14). Contrary to what one may think, the capitalist tendencies of Italy during the latter half of the 19th century brought in higher taxes, amplified poverty, and many times, led to loss of land for these peasants, especially across the north. Conjunctively, the emancipation of the peasants from the Signore meant that the acquisition of property would now have to be done through purchasing or leasing contracts, but these peasants did not have sufficient capital to successfully acquire property. In turn, other factors including overpopulation, lack of jobs, and disruption in harvesting based on climate change (specifically in Veneto) sparked further migration efforts out of Italy. (Andreola 15). Lastly, poor sanitary conditions further motivated migration since regions like Treviso were depopulated as a result of the cholera disease (Andreola 15). Thus, citizens of Veneto among others were strongly incentivized to move from their impoverished lifestyles and begin a new life in a place that aligned with their cultural values.

It is crucial to spend time on truly understanding the idea that Brasil was seen as a destination country for these Italian immigrants. Brazil ranked third in the number of Italian migrants during these periods. Gianfausti Rosoli claimed that “coloro che si potevano permettere il biglietto per l’America Latina si dirigevano là, dal momento che vi erano prspettive migliori, minori problemi con la lingua, e un adattamento culturale più facile” (Andreola 17). Essentially, there is distinct attractiveness of a country like Brazil to Italians. Brazil was large, relatively unexplored, and after the abolition of slavery, a high demand of working labor. These considerations coupled with the alignment of culture, given the similar romance language, inspired Veneto-residing Italians to migrate with positive expectations about the future. The Brasilians themselves yearned for a new source of labor for their coffee fazendas.[1] Hence, they capitalized on the European urge for a new life by initiating contratos de parceira[2] in which the farmers would pay all moving expenses in exchange for their labor (Andreola 17). The high demand of labor meshed well with the urgency of Italians to make a living; thus, almost 50% of the entire planting and harvesting of coffee in Brasil was completed by Italian immigrants between the years of 1910 and 1918 (Andreola 22). Of course, there was substantial initiatives created by the Italian government in keeping their population intact. They introduced restrictions, such as military obligations prior to departure, and instituted a new law called the Commissariato Generale per L’Emigrazione (Andreola 12). This law enforced inspection commissions in the most utilized ports of Italy. Ultimately, however, a vast majority of the immigrants were successful in reaching their respective destinations. During this time of immigration, there were approximately two and a half million people in São Paulo, almost one million of which were Italian immigrants (Andreola 18). This statistic clearly conveys just how profound the movement of Italian immigrants were in coming to Brasil, particularly to the states of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. In Rio Grande do Sul, the opportunity to pave one’s own way was quite the norm. With a lot of land up for grabs, northern Italians capitalized on what they do best by farming and harvesting in the rural lands of Rio Grande do Sul. It is said that Rio Grande do Sul speicifically transitioned from the “monoculture fazendas […] to the polyculture of the Italian immigrants,” who added endless dimensions to the occupation of farming (Andreola 29). Evidently, one can now understand not only the cultural connections between Brasil and Italia but also the practical ones, which emphatically aligned throughout the influx of immigrants in these two major states of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.

Moreover, the conception of an Italian-Brasilian identity as a phenomenon showcases just how the intermingling of these two cultures manifested in language, cuisine and overall values. To better solidify the concept of intersection in the culinary space it is important note that São Paulo has more than 51 different culinary traditions today (Andreola 32). Specific to Italy, the translation between regional differences was realized in Brasil with the creation of specialty dishes. This regional attribute allowed Italian immigrants to preserve their identity, not merely as an Italian, but more importantly, as a Venetian or Florentino, for instance. This regional dynamic was certainly embraced by the Brasilians, who were still tracing their own culture themselves. A beautiful quote illustrates this concept perfectly: “A cozinha itliana é na verdade uma cozinha de regiões que precede no tempo à própria nação italiana, regiões que até 1861 eram parte de esatdos indepdenetes e muitas vezes hostis, compartilhando poucas tadições culturais, sem uma língua comum” (Andreola 33). Essentially, this quote in Portuguese encapsulates the multidimensional qualities of Italian cuisine—one in which there isn’t necessarily traceable similarities, one in which dialects of Italian are spoken, one in which circumstantial requirements like temperature and region-specific ingredients are necessary for the creation of certain dishes. As a Brasilian myself, I can wholeheartedly see the resemblance of this value across Brasil, and I am confident that Italian influence had a major part in making this happen, since there are so many clear-cut segments between regional dishes across the nation of Brasil.

So, what are some of the Italian-inspired dishes that extended to Brasil over time? Some of these renowned “Italian” dishes have very faint similarities with actual Italian dishes, which seems to be a recurring theme throughout this course. For example, cappuccino with chocolate and cinnamon is something specific to the Americas and was actually created in Brasil, but it is not common to find it in Italy at all (Gourmet). Secondly, Brasilian fogazza has a religious component in that it is consumed during the Catholic holiday, Festa da Nossa Senhora Achiropita—this dish more so resembles the Italian dish panzerotto, originating in Naples (Gourmet). Now, this Italian dish with a twist has served as the foundation of the modern day Brasilian “pastel,” a country-wide fried and breaded snack that has revolutionized Brasilian cusine, specifically its bakery-like restaurant that have spread their footprints across the globe. Another Italian-inspire Brasilian dish is “frango com polenta,” which is prevalent in Curitiba, a southern Brasilian metropolitan city. While its roots stem from northern Italy, this dish is certainly prepared in a distinct manner, when comparing it to its originator Italian dish. The typical northern Italian version of this dish is polenta and pork as a combination not polenta and chicken; furthermore, the way it is prepared is quite different—in Italy, it’s preferred that the polenta is more firm and thick, while in Brasil it is usually seen as creamier and made with white flour. Next, “molho bolonhesa” is prepared very differently in Italy than in Brasil: While in Brasil the taste is considered more homogenous and standard because it only takes into account ground beef, in Italy this sauce is prepared with beef and pork and takes several hours to complete successfully (Gourmet). Lastly, one of my favorite dishes of all time, rondelli,[3] is said to be an Italian dish; however, there is no equivalent counterpart in Italy, so this dish in particular has molded its own path as part of a Brasilian “Italian-like” dish (Ana). Partly because it is often served in Italian-Brasilian restaurants, this dish uses integral Italian ingredients like ham and cheese and of course, a pasta sheet. It is frequently filled with tomato or cream sauce and it parallels lasagna as a dish, though it is quite different in many ways. As one can perceive, there are never-ending similarities between Italian dishes and Italian-inspired Brasilian dishes; nonetheless, it is also very clear that these dishes have taken a different route in coming to fruition and reflect the Brasilian environment and culture in their overall composition.

More so than any other ingredient, pasta has revolutionized Brasil like no other. From its initial introduction from Italian immigrants, pasta has resonated so beautifully in Brasil that over 99.5% of the population consumes it today (Varejo). On top of this astonishing statistic, Brasilian come in third of global consumers of pasta across the entire world (Globo). When comparing to Italians, Brasilians certainly bring a twist as far as their pasta-preferences. Brasilians tend to like their pasta softer, so not as “al dente” (Maria). Moreover, Brasilians are known for their “creativity” and “imagination” behind their pasta dishes (San Francisco).  While Brasilians love pasta “alho e óleo,” they also prioritize more sophisticated recipes comprising of pasta with lots of assorted cheese, white cream, “crème de leite,” mushrooms, eggs, olives, ham, and other legumes” (San Francisco). The versatility of pasta as an ingredient is undoubtedly one of the fundamental reasons why it has been so widely accepted across Brasil. Pasta is characterized by its “energy source, functionality, ease of combination with other foods” (San Francisco). Evidently, one can see the power and magnificence of pasta across the country of Brasil not only through the countless unique recipes of pasta cultivated in Brasil, but also its overall diffusion across the country, as mostly everyone has adopted it as part of their daily lives.

In demonstrating this beautiful dichotomy in actuality, I came across an interesting interview with Guga Rocha, a Brasilian chef, who spoke on the influence of Italian cuisine in Brazil. He answered some of the more intricate questions about why Italian food so greatly resonates with Brasilians and has stood tall throughout the decades. He claims that it’s because of “the healthy, colorful and nutritive qualities, and also for the emotional appeal that “‘cucina della mamma’ brings to the popular imagination” (Riel-Salvatore). He does an exceptional job at tackling such a complex question, as it is hard to know the exact reasoning as to why it has been such a hit, as so many other cultural food share similar values to that of Brasilians. Furthermore, he comments on how Brasilians have stretched the simplicity that Italians so dearly love, especially in relations to pizza. While the Italians really hold firm to mozzarella, tomatoes and occasionally basil leaves, Brasilians have experimented like no other by topping pizza with shrimp, catupiry (white creamy cheese), calabresa, and so on (Riel-Salvatore).  He then goes on to characterize the city of Sao Paulo as one that serves as the “pizza capital of the world” (Riel-Salvatore). He shares quite a provocative statistic that “there is more pizza sold in Sao Paulo in one night than in three full days in Rome” (Riel-Salvatore). With this bold statement, I could not help but relate to our class concepts on the extension of certain cuisines and the effects of such extension. Like Chinese-American cuisine, Italian-Brasilian cuisine has formed its own path, paralleling Italian food while simultaneous clearly deviating from its traditional zone of acceptance. Thus, this interview further helped me reconcile just how strong Italian influence is in Brasil as a whole, while simultaneously cementing in my head the points of differentiation.

Lastly, I think about my own childhood in consuming certain dishes that without a doubt can be mistaken as a purely Italian dish.  As a young kid, I would eat macarronada, which is essentially any pasta mixed with some kind of marinara sauce and protein—many times, it’s a mix of whatever ingredients are left over from the week. Additionally, this dish is symbolic because it represents the working class and is typically served after the culmination of a hard, gruesome week on a Sunday afternoon. For me, I never questioned the roots of this dish, but after really reconnecting with my identity and questioning the reasoning behind my dietary habits, I have grown to be infatuated by the influence of that dish in my life: It represented my mother’s relentless work—her drive, her initiative, her contagious energy, and ultimately, her outlook on life. Furthermore, my grandma made pasta (usually thin, so spaghetti or angel hair) with white sauce and corn, peas and other miscellaneous ingredients. The dish was always unique each time, and it always turned out fantastic. After careful reflection, I can confidently state this claim: Pasta opens endless doors in allowing for each culture to express themselves, whether it be a symbol of their arduous work or their creative foundation on which they hope to build off of, or perhaps, a combination of the old and new. I cannot help but end this paper with my personal experiences because it solidifies just how impactful pasta’s reach is in touching so many lives. The key is to stop and ask, “why am I consuming this dish?” This inquiry will provoke the discovery of subconscious yet deeply rooted values, and may allow you to feel more connected to your roots.

Thus, in this paper, I have conducted a very thorough sociohistorical analysis on the prevalence of Italian influence in Brasil from its birth. Additionally, there have been connections made on how this vast relationship has impacted individuals’ lives with references from an interview and my own personal connection to this robust intersection. With that, I close with a highly applicable quote that highlights a key takeaway from this course: “The presence of the category “other” permeates all concepts of identity” (Andreola 30).


Works Cited

Admin. “História Do Macarrão.” Portal São Francisco,

Ana. “Rondelli, the Brazilian Italian Dish -.” Italianchips Easy Recipes Tested by Ana, 18 Mar. 2017,

Andreola, Alice. “Being Italian in Brazil.” Eh, Paesan!, 1998, doi:10.3138/9781442674318-fm

“Brasil.” Pasta for All,

“Brasileiro é o Terceiro Maior Consumidor De Macarrão Do Mundo.” G1, 17 Oct. 2014,

Gourmet, Bom. “10 Comidas Italianas Que Só Existem No Brasil: Veja Quais São.” Gazeta Do Povo, 28 July 2017,

Maria, Diga. “The Brazilian Way of Eating Pasta.”,

Riel-Salvatore, Gabriel. “Italian Cuisine with a Brazilian Twist – Interview with Chef Guga Rocha.” Panoram Italia, Panoram Italia, 2 July 2014,

Varejo, FMCG E. “Macarrão: Mais Um Prato Queridinho Na Mesa Do Brasileiro.” What People Watch, Listen To and Buy,


[1] Fazendas: farms.

[2] Contratos de parceira: Partnership contracts

[3] Rondelli: see recipe —


Figure 1: Map showing the distribution of immigrants based on Italian geography

Authenticity: the Evolution of Chinese Food in America by Akshitha Adhiyaman

Akshitha Adhiyaman

Italian/Chinese 375W

Ristiano and Li 

June 29, 2018

Authenticity: the Evolution of Chinese Food in America 

Venturing down Mulberry Street, I hit an intersection with bright orange lights hanging from short buildings and signs filled with characters I could not read. Just a few seconds ago, I was trotting along the streets of young, vibrant SoHo and then somehow entered this new world. I had never been to Chinatown before, even though I have always lived so close to New York City. It was intriguing to see such a stark difference in culture from the rest of the city, and I was ready to explore it. There were museums, temples, bakeries, grocery stores, tiny ice cream shops, and so much more. The restaurants were quite tantalizing, so my family and I decided to settle on one of the cozy eateries on the corner of the street. The menu was similar to pretty much every other Chinese restaurant we had been to before, so we ordered our usual appetizers, soups, and entrees. I was curious to know how this food adapted to match the palates of so many people across America. Why did only Cantonese food become popular? Where did all the sizable differences of traditional Chinese dishes come from? The presence of native foods has always been of great significance in Chinese immigrant families as it allows them to keep a piece of their own homes, yet it has evolved into a novel style of Chinese cuisine in America that is so prevalent in this day.

The first wave of Chinese immigration to the United States of America was in 1815. Since then, more than 2.3 million Chinese immigrants, consisting of skilled workers, laborers, etc, have settled in America (Zong 2017). The Chinese played a monumental role in the development of the railroad system in the West and helped build the economy after the Civil War by picking up the jobs that slaves were doing before.  Settling in a new land, these Chinese laborers used food as a way to remember their homeland: “Chinese food was important not only because of its familiar tastes but also because of the memories it carried” (Chen 2017). In their culture, food plays an essential role in providing strong family values and bringing people together. To balance the pressure that comes with settling into new land, a new life, they wished for some sort of familiarity. The few Chinese restaurants that were present were open primarily for these immigrants, and they provided inexpensive, yet hearty meals like bean sprouts and rice. 

Even though these immigrants supported the growth of America as a whole, many other laborers despised them as they were additional competition in the job market: “Many of the non-Chinese workers in the United States came to resent the Chinese laborers, who might squeeze them out of their jobs” (US Department of State). They were willing to work longer hours for much less compensation. Other than fighting for job opportunities, the non-Chinese laborers used any differences between them as a mechanism to label them negatively. This increased animosity led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which prevented these immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens as well as restricting immigration. This discrimination increased the tension and pushed many Chinese workers out of their jobs. They moved out to the East Coast and were struggling to prosper like they previously were. Desperate to make a living, they turned to running laundries and restaurants, two types of businesses still primarily owned by Chinese people; “Cooking and cleaning were both women’s work. They were not threatening to white laborers” (Lee 2008). This was just the beginning of the overwhelming expansion of Chinese cuisine and culture that has become such a staple business now in America. 

These Chinese restaurants were thriving, especially after Richard Nixon’s famous visit to Beijing, China. This, in addition to immigration reform, caused their restaurant businesses to grow exponentially (Rude 2016). Among all the dishes, chop suey spread across the United States like an epidemic. Everyone was raving over this perfect mixture of meats and vegetables and the intricate balance of flavors. Most people thought it was China’s national dish, and thought it was something unique and exotic. Yet, this was not actually a Chinese dish at all. The Chinese chefs knew they could not serve authentic dishes like sea cucumbers or chicken feet to the American population. Chop suey, in fact means “of odds and ends” and was just scraps of ingredients tossed together (Jurafsky 2014). It was speculated that chop suey came about when the Ambassador of China, Li Hung-Chang, refused to eat the food that was provided to him in his hotels. His personal chefs concocted whatever they could with the ingredients that were available, creating chop suey. After this, people started waiting in lines to taste this supposed traditional dish and his visit was the spark to this “chop suey fad” (Library of Congress). Yet, Jennifer Lee’s research determines that there was no exact point at which this dish was created, but there were so many small events and parts that built up to lead to this craze for chop suey (Lee 2008). This dish is just one example of how the Chinese cuisine has evolved and become popular in America. 

At Chinese restaurants today, the big buzzword is General Tso’s chicken. It is the most well-known Chinese dish today and is usually the most popular item or number one chef special on thousands of Chinese menus. The deep orange, tangy sauce is mouthwatering and the small chunks of chicken are perfectly crispy. If you show this to any Chinese native or ask for it at a restaurant in China, they will probably look at you quite perplexed. Lee continued her journey to find out about who General Tso was and how the dish even came about. She travelled deep into the village, getting discouraged as no one was familiar with the dish. She finally found the General’s hometown and encountered the chef who first made this staple meal, Chef Peng. Excited to have finally found her answer and the origins, Lee took a bite of the his recipe of General Tso’s chicken and was confused and in fact, quite disappointed: “Where was the sweetness? The tanginess? Instead, it had a strong salty flavor” (Lee 2008). The food that she and millions of others had come to love and cherish was not even close to the taste and texture of the original. It was even quite saddening to read about Peng’s reaction to the popularized version of his special recipe. He stated as he walked away, “Chinese cuisine took on an American influence in order to make a business out of it” (Lee 2008). In order to make Chinese food acceptable and liked in America, chefs made these dishes “sweeter, boneless, and more heavily deep-fried”: three defining characteristics of General Tso’s chicken (Rude 2016). All these traditional dishes were transforming the true identity of Chinese cuisine, to the point where the Americans that were consuming this food became accustomed to it and believed it to be authentic. 

Many of these Chinese dishes also changed due to the nature of living in a new environment that not only had a different culture, but also different resources available. They have adapted more and more to fit American tastes in order to keep their businesses running. Vegetables that are typically used in authentic recipes are bamboo shoots or Chinese cabbage, whereas popular dishes in Chinese-American cuisine are topped with broccoli and carrots as they are more readily available (Chan). Many of the dishes were typically savory (just like Chef Peng’s version of General Tso’s chicken), and yet due to American liking for milder, sweeter items and greater accessibility to refined sugar, the recipes were slowly changing. The American population also took to a strong liking of crab rangoon, a wonton dish that was filled with crab and cream cheese, typically eaten as an appetizer. This is also shocking as dairy is not typically consumed in Chinese cuisine in the first place (Jurafsky 2014). There has never been an emphasis on producing dairy and a large portion of the population is lactose intolerant as well. The greater availability of these new vegetables and dairy products in America have led them to be commonly integrated into their food. 

When Chinese cuisine first started developing, much of the population was poor and had no proper ways of preserving their foods. Due to this, Chinese cuisine is filled with dishes of almost every single body part of chickens, fish, pigs and seafood (Lee 2008). Today, these may be considered revolting to Americans as they are much pickier about what textures and what animal body parts they can consume, to make consuming animals feel more humane. This is why Chinese American food turned towards using chicken breast; they diced them up into small chunks without any skin or bones. There were also many more constraints in their cooking style back then. Lee states, “Food had to be dried or pickled…stir-frying was a popular technique because it used little oil and consumed energy efficiently” (Lee 2008). Chinese food developing in America did not face any of these problems as there were appliances like freezers and salt was more heavily used to preserve meats. The Chinese also were not familiar with using ovens which made them lack in the department of baking and desserts. In a traditional Chinese dinner, there is no concept of dessert. If anything, there may be a plate of fruit instead. The fortune cookie, which actually originated in Japan, “filled the dessert gap in that cuisine for American eaters” and continued further to become a monumental symbol for Chinese food and culture itself (Jurafsky 2014). This change in resources and appliances have indeed played a tremendous role in how Chinese cuisine evolved in America. 

The stark contrast between traditional Chinese cuisine and Chinese-American dishes can clearly be seen by looking into the homes of immigrant families in America. The dishes that they serve on the dinner table are much more authentic than you can find in any restaurant across the country. Susannah Chen reflects back on her mother’s recipe for making ping an mien, a type of Chinese chicken noodle soup. It was a recipe that was special in her home “for birthdays, and when someone was leaving to go far, far away” (Chen 2014). She realized the significance once her boyfriend was moving away to continue his studies, and she spent time trying to find the most authentic ingredients in order to make something meaningful. Though she did not make it perfectly, it was a special moment, making such an authentic recipe symbolic to her and her family. This dish is rarely found in Chinese-American restaurants, rather there are soups like chicken corn soup or plain vegetable soup. These authentic recipes, thankfully, are being passed down the generations, but it would be extremely difficult to bring these types of dishes to the public eye as Americans already believe that they are consuming authentic Chinese food since it has been around for so long. 

Another example of the evolution of Chinese food in America is seen through Jennifer Chan’s experience with both her family and the restaurant they own. Her father is both the owner and head chef of the restaurant; Chan revealed many of the differences in his cooking between home and at work, over the years.  Chan explains, “The food that we serve in the restaurant and what my parents cook at home is very different. We use different vegetables and steam our fish whole” (Chan). The food that the restaurant served was more for the public taste, compared to the genuine and comforting flavors that they would make for themselves. Only certain customers know to ask for particular authentic Cantonese or Sichuan dishes, but the majority stick to the most well known dishes. Furthermore, she stated that in Chinese culture, food is served in large bowls or plates at the center of the table to share. Everyone was to pass the dish around and place as much as they wanted on their plate. Yet, at her restaurant, she claims that everything is served in “individual portions” as that is how the Americans typically consume their food, even when sharing a meal as a large group (Chan). The Chinese food culture is even adapting to match the traditions and ways of the Americans. 

Even as Chinese American food is evolving, the authentic Chinese dishes across the Pacific Ocean are also modifying quickly. Eddie Huang, a popular writer and chef, also discusses about trying to connect back to his homeland and past by using food. He explores China and goes on a adventure to discover how the food that he serves in his restaurant in America stands up to the authentic food of the Chinese streets. When he cooked beef noodle soup and served it to a couple of friends and family, his brother said, “Definitely different than Mom’s, but I like it” (Huang 2016). He received similar feedback on many of his other recipes as well. Huang had his own flair and people loved it, but it was still quite unlike the original recipe. Huang then goes out to try dan-dan noodles at little restaurant and compares them to the ones that he loved to devour: “I never liked Sichuan dan-dan mian because everyone got it confused with Taiwanese dan-dan mian that my dad grew up eating…A classic and irresistible dish” (Huang 2016). When visiting this restaurant, he discovered that the dish was barely popular anymore due to its simple ingredients and overly intimidating spice, while in the US, it was still one of the most desired Sichuan dishes to this day. Chinese cuisine is also rapidly changing. In this case, the Americans are appreciating a traditional dish, but it has lost its magic in its native land.

The Chinese American cuisine has established itself throughout the United States, but this does not mean that there are no other options available. Rude writes, “It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the United States got its first taste of ‘authentic’ Chinese cuisine” (Rude 2016). There were immigrants coming from more locations across China that brought Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei, and Shanghai cuisines to the table (Rude 2016). Though it did not explode and become as in demand like the Americanized Cantonese cuisine, these dishes are still available in various restaurants. Vincent Li discusses how his restaurant in Washington DC caters to both local Americans as well as Chinese people looking for a true meal. He states that cooking Chinese American food is much easier because there are fewer cooking styles and “one just needs to stir-fry the vegetables and meats” (CCTV America). There are even two different menus specific to the patron. The Chinese customers and those American foodies ready to explore new depths of this cuisine, can get a unique menu listing all of the legitimate Chinese dishes that they can prepare. These beautiful dishes are just hiding behind this overpowering, yet inaccurate portrayal of Chinese cuisine.

In conclusion, Chinese-American food has been consistently changing and adapting to fit the likings of the American people and to match the resources available. The rich history of Chinese immigration was the impetus to the widespread liking of Chinese-American cuisine, as well as through various events like the visit of Ambassador Li Hung-Chang or Richard Nixon’s travels to Beijing. The Chinese continued to experiment with new ingredients available in the United States and used cooking styles that were much different to what they were exposed to at home. The divergence between the Chinese cuisine and Chinese-American cuisine is shown directly between what is even cooked in Chinese immigrant homes than in restaurants. The evolution is still continuing and both disciplines of cooking are refining and reshaping. The fact is that these authentic dishes are available across the Unites States, but it is up to individual people to go out and seek the real definition of Chinese cuisine whether it is by asking a local restaurant for something novel or preparing one’s own traditional Chinese concoction. 


Works Cited 

CCTVAmerica1. YouTube, YouTube, 23 Sept. 2015,

Jennifer, Chan. “Wah Sing.” 22 June 2018.

Chen, Susannah. “Ping An Mien, a Chinese Family Noodle Story.” Chowhound, Chowhound, 7 July 2014, story/.

Chen, Yong. “The Rise of Chinese Food in the United States.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, 2017, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.273.

“Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State,

“Chop Suey Was Invented, Fact or Fiction?” America’s Story from America’s Library, The Library of Congress,

Huang, Eddie. Double Cup Love: on the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.

Jurafsky, Daniel. The Language of Food: a Linguist Reads the Menu. W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Lee, Jennifer 8. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food. Twelve, 2008.

Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016,

Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. “Chinese Immigrants in the United States.”, Migration Policy Institute, 29 Sept. 2017, immigrants-united-states.

History of the Tomato in Italy and China: Tracing the Role of Tomatoes in Italian and Chinese Cooking

Alvin (Jun Young) Choi

Professor Ristaino & Professor Hong

CHN 375W

29 June 2018

History of the Tomato in Italy and China

The history of tomatoes in Chinese and Italian cuisine is a surprisingly short but still interesting one. Two of my favorite dishes, spaghetti allo scoglio (seafood pasta) and 番茄紅燒牛肉麵(tomato beef noodle soup), are both defined by how they use tomatoes in similar but radically different ways. The subtle distinctions in taste, texture, and appearance in each dish create flavor experiences that are distinct and memorable. In the case of spaghetti allo scoglio and other Italian dishes, tomatoes are one of the central ingredients in Italy’s cuisine and are a significant part of its worldwide popularity. However, the use of tomato sauce with pasta is a relatively recent innovation, only beginning in the late 19th century. Similarly, tomatoes were previously limited to a summertime staple in Chinese cuisine, though they are currently gaining popularity due to their incorporation into many popular dishes, such as the aforementioned tomato beef noodle soup. The changing role of tomatoes in both Italian and Chinese cuisine is a reflection of how tomatoes themselves have been viewed throughout the centuries. The production, distribution, and consumption of tomatoes have all undergone radical changes over the years due to improving technology and changing cultural mores, ultimately resulting in the predominant role that they now have. From a shunned vegetable that was once associated with Satanism, tomatoes have taken center stage in Italian cuisine and are becoming an increasingly important part of Chinese cuisine, changes that will no doubt accelerate in the years to come.

The late entrance of the tomato into Italian cuisine is partially explained by the fact that the plant is not native to Italy, or to Europe for that matter. Tomatoes originated in the New World, beginning as a wild plant found in Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile, eventually migrating north, where the Mayans and Aztecs modified them into larger, more edible varieties. It is from the Aztecs that the name “tomato” was fashioned, from their word for the plant, “tomatl.” Tomatoes entered the European consciousness following the conquest of the Aztecs by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, as colonists procured samples of the strange new vegetable and sent them home. Tomatoes reached Italy in 1548, where they were given a chilly-but-curious reception at first due to their unusual qualities. They were initially associated with eggplants, another foreign vegetable that had been introduced to Europe from abroad, in this case from the Middle East. Much like tomatoes, it took hundreds of years for eggplants to become an accepted ingredient in the Italian diet, and both vegetables were believed to cause malign effects to the body. Because European colonists were not interested in learning about the cuisines of the New World peoples they conquered, they lacked the proper knowledge on how to prepare tomatoes, potatoes, and other New World crops to make them edible and tasty. This was a significant reason why it took so long for the tomato to gain traction in Italian cuisine. Further compounding the problems with the tomato’s acceptance was a general distrust of vegetables by Renaissance dieticians. Many dieticians and botanists advised against consuming vegetables due to the belief that they harmed the body and sapped vitality from the human mind. While there is little evidence to suggest that this kept most Italians from consuming vegetables they were already familiar with, it did little to aid the introduction of tomatoes into the Italian diet. Tomatoes were nicknamed the “devil’s fruit” due to their red appearance and the belief that they were responsible for causing illnesses and food poisoning. At the time, Italian cuisine was also defined by strict separations in regards to class and location, with different social strata and different regions preferring different types of vegetables. The wealthy classes in Italy were more experimental with their diets, often trying out different types of vegetables—including tomatoes—before these habits filtered down to the lower classes.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the tomato began to acquire increasing significance in the Italian diet due to changing cultural mores and dietary practices. Breakthroughs in dietary science showed that tomatoes, when properly cooked and prepared, were an essential source of nutrition, capable of aiding the digestion of foods. However, it was not until the 19th century that many of the staple tomato dishes of Italy began to emerge. The 19th century saw the rise of nationalism across Europe, as various subjugated peoples sought to throw off the shackles of old empires. Italy was a major flashpoint for nationalist uprisings, and the tomato rapidly developed into a unifying symbol of Italian cuisine, distinguishing it from the neighboring French and Austrians. The Italian national flag, which incorporated red as part of a tricolor design, helped reinforce the tomato as a major staple in the Italian diet. Indeed, a great many Italian dishes developed around this time deliberately incorporated red, white, and green colors as a way of reinforcing national pride. For example, spaghetti al pomodoro, pizza margherita, and insalata caprese each rely on tomatoes to provide the red in the red-white-green trio. In combination with the rise of Italian nationalism, Italian immigration to the U.S. and other New World countries helped spread Italian cuisine—and its tomato-based character—around the planet.

The role of tomatoes in Chinese culture has followed a similar trajectory to their introduction in Italy. Tomatoes arrived in China sometime in the late 16th or early 17th centuries, where they initially met a reaction that was equal parts confused and curious. Tomatoes were labeled “foreign eggplants” due to their superficial resemblance to eggplants and were initially viewed with skepticism. The Register of Flowers《群芳谱》written in 1621 records: “Fan Persimmon, a June persimmon, is a type of persimmon that is four or five feet tall, has leaves like celery wormwood and knots of four or five… originated from the West, hence the name.” — the word “fan” of tomato originates from its foreign origin. Over time, tomatoes won greater acceptance in Chinese cooking and found a niche in certain Chinese cuisines, though not to the degree with which they became ubiquitous in Italy. In particular, the invention of stir-fried tomato and scrambled eggs was a breakthrough in Chinese culinary development, placing the tomato front and center in China’s dietary revolution.

Scrambled eggs with tomatoes are an ordinary dish in many families. In China, scrambled eggs have a history of at least two thousand years. The book Qimin Yaoshu《齊民要術》written by Jia Weijun of the Northern Wei Dynasty recorded the practice of scrambled eggs at the time: “(The egg) was broken, and the yellow and white were mixed. Fine white onion, salt rice, glutinous rice, sesame oil.” Although scrambled have such a long history, the method of scrambling eggs was not popular. It was also in the Ming Dynasty that tomatoes came to China. About the first time in the Wanli Period of the Ming Dynasty, Looking through the historical data of this period, what we often see is that the ancients described tomatoes as “red and round, cute and lovely,” but they have not been able to establish any connection with eggs and tomatoes. Until the 1880s, when the Qing Dynasty was in the Guangxu period, the evaluation of tomatoes in various localities was still “playable” and “inedible.” By the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China, there were more western restaurants in the country. Tomatoes were widely used as food ingredients in Western food; they were involved in the farmers around the city where the western restaurant was located, trying to grow tomatoes and sell them to Western restaurants. From the perspective of climate in all parts of the country, there are many places suitable for planting tomatoes. Therefore, tomato cultivation has begun to spread in the suburbs of some cities, and tomatoes have gradually entered the recipes of the country; this conditioned the grounds for the stir-fry tomato and scrambled eggs. Traditional Chinese chefs did not accept Western-style dishes at first, and tomatoes were viewed as an ingredient for Western food. In the 1920s and 1930s, some Chinese restaurants that dared began to mix Chinese and Western cuisine. Because tomatoes are widely used in western foods as tomato sauces, most of the Chinese and Western combination dishes in this period used tomato sauce, such as peach blossom, shrimp, chrysanthemum and so on. In 1935, Lao She, a Chinese novelist, wrote two small articles “Tomato” 《西红柿》and “Talking about Tomatoes” 《再谈西红柿》. Although the main idea of these two articles does not provide methods of eating tomatoes, valuable information can be gained from them: suburban farmers sell most of the tomatoes to western restaurants, and the price is also low. At that time, the method of eating tomatoes was nothing more than raw and cooked. When the tomatoes were eaten raw, there were “green smells.” Many people were not used to it. It is worth noting that Mr. Lao She still did not mention tomato scrambled eggs at this time. The tomato dishes he listed in the article are tomato shrimps based on tomato sauce. However, through Mr. Lao She’s article, we can judge that the birth of scrambled eggs from tomatoes is very close, not only because the article reflects that Chinese food has accepted tomatoes, and more importantly, the price of tomatoes is low and sufficient. These were critical conditions for an ordinary dish.

Real tomato scrambled eggs, which appeared around the 1940s. During the Anti-Japanese War, Mr. Wang Zengqi was studying at the Southwest Associated University. He lived in Kunming for seven years before and after. He had eaten real tomato scrambled eggs in local restaurants. “Scramble eggs, fry tomatoes until broken, still fragrant, not weak, eggs into large pieces, not dead. Tomatoes and eggs are mixed, the color is still distinct.” The memoirs written by Mr. Wang Zengqi in the past decades can still make the color and aroma of the scrambled eggs of tomatoes come to us through words. That is, since the 1940s, the home-cooked dish of tomato scrambled eggs has officially appeared. In the following 70 years, it has swept China’s land. Although the appearance of scrambled eggs with tomatoes has gone through two thousand years of waiting and 40,000 miles of encounters, it is still worthwhile to think of its color, nutrition, cheapness, and convenience. Consumption of tomatoes in China was fueled by scientific research showing that eating them can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Tomato contains antioxidant lycopene, which can prevent prostate cancer. Some research have also extracted substances from tomatoes to treat high blood pressure.

Italian and Chinese cuisine are both defined by their use of tomatoes, which produces superficially similar but radically different results. Both Italians and Chinese use tomatoes as part of noodle dishes, but the exact structure of these dishes is considerably different. Italian noodles, known as pasta, are known for their strong, earthy taste, one that is paired well with tomato sauce and tomatoes in general. Pasta also comes in many different shapes and sizes, meaning that anyone can find a type of pasta that appeals to them. In contrast, Chinese noodles are more uniform and tend to have a sweeter, weaker taste. This is because Chinese cuisine focuses on making all ingredients included blend into a harmonious whole, rather than having one or two ingredients stand out. The use of tomatoes in Chinese dishes is part of this: they are used more sparingly compared to Italian dishes, designed to complement rather than overpower the dish as a whole. Because tomatoes lack the significance in Chinese culture that they hold in Italian culture—as a symbol of nationalism—tomatoes are not used to the degree that they are in Italy. The cuisines of both nations also feature strong variation depending on the region. In the case of Italy, there is a general shift in culture going from north to south, where northern cuisine tends to be blander and more “Germanic” while the southern and Sicilian cuisine is spicier. This is due to the differing cultural traditions of these parts of Italy: Sicily and southern Italy were profoundly influenced by the Arabs and Middle Easterners, while Austrians and Germans influenced northern Italians. Similar shifts in taste can be seen in Chinese cuisine, where dishes from southern provinces and cities are known to be spicier than those from the north. These regional differences are the result of cultural separation and climate and have played an integral role in the depth and extensiveness of each nation’s cuisine.

It is hard to believe that tomatoes, at one point, were utterly unknown in both Italy and China. Tomatoes have influenced the cuisines of both nations to such a degree that it is incomprehensible how their dishes would have developed without the fruits. Ultimately, tomatoes remain some of the most popular items on the menu for many people of the world, and in the case of Italians and Chinese, tomatoes have become a staple item that has taken on a significance beyond mere sustenance. Tomatoes, for both nations, are a symbol of national pride, cultural excellence, and culinary refinement. It is clear that the popularity of tomatoes in both nations will not only endure, but new permutations of the vegetable will continue to appear, further evolving their cuisines and refining them for the benefit of hungry people everywhere.


Gentilcore, D. (2010). Pomodoro!: A history of the tomato in Italy. New York: Columbia University Press.

History Of Tomatoes – History of Tomatoes – Healing Tomato. (n.d.). Retrieved from

She, L. (n.d.). Tomato 《西红柿》. Retrieved from

Shi, S. (1962). A preliminary survey of the book Chi min yao shu: An agricultural encyclopaedia of the 6th century. Peking: Science Press.

Stott, R. (2017, November 14). When Tomatoes Were Blamed For Witchcraft and Werewolves. Retrieved from

“Strange” scrambled egg with tomato species history can be traced back to the period of Anti Japanese War. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Yu, H., & Xiao, D. (2015). Sheng wu xun gu: Sheng wu li shi yu sheng wu ke ji. Beijing Shi: Xian dai chu ban she.

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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.

Evolution of Chinese Noodles in NYC: A Tale of Immigration and Adaptation (Dylan Frank

Evolution of Chinese Noodles in NYC: A Tale of Immigration and Adaptation

By Dylan Z. Frank

From Lanzhou la mian to Sichuan dandan noodles and Beijing zhajiangmian to Fujianese ban mian, New York City is now home to a proliferation of different types of Chinese noodles across its three largest Chinatowns (Exhibit A). According to 2012 Census Estimates[1], New York City has an estimated Chinese population of 573,388, making it the largest metropolitan Chinese diaspora population in the world of any city outside of Asia. While it was Chinese immigration that first brought different types of Chinese noodles to New York City, media, the desire for novelty, and growing consumer acceptance of ethnic foods in America have also helped to propel the evolution and spread of Chinese noodle dishes far beyond NYC’s Chinatowns.

The story of Chinese noodles in New York City arose from immigration and the need for Chinese immigrants to make a living in their new country. Chinese immigration to NYC can largely be separated into four main waves: Cantonese (Late 1840s-1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, 1943-1950s (limited numbers), 1965-1980s), Taiwanese (1970s), Fujianese (1980s-Present), and Chinese from all parts of Mainland China (late 1960s-Present). Each of these waves of Chinese immigration brought different types of Chinese noodle dishes to NYC.

The first wave of Chinese immigration to the United States consisted predominately of working-class males from Guangdong (or “Canton”) Province who emigrated to the West Coast during the mid-1800s. The 1849 San Francisco Gold Rush and the 1863-1869 construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad were two events that provided Cantonese Chinese immigrants with an opportunity to escape from widespread poverty and political unrest caused by the Taiping Rebellion[2] back home, and this initial wave of Cantonese immigration to the West Coast continued on until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Since Chinese immigrants to the West Coast often faced extreme anti-Chinese sentiment and employment discrimination upon coming to the States, many found themselves needing to establish businesses where they could be self-employed, including Chinese restaurants. These early Chinese restaurants cooked an Americanized version of Cantonese cuisine that catered to local tastes, with chop suey (translation: “odds and ends”) becoming the most popular dish. After the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, this version of Americanized Chinese food spread from the West Coast to New York City and eventually gave way to the invention of chow mein, the first Chinese noodle dish to emerge in NYC’s Chinese restaurants on a large scale.

According to Deh-Ta Hsiung’s book Food of China, “Chow Mein” is a romanization of the Taishanese word chāu-mèing, which means stir-fried noodles[3]. It first emerged in New York’s Mott Street Chinatown in the 1880s and coexisted alongside chop suey on many of NYC’s American-Chinese restaurant menus. While in some ways chow mein is similar to versions of stir-fried noodle dishes from Guangdong Province in China, its composition was modified to better suit American tastes and ingredient availability. For example, chow mein’s ingredients are effectively the same as chop suey’s except for the fact that chow mein is a noodle dish. The ingredients of chow mein that overlap with chop suey include onions, celery, and a sweet-tasting brown sauce made from a combination of soy sauce and corn syrup that was designed to suit the American palate[4]. In the below image of chow mein from Big Wong, one of Manhattan Chinatown’s oldest restaurants, we can see “Beef Chow Mein” pictured (Exhibit B). For this particular dish, most vegetables have been removed, possibly to better suit the tastes of Western consumers. Outside of chow mein and lo mein (the steamed version of chow mein), other types of Cantonese Chinese noodle dishes one can find in NYC Chinatowns included wonton mian and Clay Pot Noodles (pictured, Exhibit C). Cantonese also sometimes enjoy topping their noodles with BBQ roasted meats such as pork, chicken, or duck.

While the first wave of Chinese immigration to NYC was almost exclusively Cantonese, changes in immigration policies brought on by Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration (mainly the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965) led to a sharp increase in permitted Chinese immigration and fueled the arrival of a second wave of Chinese immigrants[5]. According to Time Magazine, this “liberalization of American immigration policy” led to the emergence of new types of Chinese cuisines in the United States from “areas like Hunan, Sichuan, Taipei and Shanghai.” Many Chinese who came to the States at this time were fleeing the Cultural Revolution, particularly so in the cases of individuals from Hong Kong and Taiwan who especially feared the PRC’s Communist government. Such changes in immigration policy allowed for the pace of Chinese immigration to the United States to further quicken and thus diversified the Chinese food offerings available in NYC’s Chinatowns. Additionally, U.S. President Richard Nixon’s opening of diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China in 1972, helped to further accelerate this second wave of Chinese immigration to United States while creating a renaissance for authentic Chinese food in large U.S. cities such as NYC[6].

Chinese immigrants who came from Taiwan to NYC in the 1970s were predominately middle-class and for this reason they did not fit in with the largely working-class Cantonese inhabitants of Manhattan Chinatown. As a result, the Taiwanese immigrants chose to establish a middle-class Mandarin-speaking Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, NY. Upon coming to the United States, Taiwanese people brought noodle dishes such as Taiwanese beef noodle soup (pictured, Exhibit D) to New York, thus further influencing NYC’s culinary fabric. (Notably, this noodle soup dish was first created by the Hui Muslim minority, who also created Lanzhou’s famous beef noodle soup with hand-pulled noodles). At the same time as these new Taiwanese immigrants, wealthier Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong began coming to the United States as well. Their arrival led to a linguistic and culinary shift in Manhattan’s Chinatown towards different types of Cantonese Chinese noodle dishes in Chinatown beyond Chow Mein, including Hong Kong Crispy Seafood Noodles (pictured, Exhibit E).

Following the Nixon Administration’s easing of diplomatic ties with China, many more wealthy and highly educated Chinese came to the United States, particularly so after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976. When these new immigrants started coming to the US, they brought their traditional foods with them. As examples, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines appeared in the United States during this time period and noodle dishes such as Sichuan’s dandan mian (Exhibit F) eventually became a staple food of Chinese Sichuan restaurants in NYC. Additionally, Chinese immigrants from large cities such as Shanghai also brought their own regional cuisines with them to New York City, which included noodle dishes such as Chinese Oil Noodles with Scallions, or Cong You Ban Mian (Exhibit G).

The third concentrated wave of Chinese immigration occurred in the 1980s and 1990s and consisted of poor Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province, many of whom came via illegal means. Since these new Fujianese immigrants did not speak Cantonese (and hence did not fit in culturally with the Cantonese residents of Manhattan’s Chinatown), many of them found themselves settling on the Eastern periphery of Chinatown in the East Broadway area. Chinese immigrants from Fujian brought with them different types of noodles that had not previously been available in the United States, such as ban mian, a cold noodle dish consisting of wheat noodles in a sauce made of soy sauce and peanut butter, the latter being a highly unusual ingredient in Chinese cuisine (pictured, Exhibit H). Although Guangdong and Fujian are located next to each other, the types of noodles dishes that Fujianese immigrants brought to NYC were extremely different from their Cantonese counterparts. Fujianese immigrants later began moving to Sunset Park, Brooklyn in the early 2000s, which before had originally been established as a Cantonese ethnic enclave. Other types of Chinese immigrants who later moved to Sunset Park have included some people from Yunnan in more recent years, as evidenced by the establishment of a Yunnanese restaurant in this neighborhood called “Yun Nan Flavor Garden” (Exhibit I).

Comprising the currently continuing fourth wave of Chinese immigration to the US are a larger number of Mandarin-speaking Northern Chinese people who are currently entering into NYC through both legal and illegal means. According to a 2016 article in NPR titled “Leaving China’s North, Immigrants Redefine Chinese In New York,” NYC’s Chinatowns are becoming increasingly Mandarin-speaking. Because the Southern parts of China have become more economically developed than the Northern ones, much of today’s Chinese immigration stems from Northern cities[7]. Noodle dishes they have introduced include zhajiangmian from Beijing, Xinjiang da pan ji with latiaomian, hand-pulled noodles from Lanzhou, and knife-cut noodles from Xi’an, Shaanxi, China, a Northern-Central region of China. In particular, noodles from Xi’an, Shaanxi have taken New York City by storm over the last decade through the advent of Xi’an Famous Foods, a now 13-restaurant chain that began as a single underground stall in Flushing’s Golden Mall food court in late 2005.

From chow mein to Shaanxi noodles, Chinese noodles have emerged in NYC alongside these four major waves of immigration, and they have also further evolved in response to changing consumer preferences. In recent years, increased accessibility to ethnic foods and consumers’ growing desire for authentic ethnic dining experiences has driven the commercialization of authentic Chinese noodles across NYC. Xi’an Famous Foods is a fine illustration of this development: Through the growth of Xi’an Famous Foods, we can see how the Chinese noodle landscape has changed in NYC as a result of these trends. The restaurant chain’s success has stemmed not only from offering a high quality product that was different from anything else in NYC, but also from the fact that the restaurant’s young owner, Jason Wang, has been able to effectively leverage social media marketing to grow awareness and demand for the chain.

Xi’an Famous Foods specializes in Shaanxi cuisine from the city of Xi’an in Western China. The flavors of Shaanxi cuisine are sour, spicy, and salty. During an interview about Chinese noodles in NYC, Dawn Hu, a now 55-year old Chinese immigrant from Beijing who came to the United States 35 years ago, mentioned that she would never have expected Shaanxi cuisine to arrive in the US, nor for such a restaurant to become a prominent citywide chain[8]. Much of the appeal and growing popularity of Chinese noodles in NYC is from the experience that comes with eating them. “You’re not going to see any of this in Chinatown in Manhattan or in Brooklyn. This is a Queens thing”, according to David Shi, owner of the original Xi’an Famous Foods, Flushing, Queens, NY, when he was interviewed by the recently-deceased globetrotting Travel Channel food critic Anthony Bourdain in 2009.

Before Bourdain paid a visit to Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing’s Golden Mall during his tour of Queens, NY in 2008, Zhang Meijie, a now 61-year old Chinese woman from Shandong who came to the United States in 1997, had never seen a white person inside the Golden Mall. In a recent interview, Zhang told me that she has lived in Forest Hills, Queens, for 21 years with 12 other members of her family. She told me that she visits the Golden Mall “sometimes” for “chi de dong xi” (things to eat). The first time Zhang saw a white person in the Golden Mall was eight years ago, and since that time she has noticed that white people have started going to the Golden Mall much more often. Zhang told me that she thought it was natural that Westerners wanted to explore the Chinese food scene because they want to experience new tastes, and for this reason she was not surprised to see them there. As of three years ago there have been even more white people coming to Flushing, from her perspective[9]. While the Golden Mall might not seem like the most likely eatery pick for a Westerner (it’s subterranean, dirty by Western standards, and impossible to find unless you speak Chinese or you’re particularly in the know), Anthony Bourdain did much to glamorize the practice of urban ethnic food exploration through his highly popular Travel Channel show No Reservations. Xi’an Famous Foods was arguably one of the largest beneficiaries of Bourdain’s show.

Xi’an Famous Foods’ menu consists mostly of noodle dishes that are sour and spicy in taste, two elements that are not necessarily common in typical American cuisine. For example, noodle dishes at Xi’an Famous Foods such as the “Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles” (孜然羊肉干扯面; Zī rán yángròu gān chě miàn) that I ate at Xi’an Famous Foods’ Manhattan Chinatown location contain large amounts of bright red chili oil, an ingredient not found in American food (pictured, Exhibit J). True to what the owner Jason Wang said, the restaurant added Sichuan peppercorns to the chili oil, creating a spicy and numbing effect. As someone who is half-Chinese (but not Western Chinese), I would not have personally expected the flavors within that noodle dish to be popular with those who are unacquainted, yet the taste was strangely addictive. Having also tried other menu items at Xi’an Famous Foods at four different NYC locations over the course of two years (Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing original in the Golden Mall (now closed), Upper West Side, and Upper East Side), it is notable that the flavors of the menu items that Xi’an Famous Foods sells are consistent across each branch: Other than asking patrons if they’d like to withhold chili oil for some dishes, no accommodations are made by Xi’an Famous Foods for their dishes to better suit the Western palate.

In a YouTube video on Xi’an Famous Foods that was published by Business Insider, Andrew Coe, a Chinese food historian, remarks that “generations of Chinese restauranteurs” used to make their food “bland to American tastes” when they chose to expand outside of Chinatowns. Owner Jason Wang agreed with Coe’s comment, remarking that “the timing [was] right” for Chinese restaurants like Xi’an Famous Foods to showcase their authenticity instead of watering down their flavors to better align with the American palate. In the same YouTube video, Wang also mentions how his restaurant also chose to add Sichuan peppercorns to some of its dishes, which are not used in traditional Western cuisines and also have a mouth-numbing effect (called mala in Chinese)[10]. While the use of ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns attest to how much of a radical departure Xi’an Famous Foods’ Chinese dishes are from Western culinary norms, it was precisely these elements of difference within Xi’an Famous Foods’ menu items that helped to propel the business to its current level of success (now a thriving chain of 13 stores spread across the three boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn)[11].

On Saturday, June 30th, 2018, Jason Wang opened Xi’an Famous Foods’ 13th store in the West Village, near West 4th Street. According to the real estate sales website, the West Village is “the perfect neighborhood for people who like the finer things in life – think lovely window boxes, well-curated bookshops and sophisticated company – but without the fuss or ostentation.[12]” The mere presence of Xi’an Famous Foods in a neighborhood such as the West Village defies all expectations of where a Chinese restaurant of that nature might be placed and highlights the significant extent to which American views on ethnic foods have evolved since the days of chow mein’s emergence in Manhattan Chinatown. To take advantage of word of mouth and social media marketing, Wang ran a promotion offering a free dish to each person who came to the new storefront on opening day and showed on their smartphone that they shared a promotional post about the new Xi’an Famous Foods location’s opening.

Well over a hundred years ago, on Nov 15, 1903, The New York Times ran an article called “Chop Suey Resorts: Chinese Dish Now Served in Many Parts of the City” that detailed the emergence of a new type of Chinese food called chop suey in Chinatown, as well as the customs surrounding the ordering of the dish. While chop suey was fundamentally different from Western foods, the author of the piece wrote that “A dish of chop suey is as digestible again as a broiled lobster or a welsh rabbit,” and this example showcases the role that print media played in helping to spread awareness and acceptability of Chinese ethnic cuisine nearly since it first arrived in NYC[13]. While dishes such as Shaanxi noodles, chop suey, chow mein, and others aforementioned were brought to the NYC area by immigrants, it was changing social sentiment and growing audiences for these foods that influenced their composition and geographic spread. Hence, the Chinese noodle narrative of NYC with regards to the types of noodle dishes available both past and present has evolved throughout history as shaped both by the successive waves of Chinese immigrants settling across the city, as well as the evolving preferences of discerning New York eaters.

Additional Works Consulted:

Lin, Jan. “Reconstructing Chinatown: Ethnic Enclave, Global Change.” Vol. 2 Edition: NED – New Edition (1998).

Kenneth J. Guest. ”From Mott Street to East Broadway: Fuzhounese Immigrants and the Revitalization of New York’s Chinatown.” Journal of Chinese Overseas. Vol. 7 No. 2. Liu Hong and Zhou Min. Singapore: Brill, 2011. 24-44.

Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016.

Liu, Haiming, and Huping Ling. “From Canton Restaurant to Panda Express: A History of Chinese Food in the United States.” Rutgers University Press, 2015. JSTOR.

Staff, Eater. “The Making of Manhattan’s Chinatown | MOFAD City.” Eater, Eater, 17 Aug. 2016.

“Menu.” The Macaulay Messenger, The Arts in New York City,

Business Insider. “How a Son Turned His Dad’s Food Stall into the No. 2 Chinese Restaurant in the US.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Feb. 2016

“Feature: Chinese Immigration.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service”.

Zong, Jie, et al. “Chinese Immigrants in the United States.”, 13 June 2018.

“Chinese Immigration and the Transcontinental Railroad.” US Citizenship,

Society, Eric Fish Asia. “How Chinese Food Got Hip in America.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 9 Mar. 2016.

Staff, Eater. “The Ultimate New York City Chinese Food Glossary.” Eater NY, Eater NY, 1 Nov. 2011,

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Taiping Rebellion.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 July 2017,

Footnotes from Paper:

[1] Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). “Results.” American FactFinder, 5 Oct. 2010,

[2] Informational Footnote: The Taiping Rebellion was a peasant rebellion in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces against the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty that took place from 1850-1864.

[3] Hsiung, Deh-Ta & Simonds, Nina (2005). Food of China. Murdoch Books. p. 239.

[4] “Chow Mein, an American Classic.” Appetite for China, 17 July 2009.

[5] “U.S. Immigration Legislation: 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (Hart-Cellar Act).” U.S. Immigration Legislation: 1940 Naturalization Act.

[6] Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016,

[7] Wang, Hansi Lo. “Leaving China’s North, Immigrants Redefine Chinese In New York.” NPR, NPR, 26 Jan. 2016.

[8] Interview with Dawn Hu. Conducted 6/24/18.

[9] Interview with Zhang Meijie. Conducted on 6/28/18.


[11] “Xi’an Famous Foods Website.” Xi’an Famous Foods,

[12] “At A Glace: West Village.”,

[13] “Chop Suey Resorts: Chinese Dish Now Served in Many Parts of the City.” New York City Chinatown > Newspaper Articles,

Evolution of Chinese Noodles in NYC: A Tale of Immigration and Adaptation – Exhibition

Exhibit A: Map of New York City’s five boroughs. NYC’s three main Chinatowns are outlined.

Exhibit B: Beef Chow Mien at Big Wong Cantonese Restaurant (Photo Credit: Danielle K./Yelp)

Exhibit C: Clay Pot Pearl Noodles Soup煲汤珍珠面条汤 Bāotāng zhēnzhū miàntiáo tang at Nyonya in Manhattan Chinatown

Exhibit D: Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup 台湾牛肉汤面 Táiwān niúròu tāngmiàn at Taiwan Pork Chop House in Manhattan Chinatown (Source: Eric J./Yelp)

Exhibit E: Hong Kong Crispy Seafood Noodles 香港脆皮海鲜面 Xiānggǎng cuì pí hǎixiān miàn at Nyonya in Manhattan Chinatown.

Exhibit F: Sichuanese Dan Dan Noodles from Chengdu Heaven in Flushing, Queens, NY (Photo Credit: LY L./Yelp).

Exhibit G: Wheat Noodles with Peanut Butter Sauce (拌面; Mixed Noodles) at Shu Jiao Fuzhou Cuisine Restaurant on 118 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002 (Photo Credit: Anna C./Yelp).

Exhibit H: Shanghainese Oil and Scallion Cold Noodles葱油拌面Cong You Ban Mian  at 456 Shanghai Cuisine in Manhattan Chinatown (Nina C./Yelp).

Exhibit I: Yun Nan Flavor Garden’s #11: Rice Noodles w/Crispy Meat Sauce (Source: Hui Meen O./Yelp) Sunset Park, Chinatown, Brooklyn.

Exhibit J: Xi’an Famous Foods’ “N1: Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles” 孜然羊肉干扯面 Zī rán yángròu gān chě miàn at the Bayard Street location of the restaurant mini-chain in Manhattan Chinatown, New York, NY.



The History of Ramen in Japan (Carlos)

Cultural significance can be found in noodles from around the world in different shapes, forms, and sizes. From cultural traditions in China such as the Long Life Noodle to the historical references in Italy such as the Regine pasta, the noodle has extended its reach across many continents and countries forming deep roots in many of these cultures. Without a doubt, the noodle has successfully managed to form intimate relationships with Japan’s culture and history as well. One bond can be analyzed through a specific form of noodle dish, the ramen. When a person thinks about ramen, one cannot prevent but to associate this dish with Japan as well. Ramen has come to be identified with Japan’s culture the most. Ramen has a long history in Japan, changing as the state of the country changed as well. This essay seeks to analyze how the ramen transformed into a staple dish in Japan’s culture and the history behind the transformation.

To begin with, the origin of the first ramen is unknown, but a fact is that ramen came from an immigrant dish borrowed from China. Myths and mystery cloud the origin of the ramen and its boom. Academic historian and author George Solt presents three origin myths about ramen in his book The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. The first myth establishes Shu Shunsui, a scholar from China, as the one who brought the ramen recipe to Japan. Shu Shunsui was a Chinese refugee of the Ming government who came to serve as an advisor to the Japanese feudal lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni. Historical records state that Shu Shunsui adviced Mitsukini on what to add to his udon soup to make it taste better. This dish is rumored to be the first ramen ever made and established Tokugawa Mitsukini as the first person to eat ramen in Japan. While it is true that Chinese culture heavily influenced Japanese culture at the time, a historical record of Mitsukini cooking ramen does not exist.

The next myth connects the origin of ramen to Japan opening its ports to the outside world. Japan’s ports attracted Chinese travelers, and a Chinese noodle soup called laa-mein was brought into Japan. This dish serves as a potential predecessor to the ramen today although laa-mein did not have any toppings and was not a meal in itself much unlike the modern ramen.

The last and most plausible theory associates the origin of the ramen to a shop called Rai Rai Ken in Tokyo during the 1900s. Rai Rai Ken employed Chinese workers and served a noodle dish called Shina Soba. Shina Soba incorporated ingredients that resembles todays ramen such as roasted pork, Japanese fish cake, and nori seaweed into one dish.  Interestingly, Japan was becoming industrialized and more urbanized during this time period. Japan’s industrialization and urbanization helped to popularize ramen. Shina soba was cheap and filling, providing plenty of calories for Japanese urban workers. In addition, mechanical noodle-making machines were in general use by this time. These machines shortened the time to prepare the noodles. All of these conditions made ramen the perfect food to eat. It was the right food at the right time. Ramen became integrated into Japanese modern urban life making it’s first deep roots in Japanese culture and history.

Although ramen was engraved deeply in urban life during the early 1900s, ramen almost disappeared during world war 2. Rationing in Japan during world war 2 did not allow ramen to be consumed or sold as it was seen as a luxury for eating out. Food shortages and famines made the government place heavy regulations on food supplies, and profits on selling food was prohibited. This time period was one of the worst period of hunger in Japan’s history. Unavoidably, black market food stands sprang up even after the war ended, although it was still illegal. This was due to the United States continuing food rationing during their time of occupation in Japan. Unemployed workers who tried to sell ramen could potentially and did go to jail. During this time of famine and hunger, ramen came to represent an opposite view of what it represents today. It was seen as a symbol of a time of need and the basic necessities of life. One could not afford to eat luxurious foods such as ramen.

Following world war 2, Japan underwent a prosperous economic boom. This period of rapid economic growth and development contributed to the revitalization of the ramen. The numerous construction projects required huge numbers of construction workers. Construction workers consumed large quantities of bowls of ramen. Ramen contained many healthy ingredients that would provide sufficient energy to keep the workers properly fed and energized. Many restaurants that specialized only in ramen became increasingly popular in Japan. Ramen once again became a staple dish in the rapid growing country that Japan has become.

In addition, a new form of ramen emerged following world war 2. Momofuku Ando surveyed the devasting aftereffects of the war. Many people suffered from hunger, and it was an issue he determined to be the biggest problem in Japan. He was inspired to create a food that would end the hunger in his country. He set out to make a food that would be nonperishable, economical, fast and easy to make. Already having witnessed the success of the ramen in the past, Ando aimed to create a ramen of his own. The end result was instant ramen! Instant ramen was a success as people could now enjoy delicious ramen at their own homes for a relatively cheap price. Ando set on his goal to end hunger with ramen!

Today ramen has become a symbol and historical figure of Japanese culture and history. Ramen has extended it’s reach globally around the world. Traditional ramen remains integral in Japanese culture but more shops in prominent cities in the United States that specialize in ramen have opened up. Nonetheless it its still hard to get authentic Japanese ramen unless one is near the large diverse cities. On the other hand, instant noodles have become available almost everywhere in the world. They can be found at almost any supermarket store. Instant noodles are especially prominent among college students since it is cheap and affordable to get. Although ramen has now become a global trend, its deep roots will always be attached to Japan’s history. Ramen has come to be what it is today thanks to the historical events that have occurred in Japan, and the people inspired by those events.

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.





A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption by Tanya Rajabi

A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption

Great speculation dominates the argument concerning exactly when in history and where in the world noodles were first introduced. Four thousand year old strings of noodles unearthed under an overturned bowl, however, eliminates any doubt as to the long withstanding preservation of the noodle in the Chinese diet.[i] Through thousands of years of serving as a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine, the noodle has garnered endless unique varieties, methods of preparation, and uses with diverse meats and vegetables. One such variety of noodles that revolutionized the way noodles were consumed was the invention of the instant noodle in 1958. Momofuku Ando of Japan dehydrated steamed and seasoned noodles in oil heat to create the first instant noodles, and then established its industrial manufacturing. This product, which could be ready to consume in solely two minutes, quickly spread throughout Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. Traditional, homemade noodles remain as the typical form of the dish consumed in rural areas. However, growing in popularity at the same time that China was beginning its rapid transformation into an industrialized state, the instant noodle practically served as fuel to propel the urbanization and sustenance to nourish the labor force driving the urbanization in large cities. If noodles are to be considered the staple of the Chinese diet, then it is only just to consider instant noodles as the staple of urban megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes. The unannounced need to hustle in all aspects of work and daily life, as well as limited time and money available to dedicate to cooking homemade dishes or enjoying meals at restaurants has placed instant noodles as the center of what advances individuals in urban centers. Furthermore, some might go beyond to claim that the dependence of urban dwellers on instant noodles is what drives the economy, society, and state of China as a whole. Today, China contains by far the largest instant noodle market in the world, with 38,970 million servings sold in 2017.[ii] Despite this statistic, China surprisingly has in recent years been experiencing a significant decline in the demand and dependence on instant noodles. Through this paper, it becomes evident that the fluctuations in the market for instant noodles can best be examined alongside the movement of rural migrant workers, changes in economic patterns, and the emergence of recent health trends in China.

Prior to the 1970s, China was primarily an agricultural economy, with approximately 82 percent of the country’s population residing in rural areas. However, reforms allowing private ownership of, or de-collectivizing, rural lands in the 1980s resulted in more efficient food production while consequently causing 240 million agricultural laborers to be in surplus. As a result, unemployed rural residents began traveling to cities in search of greater economic opportunities in factories, construction sites, and other forms of cheap labor.[iii] According to polls conducted in 2016 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, decades of urban migration have resulted in an estimated 282 million rural migrant workers, which constitute over twenty percent of China’s total population.[iv] These migrant workers represent one of the most marginalized sectors of the population, as they are generally forced to work long hours with low pay rates and unfavorable living conditions. The average monthly wage for migrant workers in 2017 stood at 3,485 yuan, or roughly 525 United States dollars, which is far from a comfortable living wage in urban settings like Beijing. Additionally, surveys conducted by the National bureau of Statistics revealed that the average migrant worker living in a medium-sized city in China owned solely 15.7 square meters of space, and over a third of workers did not own a fridge or any cooking technologies.[v] Due to the aforementioned difficulties facing migrant workers upon their arrival to cities, little money and time remain for them to purchase and cook the traditional, time-consuming Chinese meals they would enjoy back home with their families. Alternatively, noodles, which are a staple in a wide variety of dishes in the Chinese diet, are consumed in the form of instant noodles. The minimal cost, wide availability, and quick preparation time of instant noodle packets are favored by migrants and are suitable for their strenuous lifestyle. With the rapid annual increase in rural to urban immigration within the majority of the last forty years, the demand for instant noodles is believed to have had consequently increased by an annual rate of twenty percent in the beginning decades of its introduction.[vi] This great increase in demand for instant noodles was spearheaded by rural workers residing in cities, who are the largest consumers of instant noodles in China.[vii]

While rural migrants themselves suffer from low wages and harsh living conditions, their presence in factories and construction sites are responsible for the major industrialization and urbanization that Chinese cities have experienced in the second half of this century. However, the economic boom caused by rural to urban migration is slowing, and the migrants’ temporary stays in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes are coming to an end as they begin returning to their hometowns.[viii] China is outgrowing its emphasis on manufacturing, construction, and other labor intensive jobs and has begun outsourcing these occupations to other countries in Southeast Asia. In their place, China now wants to focus on developing high-end technology and improving its service sector of the economy. Unfortunately, migrant workers do not have the skills and qualifications necessary to successfully work in these more advanced sectors of the economy, and as a result, millions of jobs have been lost. According to one rural migrant, “Today, it is harder to find a job and it is easier to lose one.”[ix]  However, these trends of unemployment have not gone unnoticed by the Chinese government. Rural provinces such as Guizhou have been encouraging migrant workers to return to their hometowns through incentives such as providing resources to start their own businesses, offering classes to gain greater skills in the workforce, and helping them find employment in their hometowns.[x] Due to the efforts of the government, as well as the unavailability of employment in urban locations, approximately 1.7 million fewer migrant workers resided in cities in 2015 than in 2014, indicating a migrant population decrease in China for the first time in thirty years. Similarly, between the years of 2010 and 2016, the growth in migrant workers significantly decelerated to 0.5 percent, in contrast to the previous migration rate of 5.2 percent.[xi] Migrants are willingly returning to their hometowns, and with these new entrepreneurs, China hopes to experience equivalent economic growth in its rural areas as well.

Occurring at the same time as the rather dramatic decrease in rural to urban migration has been the rapid decrease in sales of instant noodles. Data on instant noodle consumption in China has demonstrated that the number of packets of these convenient noodles sold have been unprecedently declining. In 2013, the sales of instant noodles in China exceeded 46.2 billion packets, which is equivalent to 1,465 packets of instant noodles consumed every second. It was recorded in 2016, however, that only 38.5 billion packets of instant noodles were sold, which is approximately a decrease in 8 billion packets over the course of three years. In terms of percentages, this difference in sales indicates a dramatic 17 percent drop in instant noodle consumption in China.[xii] Major instant noodle companies in China are currently suffering from the shrinking market size of instant noodles caused by the decrease in their demand. Tingyi Holding Corporation, which owns the popular instant noodle brand name Master Kong, reported in 2016 a revenue of 3.2 billion United States dollars, which was a 25.24 percent decrease from 2013’s revenue of 4.3 billion United States dollars. Similarly, another popular instant noodle brand in China, Uni-President, reported a 7.06 percent decrease in gross revenue and a net profit drop of 26 percent in 2016.[xiii] Instant noodle companies throughout China continue to struggle to keep their companies and brand names alive in the midst of the declining consumption of their products.

It is not merely a coincidence that the decline in instant noodle consumption in recent years is occurring simultaneously with the fluctuation in the rural and urban economies and migration patterns. As discussed previously, the slowing economy in urban locations and the spark in the economy of rural areas has resulted in the migration of rural workers back toward the countryside. This rural labor force was once greatly attracted to instant noodles due to their convenience, low cost, and availability. However, now that these migrants are being lured home with government incentives, they for the most part now have access to adequate cooking spaces and cheaper ingredients, longer periods of time dedicated to leisure, and are closer to families who can cook meals for them. Thus, the need for convenient, ready-made instant noodles is virtually eliminated once migrants return to their rural homes. Furthermore, more individuals in the labor force are choosing to remain in rural areas, where employment opportunities are increasing, rather than migrate to cities in search of work in the first place.[xiv] According to Zhang Xin, an economics professor at Tongji University, “far fewer low-paid migrants from rural China are moving to or living in cities, where they are one of the biggest consumers of instant noodles.”[xv] Therefore, as the number of rural migrant workers limited to impoverished living conditions in bustling cities are dwindling, the demand for quick, already-prepared meals like instant noodles continues to decrease as well in China.

As explored earlier, rural migrant workers in cities, alongside other Chinese residents in the lower economic class, are responsible for a great fraction of the instant noodle sales in China. However, individuals and families in the middle and upper classes are also regular consumers of instant noodles. The unlimited availability, quick preparation time, and portability of instant noodles tailors to the hectic, fast paced lifestyle experienced by residents living in the bustling urbanized areas of China, causing them to be in high demand even among the wealthy. However, Chinese citizens have begun taking interest in the recent upspring in health trends popular in the United States, such as limiting carbohydrate, sugar, salt, and gluten intake as well as emphasizing natural, fresh foods. According to Zhao Ping of the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International trade, those following new fad diets “are more interested in life quality than just filling their bellies these days” and have deemed the original instant noodles as “junk food.” Seeking better alternatives to premade noodles with dehydrated vegetables and meats, customers have found delicious, high quality, and healthy noodles through food delivery companies.[xvi] Companies such as “Meituan Waimai” and “” meet all of the requirements of convenience for busy urban residents. Mobile applications have been created to allow practically any dish to be ordered at customers’ fingertips and transportation methods have been arranged for rapid delivery to customers’ doorsteps.[xvii] Research conducted by the China Internet Network Information Center in 2016 reported that food delivery services had reached 295 million users, indicating a 41.6 percent increase in just one year.[xviii] As a result, the growing popularity and increased utilization of on-demand food delivery services by China’s growing middle class have made it difficult for longstanding instant noodle brands to prevent their sales from plummeting. In response, however, some companies are abandoning their outdated, “junk food” noodles and instead are taking measures to meet the demands of changing trends and fad diets in China. According to Alex Lo, president of Uni-President Enterprises, the instant noodle company is now focusing on high-end instant noodle products, which “[are] in line with the consumption upgrade in China.”[xix]

Whether the main reasoning behind the reduction in consumption of instant noodles is because of limited rural worker migration to China’s large cities, the desire for more nutritious and higher quality foods, or a culmination of both, it is without a doubt that movements in China’s economy and social tendencies have a direct impact on the state of the instant noodle.  However, noodles as a whole are so heavily engrained in the Chinese culture that these fluctuations in society have not had the power to eliminate noodles from the Chinese diet. Rather, the type and the way the noodles are prepared and served are simply transformed alongside the historical transformation of China itself. Noodles have served and will continue to serve as a manifestation of the preferences of the Chinese palate and the state of China as a whole.


[i] Roach, John. “4,000 Year Old Noodles Found in China.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 12 Oct. 2005,

[ii] “Global Demand of Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association, 2018,

[iii] Li, Shi. “The Economic Situation of Rural Migrant Workers in China.” China Perspectives, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 15 Dec. 2010,

[iv] Migrant. “282 Million Rural Migrant Workers in China.” GBTIMES, GBTIMES Beijing, 15 Mar. 2017,

[v] “Migrant Workers and Their Children.” China Labour Bulletin, China Labour Bulletin, 24 May 2018,

[vi] Huocan, Lin. “Listed Instant-Noodle Manufacturers See Profit Declines in H1.” China Economic Net, Chine Economic Net, 12 Sept. 2013,

[vii] Atkinson, Simon. “Why Are China Instant Noodle Sales Going off the Boil?” BBC News, BBC, 20 Dec. 2017,

[viii] Liu, Coco. “Returning Migrants: the Chinese Economy’s next Great Hope.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 17 Mar. 2018,

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The Role of Korean Ramyeon – Christina Ji Young Chang

Christina Chang

The Role of Korean Ramyeon

Instant Korean ramyeon is popular all over the world today. It can be found in myriad places, including western supermarkets, majority of Asian markets, and even at the summit of Jungfrau in Switzerland due to its popular demand. In the motherland, ramyeon consumption is about 70~90 ramyeon per person a year, and 3.3 billion for the whole population of Korea every year. Lim Chun-aem, a track-and-field athlete who won 3 medals in the 1986 Asian Games, even stated that she only ate ramyeon and ran to train for the race.  Despite the world’s view of being unhealthy and a quick fix to a fast paced life, instant ramyeons are continuing to evolve and carry a significant place on everyone’s table as a staple food; ramyeon creations also reflect the Korean’s open cultural mindset that welcomes cultural identities and enjoys creating hybrids.


The history of Korean ramyeon began in 1963, as a cheap filler food during the post-Korean war age when most were famished. Samyang food came up with their reputable Samyang ramyeon with the help of Japan’s mechanical equipment and started the boon of the stereotypic red and spicy soup. Afterwards, the ramyeon rush continued in the 1980’s when Shin Ramyeon was launched. In a span of 10 years, Shin ramyeon was exported to foreign countries and  the Korean ramyeon industry continued to propel forward. As many were tired of the same stereotypic ramyeon, new fusion types began to arise in the 2000’s. Although it has only been 55 years since the start of the first Korean ramyeon, this industry has become one of the most prominent Korean export regime and a part of Korean cultural DNA. Dong-ryun Ko, a Korean engineer, mentioned that “ramyeon is like kimchi (one of the most popular side-dishes) to Koreans. The smell and taste create an instant sense of home.” Similarly, ramen has this impact on many Koreans continuing its conquer in the history of South Korea.


The now leading Korean export regime of ramyeon first started off by exporting into neighboring Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and North Korea. The response was very positive to the point where North Koreans used ramyeon as a mode of diet, food when appetite is lost, ; North Koreans would enjoy Korean ramyeon over all other types, leading to Chinese companies putting Hangul on their products on purpose to mislead the customers into thinking that they were from South Korea. Although the boom in other countries are mainly due to the taste and easy accessibility, I believe that K-Pop and K-drama also had a colossal effect. Through an interview with Ellie Halm, she mentioned that as she was learning the Korean language by watching K-drama, she also learned to eat the food that appeared on the shows, especially ramyeon. There are many dramas and shows that are dedicated to food and cooking, such as “Let’s Eat”. These types of shows promoted the Koreans’ love for their food, in this case ramyeon, that was reflected and spread throughout Asian and Western countries.


Although the consumptions of ramyeon are very high, it is hard to deny the fact that they are as nutrition deficient as any other types of instant ramens when it is cooked and eaten by itself. Purposive fortification with essential micronutrients may provide some additional nutritional value to ramen but it still cannot be the primary and the only source of food for individuals. If consumption is high, it is also known to be positively related to the obesity, cardiometabolic risk factors, and heart failures due to the lack of nutrition and sodium, as one instant ramyeon delivers more than 90% of the recommended daily sodium intake. Just like any other junk food, ramyeon is massively consumed around the world and there are certainly other factors that precede such health risk.


Even though ramyeon is merely known as a quick and filling meal with health risks stated above, there are many culturally significant meanings behind this bowl of noodles that makes it the popular dish that it is today. First, it is known to help overcome hangovers, also known as haejang. Koreans are known to be the second highest alcohol consumer in the world.  With such high percentage of alcohol consumption, ramyeon is a meal that is consumed at night or even in the morning after a night out to overcome and decrease the effects of alcohol hangover. In an interview with Jessica Lee, she said, “similar to Americans drinking Bloody Mary after drinking, we eat ramyeon to lessen the hangover”. Second, ramyeon is a one of the necessities that are essential to bring when camping. Ramyeon soup base can be used in all Korean stews to enhance the taste and the noodles can be added for taste at any time also. When at a Korean camping base, the smell of ramyeon fills the air, as most if not all utilize ramyeon in their meals in some shape and form. Indeed, ramyeon is a way of life for Koreans.


Third, ramyeon somehow became a pop culture in recent years. After a successful episode in the Korean Saturday Night Live few years ago, ramyeon became a litote in Korea. It turned into a symbol of seduction. “Do you want to eat ramyeon at my place?” became the modern litote which is similar to phrase “wanna come up to see my etchings?” in America during the mid-20th century. Rather a litote than a double entendre, it became immensely popular across all generations which was contrary to the deep-rooted confucianism and conservationism among the Koreans. In my opinion, the familiarity and comfort of ramyeon have nullified the sexuality commonly associated with the litote.


Lastly, ramyeon is rationed out as emergency food in Korea. Along with other essentials, ramyeon is distributed as staple food in areas affected by natural disasters. Due to its durability and mobility, ramyeon is distributed to both victim and rescuers. During the Sewol ferry incident in 2014, thousands of ramyeon was distributed to the emergency shelter for everyone to quickly consume food and resume rescue works. Tons of ramyeon are occasionally shipped to North Korea as part of humanitarian efforts. Even when hot, clean water is unavailable, ramyeon is eaten raw which is also considered a delicacy. Following that concept, there is even a snack in Korea called “ppushu ppushu smash noodle” which is essentially a raw ramyeon noodles with seasonings. It is consumed by smashing the noodles into pieces and mixing up well with given seasonings. This simply showcases the undying love Koreans have for ramyeon. According to Koby Han who has completed two years of military service in Korea, a variety of ramyeon is rationed to the soldiers weekly to be consumed as an addition to the given meals. Even during his combined military exercises with the United States Forces in Korea (USFK), ramyeon was rationed out to both Korean and American soldiers. Koby claimed that ramyeon is a delicacy every soldier love to eat after completing his guard duty overnight and it creates inseparable bonds with your comrades. From such perspectives, I can infer that ramyeon is indeed a soul food that fuels the spirits of Koreans in any occasion.


Creativity with ramyeons is one of the reasons why it is so popular and well-known. So many different recipes could be made with one ramyeon by adding different ingredients. Relating it to the interview that I have done with Sandy Lin, Sandy talked about the balanced diet that Chinese noodles can have by eating it with different sides, such as vegetables and meat; this can also be true with Korean ramyeon. Countless of ingredients can be added, such as bean sprouts, bean paste, carrots, potatoes, meat, milk, and even coke to advance it into a better balanced and nutritious meal despite its lacking nutritional values when eaten alone; ramyeon can also be added to existing, traditional, nutritious dishes and add on to the delicate taste. Tim Alper, a journalist, has been living in Korea for over 10 years and has been conducting what I see as the most effective fieldwork, participant observation. Participant observation is an inside perspective on culture of an individual who can apply his or her outsider’s perspective in order to draw wider conclusions. It involves everyday tasks that are essential in learning culinary tradition and understand the final outcome. Tim Alper saw countless different combinations of ramyeon that were made by people living in Korea. I believe that these countless customization led to the fame that it has today.


Furthermore, ramyeon can also be mixed from two different types. For example, the most famous and popular mix would be jjapaguri. This is a mix of two different ramyeons, jjapagetti and neoguri, that is known to make an unprecedented taste that captured the hearts of hundreds and thousands of citizens of Korea. This recipe first originated from the soldiers who were experimenting during their free time and the recipe was available on the internet, but started its boom when it hit the TV in 2013. Since then, people started to share their recipes of mixing different types of ramyeon together on the internet. Furthermore, some ramyeon companies responded by actually manufacturing the popular ramyeon mix recipes. For instance, the popular mix of buldak-bokkeum noodle with jjapagetti was eventually produced as a single ramyeon product called Jjajang-buldak by the Samyang food company. These types of versatility in the ramyeon recipe led to people sharing their own recipes with their friends and family, creating time for them to bond and connect. Seen in the reading, The Dog who Ate the Truffles”, special recipes were passed down to their family members as they were spending quality time together, allowing time for bonding, understanding, and connecting with each other. This parallelism shows that ramyeon is not merely a quick, easy, and unhealthy meal eaten in the fast paced society, but method for members of society to connect and share time together while sharing a bowl of ramyeon. Such phenomenon is also a fine reflection of a common symptom among the Koreans: the parrot effect. Koreans tend to like doing what others are doing, often resulting in an ubiquitous fashion, styles and delicacy. Mixing of ryameon became an instantaneous phenomenon, thanks to the parrot effect, which eventually resulted in a mass love for creative ramyeon mixes. This also reflects the strong unity and sense of togetherness among the Koreans; the cultural DNA.


As ramyeon transformed into a meal, instead of merely being a quick fix, fusion ramen came to surface and showed the versatile mind that Koreans have, accepting other cultures and identities as part of their own. After countless similar stereotypic red and spicy ramyeon, fusion ramyeon were made. These ramyeon not only represent Korea, but different countries. For example, there are curry spicy ramyeon, a fusion of Korean and Indian taste, bean paste ramyeon, a fusion of Korean and Chinese taste, soba ramyeon, mix of Korean and Japanese, and more. I believe that this reflects upon Korean mindset of being open to myriad societies, and cultures.


In my personal experience, ramyeon was a comforting food that helped me feel as if I was home when I was in a foreign place and feel calm when I was upset. Although it is merely a bowl of noodles that could be fixed in 5 minutes, I could relate to the bonding that could be formed via food as mentioned above for ramyeon and the book “The Dog who Ate the Truffle”. In my case, my brother and I have been growing up in separate countries for most of our lives as we went to school. During summer and winter breaks, we would come back to our house, but still not see each other very often due to our busy schedules. One of the times we would gather together was when we wanted to make ramyeon. My brother would come over to my room and ask me to start boiling the water. We would wait with anticipation for our noodles and even share and try new recipes together. I think these times were very meaningful as I look back at my childhood; it was a conversation starter for us and would get us talking and bonding, which was not an easy thing to do for teenagers. For me, ramyeon was not just a bowl of noodles but also a bridge to connect with my brother.


In conclusion, ramyeon is more than what it is known to be; it has many cultural and historical backgrounds, relating it to the military, foreign relations, quality bonding time with friends and family, and more. It has cultural values and holds a dear place in every Korean’s heart allowing them to take a taste of home wherever they may travel. Due to its phenomenal values, I believe that it is not an understatement to claim that ramyeon is indeed part of the Korean cultural DNA.



















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