Food, Intersectionality, and Categorization – Suman Atluri

Since I first learned about intersectionality, I have been interested in finding out more about how the concept impacts the daily lives of people from all around the world, from various walks of life, and overall from very different backgrounds. The idea of intersectionality ties in well with the anthropological concept of marked and unmarked categories, which transcend cultures, religions, and geographic locations. Creating a working definition of marked and unmarked categories is key to understanding the basis by which I will discuss this topic, and how it relates to international food studies. For the purposes of this paper, I define a marked category as one which stands out in the particular context of the situation. While many people do not refer to these categories by any sort of specific definition, they play a very important role in our everyday lives and how we view those around us. Until recently, I did not fully grasp how the concept of context can fully shape what is considered marked or unmarked in a specific situation. While it may seem obvious that normal ideas about migration and food in one society might not translate perfectly to another, these categories do not follow this often simplified differentiation in various surroundings. It is true that what may be considered marked in one situation revolving around food and migration may be unmarked in another; however, the group that holds power greatly differs within any given situation. The idea of marked and unmarked categories is especially important to analyze within the context of migration studies as well as food studies. When considering immigrants, it is important to note that those who migrate are not always the marked category nor those who lack power in a specific situation. That being said, in many studies that intersect with analysis of migration, such as food studies, it is those who migrate who often fall into marginalized and oppressed groups. Food studies and specific topics within this larger umbrella provide vehicles for analysis of intersectionality, marked and unmarked categories, and food security. Through analysis of literature surrounding food studies and immigration, we are able to gain a better understanding of how intersectionality plays a critical role in the development of marked and unmarked categories within migration and food studies.

While many say that the force of intersectionality is diminishing in power throughout the world, it still remains the dominant factor in the status of millions of people. With socioeconomic class, ethnic background, sex, gender, religion, and other factors possibly playing into a person’s role in many societies, certain groups of people are often unable to voice their opinions safely and effectively. This leads to regions and sometimes whole nations where certain groups of people are considered inherently beneath others and deemed inferior. One arena in which this is seen most is studies surrounding food security. Food security, as defined by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (on its website about the topic), is “the condition to which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Food security is vital to the successful development of a region and/or nation. IFPRI reflects on the fact that “economic growth is only sustainable if all countries have food security. Without country-owned or country-driven food security strategies, there will be obstacles and additional costs to global, regional, and country-level economic growth. Food security needs to encompass women … and vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.” Whether through government policies (such as the indirect forcing of migrants into specific areas of a certain city or region), or through social interactions between groups, the force of intersectionality directly impacts which people or groups have complete food security in the context of their region. In addition, the lack of inclusion of voices of people from historically marginalized groups within food studies furthers the problems that have already been created surrounding access to food.

When first considering how food studies (and furthermore, food security) was linked to migration, I wondered which had more impact on the other. Did food insecurity cause people to migrate, or did migration somehow cause food insecurity? Arup Maharatna, in his article “Food Scarcity and Migration: An Overview,” discusses how “migration as we know it, both at the household and collective levels, is essentially a response to crisis situations (for example, food scarcity)” (Maharatna 2). This ideology makes sense, as history has seen many large movements and diasporas of people as a response to specific incidents – such as national disasters and famines. While Maharatna’s viewpoint seems to be part of the idea that food scarcity, among other issues, can cause widespread migration, I believe that because of intersectional forces, migration also impacts food security.

Due to intersectionality and the way it works in countries around the world, those who are oppressed and marginalized because of one facet of their identity (such as race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender) are more likely to be in others as well. As a result, people who come from low socioeconomic statuses and migrate, for example, are at a very high risk of being affected by food insecurity. Walter Imilan, in “Performing national identity through Peruvian food migration in Santiago de Chile,” describes how “food and the activities surrounding it are not only a resource for economic integration, but also act as a mediating factor in the re-creation of a national identity. Migrants indeed use food as a way of performing their national distinctiveness from the host society” (Imilan 1). Therefore, when migrants are seen as the marked category indirectly restricted from access to fresh and healthy food because of various factors, a domino effect begins to take place. This effect passes onto national identity and more.

Food security has often only been discussed in the context of rural settings; there is a significant lack of academic analytical work surrounding food security of migrants and groups who do not identify as being from rural communities. Jonathan Crush, in “Linking Food Security, Migration, and Development,” discusses how “if the global migration and development debate sidelines food security, the current international food security agenda has a similar disregard for migration. The primary reason for this is the way in which “food security” is currently problematized. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that food insecurity is primarily a problem affecting the rural poor and that the solution is a massive increase in agricultural production by small farmers” (Crush 62). Crush brings up an important topic that is rarely discussed in the fields of food or migration studies: by considering only the rural poor as those affected by food security, experts are failing to analyze major problems facing millions of migrants all around the world and the ways that they are able, or in fact unable, to access healthy and fresh food on a consistent basis.

Analyzing food security and how it can impact migration, and vice-versa, could have a major beneficial impact on how studies surrounding food and migration studies are viewed; as a result, there could be a much better widespread understanding of motives for migration and how these are associated with issues related to food. Crush states that “the implications of the new mobility regime for food security in general (and urban food security in particular) need much further exploration and analysis. To what degree is heightened mobility related to problems of food insecurity? Food security shocks and chronic food insecurity can certainly be major motives for migration for income-generating opportunity” (71). Crush’s analysis sheds light on the fact that there is little to no analysis of food insecurity within migrant communities around the world. For this reason, we can see migrant communities as the marked categories and/or the marginalized group in this context. By giving more people in this group the chance to share their stories about food and their access/lack of access to fresh food, we would be able to have a better understanding of why, and perhaps more importantly, how, food insecurity and migration are linked.

By giving marginalized peoples a larger voice in the academic fields of migration and food studies, there would be a better understanding of issues facing certain groups, which are currently rarely discussed. Irma McClaurin, in her writing, reflects on how through academic writing, people from historically marginalized groups can regain the power that has been taken from them; this could be seen as an especially effective in migration and food studies, where migrants are often forced to give up their national identities and sometimes their gastronomic traditions as a result of their new home. McClaurin notes that “[people from oppressed groups], ever marginal to the authoritative discourse, cannot sit at the dining room table because they were never invited” (McClaurin 50). She brings up an important topic: the tendency in academic works to write about people from marginalized groups or the groups as a whole without having a first-hand perspective. While many authors of articles surrounding food studies and migration studies have completed large studies involving interviews with people within these groups, the authors themselves often identify as being from an unmarked group within society.

This reinforces a power structure within food and migration studies, as well as academia as a whole, that causes “minority scholars [to] still struggle for credibility … [and] battle a rising tide” (McClaurin 52). Until recently, these scholars had to seek validation from people in power, thereby falling victim to the social systems which they were writing about. While a hierarchy based on power continues to exist in academia, alongside other disciplines, many would argue that, with the increasing numbers of people from marginalized groups sharing their works and ideas, a slow blockage of the centuries-old power system within academia, specificically migration and food studies, is beginning to form. In addition, this problem of the norm of authors within academia has finally been uncovered for discussion and analysis.

Reflecting on the new era of accepted authors within academic disciplines, McClaurin highlights the idea that when people from groups which have historically been oppressed by society contribute to pieces such as an autoethnography, they are “[promoting their] interpretations of [their world] as authentic without the validation of other social scientists” (McClaurin 67). This statement represents the complete takeback of power from those in control and from the dominating structures that our society has created in fields of academia — in other words, a marking of these structures. Furthermore, by shifting the focus away from those who have historically held power, societal issues such as oppression and marginalization of marked groups are underscored. While these topics of power, intersectionality, and oppression may seem distant from food studies, I believe that they go hand in hand. My giving more people from certain groups a larger voice within academia, and specifically food studies, we would gain perspectives that are currently widely lacking. By doing so, there would be an ability to have increased analysis, and therefore, a better understanding of how food can affect migration and vice-versa.

The academic disciplines of food studies and migration studies can be easily related back and tied into the anthropological concepts of marked and unmarked categories as well as the overarching force of intersectionality. The disparities between groups who have food security and those who do not often come down to societally created power differentials that exist in groups, nations, regions, and societies around the world. While many societies worldwide are experiencing changes in power differentials between unmarked and marked groups, few focus on the works created by people from marked categories – often people who have been marginalized and oppressed. When societal norms that have existed for decades or even centuries are disrupted, underlying themes of oppression and marginalization are often brought to light. Power shifts away from those who have historically held it sparks conversations about the history and social structures of those who have been downtrodden. As we can see through academic writing in the fields of migration and food studies and beyond, the need to analyze works surrounding food security written by people from marginalized groups is greater than ever, and a deep understanding of these works could empower people in marked groups, helping to ensure food security for more groups of people around the world, on a consistent basis.


Works Cited

Crush, Jonathan. “Linking Food Security, Migration and Development.” International Migration, vol. 51, no. 5, Oct. 2013, pp. 61-75. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/imig.12097.


“Food Security.” International Food Policy Research Institute,


Maharatna, Arup. “Food Scarcity and Migration: An Overview.” Social Research, vol. 81, no. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 277-298. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/sor.2014.0026.


McClaurin, Irma. 2001. “Chapter 2: Theorizing a Black Feminist Self in Anthropology.” Essay. In Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics.


Milan, Walter A. “Performing National Identity through Peruvian Food Migration in Santiago De Chile.” Fennia, vol. 193, no. 2, June 2015, pp. 227-241. EBSCOhost, doi:10.11143/46369.


The Role of Crayfish in the Economic and Social Spheres of Chinese Food Industry

A video clip posted by Weibo user Jiuke showing a crayfish, a close relative of lobster, making daring escape from being boiled alive in a Sichuan hotpot by clipping off its own claw has gone viral since a month ago on Chinese social medias and social medias around the world. Although these freshwater crustaceans, also known as crawfish and literally “little lobster” in Chinese, have the ability to regrow their lost limbs, amputating its own claw still appears courageous and intelligent. Now the surviving crayfish becomes a pet and is living in an aquarium in Jiuke’s home, according to Casey Quackenbush on Crayfish being one of the most popular culinary delicacies in China nowadays was first viewed as an invasive species and pest in the agricultural industry sector. It caused catastrophic damage to rice terraced fields. Rice farmers in China hated them and used pesticides to kill them in order to save their crops. This came to an end when people found out about the great economic value of crayfish.

According to Robert John’s blog about business in Asia, the first recorded commercial harvest in Lousiana of the United States became the first successful model for the commercialization of crayfish. This provided an excellent business solution for China to solve the “crayfish dilemma”. This consequently gave birth to a booming industry of crayfish. With Louisiana producing 85-95% of crayfish production in the United States and China having similar agricultural conditions, the Jiangsu province of China quickly became the second Louisiana (John). According to China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the crayfish sector in China is worth of 42 billion USD up to date, which takes into account both upstream and downstream sales (Harkell). Upstream includes crayfish cultivation and farming and factory processing. Downstream includes catering, markets and online retailing etc. It is ironic that a rice farmer’s worst enemy serving as cheap agricultural fodder becomes the most sought-after food among urban millennials and a pillar industry of the total Chinese food service market.

According to the statistics of MoA, China is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of crayfish:


China is the world’s largest crayfish producer, according to a 2017 report by the then Ministry of Agriculture, now known as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Its output skyrocketed to 852,300 tonnes in 2016 from 265,500 tonnes in 2007. Outside the domestic market, Chinese crayfish have found fans in the United States and Europe. In 2016, China exported 23,300 tonnes of crayfish worth 259 million U.S. dollars. Nearly 40 percent went to the United States, while 90 percent of the crayfish consumed in Europe came from China. (“Across China”)



The long development of crayfish industry in China since the initial imitation of the U.S. model has created a huge innovative industry which encompasses a whole chain of sub-industries, which include but not limited to entertainment, catering and online shopping etc. The significance of crayfish in Chinese food industry is reflected from the transformative impact that it acts on the economic and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market. Crayfish has reshaped the Chinese food industry on various aspects especially in the economic sphere because these “little lobsters” have boosted the development of industrial transformation and upgrade. In the social sphere, on the other hand, crayfish has served as a social tool for people to interact and connect with each other.

Crayfish has lead the transformation and upgrading of the Chinese food industry because these “little lobsters” unleash the market power on economic development and industrial upgrade. In the upstream level, it promotes transformation by raising huge demand for food quality control among Chinese customers. Crayfish, being a highly adaptable freshwater aquatic species, is often seen living in seemingly dirty environments. This fact has raised great concerns about the safety of crayfish among Chinese customers because they are really worried about whether the “little lobsters” they eat live in a sanitary environment and are fed with clean and nutritious food sources. Qingjiang in Hubei Province, a city famous for its crayfish production and industrial improvement attempts, offers a satisfactory answer to this question of Chinese customers.

In order to dispel the concerns regarding the sourcing of crayfish, Qianjiang first introduces “ID cards” for live crayfish to counteract the concern of sanitary condition and nutritious value of crayfish. According to Xinhuanet, “by scanning a QR code on a carton of crayfish, the buyer can learn information about the animals inside, such as where they were raised, where they were bred, and even details about their food. The measure is part of Qianjiang’s efforts to build a quality traceability system for crayfish. The city produces one-tenth of China’s crayfish” (“Across China”). Chinese customers’ demand for better food quality stemming from the environmental adaptability of crayfish has provided incentives for crayfish sourcing companies to improve their services by implementing technological advancement to ensure food safety and quality.

In addition to implementing the “ID cards”, Qianjiang still turned to technological innovation. Qianjiang chose to build an online quality monitoring system and a quality testing center and is cooperating with SF Express, which enabled monitoring use of food sources, living conditions and rapid precise tests of crayfish and fast delivery of live crayfish ordered online to more than 300 domestic cities within 2 days (“Across China”). These attempts of incorporating technological innovations are examples of structural reforms in the supply side of the crayfish industry, which in turn sets a great exemplary model for other food service sectors. In the downstream, on the other hand, crayfish culinary training and crayfish-themed restaurants have become very popular and incurred increasing demand for the innovation, reform and upgrade of the upstream industry.

“As Chinese policymakers seek to promote domestic consumption in order to reduce the economy’s reliance on fixed-asset investment and exports, the growth of industries such as crayfish is a welcome development” (Wildau). In addition, according to MoA, “Crayfish has afforded undeveloped rural regions an effective catching-up strategy for rural development and poverty alleviation; played an important role in cultivating new opportunities for local economic growth; promoted structural reforms in the supply side of the agricultural (fishery) industry and efficiency; and increased the income of farmers (fishers)” (Harkell). Crayfish’s important role in reshaping the economics and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market has been magnified in the background of Chinese government encouraging and supporting the development of Crayfish industry. The accidental effects crayfish have on the Chinese food industry provide thoughts on how to develop or reform a specific industry by focusing on commercializing a targeted product. These “little lobsters” become a successful symbolic representative of this economic development strategy.

In the social sphere, crayfish night-outs trends in the social culture of Chinese millennials and boosts the development of crayfish-themed cultural activities:


Affluent urbanites enjoy the ritual of donning plastic gloves to peel and eat the critters, which are typically slathered in a spicy sauce. Some note that the sauce-drenched gloves prevent fellow diners from checking their mobile phones during a group meal, encouraging social interaction. The restaurants typically stay open late at night, the aroma drawing in revellers. “Crayfish satisfies the culture of late-night snacking, and it also substantially raises the quality of social interactions,” He Mingke, wrote in a research report on the industry by Cyanhill Capital, a venture fund. (Wildau)


The underlying significance of eating crayfish in a social setting and the pure joy of this feasting ritual are interconnected. Crayfish is the carrier of cultural and interpersonal communications. This is truly an interesting phenomenon that crayfish plays such an important role in Chinese food industry and culture.












Work Cited

Quackenbush, Casey. “Crayfish Amputated Its Own Claw to Escape Hotpot in China.” Time, Time, 4 June 2018,


John, Robert. “Chinese Crawfish vs. Louisiana Crawfish.” NOLASIA, NOLASIA, 7 Apr. 2016,


Harkell, Louis. “China Gov’t Says Country’s Crayfish Industry Worth $42bn.” Undercurrent News, Undercurrent News, 19 June 2018,


“Across China: China’s ‘Hometown of Crayfish’ Moves to Improve Quality.” Quotable Quotes on Belt and Road from World Intellectual, Business Personnel – Xinhua |, Xinhuanet, 30 June 2018,


Wildau, Gabriel. “Chinese Urban Consumers Gobble up Crayfish as Industry Booms.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 25 Aug. 2017,


The History of Chinese Instant Noodles (Final Paper)–Ruiyue Hong

Ruiyue Hong

CHN 375W

June 29, 2018

Final Paper

The History of Chinese Instant Noodles

Instant noodles are the noodles that could be cooked just by adding hot water. With the addition of flavoring powder and seasoning oil, people can get a hot bowl of noodles within just three minutes. Instant noodles help people save time from cooking and fill people’s stomach. Therefore, nowadays, instant noodles can be seen everywhere in the supermarket and its consumers include people from all classes. In this paper, I want to study the development of Chinese instant noodles from the perspective of history, economic, anthropology and culture. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part will describe the general development of instant noodles considering the economic and historic situation in China. The second part will focus on exploring the changing of ingredients and packaging of instant noodles in China. And the third part will reflect on the question of why instant noodles are more popular in the old times than nowadays.


Firstly, I want to examine the development of instant noodles considering the economic and historical situation in China. From research, Instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods in Japan. (Fijimini, 2012) They were launched in 1958 under the brand name Chikin Ramen. However, it was not until 1964 when instant noodles are finally introduced to China. In 1964, Beijing Food Factory tried to use duck oil to produce dried and fried instant noodles. However, they did not succeed. Four years later, the first instant noodles were invented by Shanghai YiMing Fourth Food Factory.(Du, 2017) It used the technology of high pressure in cooking fried noodles to produce almost 2 millions package of instant noodles to Chinese consumers, signifying the start of Chinese instant noodle production. During the 1978 to 1980, the scientists cooperated with Beijing Food Factory and designed an exclusive technology of producing instant noodles by steaming noodles with high pressure and drying them with infrared ray. Therefore, from the year of 1964 to 1980, China was in the period of exploring instant noodles.


From 1981 to 1986, China began its initial mass production of instant noodles. In 1981, Shanghai Yiming Food Factory and Beijing Instant Noodle Factory imported several assembly lines of instant noodle from Japan. During 1980s, with China opened its door towards foreign companies and embraced the idea of market economic, China had imported almost 100 assembly lines from Japan and put them into Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuxi etc. to start the instant noodles production. (Du, 2017) With the introduction of instant noodles into Chinese market, people began to learn about instant noodles. However, the instant noodles at that time was rather expensive compared to rice because it involved foreign technologies. According to history document, people needed to spend a quarter and two food coupons(粮票) in order to have one instant noodles. But normal Chinese family do not have such spare money to buy things other than necessities. Therefore, instant noodles don’t have lots of consumers in the beginning. So during the period of 1981 to 1986, there were few profit in making instant noodles and instant noodles were not very popular among China.


The year from 1987 to 1991 was the transitional and developmental period for Chinese instant noodles. In 1987, China no longer used food coupon as a way for people to buy rice and oil. People have more freedom in buying food. Therefore, the limitation of producing and consuming instant noodles was reduced. Moreover, it was the time when Chinese economic were growing. Citizen’s life quality improved significantly and the pace of life quickened. Therefore, the efficiency and convenience of instant noodles were discovered by the public, making the industry of instant noodles boomed. Soon, the instant noodles industry expanded from urban to suburban and its price remained almost the same. The instant noodles change from luxury to affordable everyday product. In addition, during this time, a lot of foreign companies entered Chinese instant noodles industry, including the famous brand “kangshifu” from Taiwan. With their entrance, the variety and taste of instant noodles increased, making the instant noodle even more popular. (Du, 2017)


During the year of 1992 to 1995, instant noodles in China developed quickly. There were advertisements of instant noodle everywhere and people were made to believe that instant noodles were the necessity for traveling and for everyday life. (Du, 2017) During this time, lots of foreign companies were competing with each other. They released all kinds of instant noodles and attracted customers with its stretchiness, smooth, unique taste and pretty packaging.


The year after 2001 to now, Chinese instant noodles began to develop stably. The noodles nowadays strictly followed the food standards set by Chinese government. The industry now aimed to produce healthier and more nutritious instant noodles with more diverse taste and packaging. Moreover, the seasoning also began to change slightly. Before, it was comparably plain for it was only salty. Nowadays, people add more seasoning and oil inside so that it has the tastes of spicy, Unami and salty. In addition, there are more variety of instant noodles. For example, besides noodle with soup(汤面), there are also lo mein(拌面) and crispy instant noodles(干脆面).


Therefore, with the history advancement and economic development in China, we could see the change of instant noodles in taste, packaging and cooking style.


Secondly, I want to explore the change of ingredient and packaging of the Chinese instant noodle. In order to show the change of taste in instant noodles, I will mainly compare the ingredient differences between Meat Noodles(肉蓉面) from old times and Kangshifu’s braised Beef Noodles with soy sauce(红烧牛肉面) nowadays. Meat Noodles were produced by Shanghai Yiming Food Factory. It was among one of the first instant noodles produced in China. It used to be popular in old times. By opening the paper packaging, there was only one powder seasoning and curved noodles. In the powder seasoning, it contains salt, sugar, flour and onion powder, pepper powder and rousong(肉松). After it is cooked, the noodles are stretchy and according to consumers, the noodle soup is mainly salty without other taste. Therefore, many people nowadays mainly used this noodle in the hot pot because it is very smooth and stretchy. (Cheng, 2017) On the other hand, Kangshifu’s braised beef noodles is completely different from Meat Noodles. Kangshifu is a Taiwanese company who was among the first foreign companies to produce instant noodles in China. When Kangshifu produced this kind of braised beef noodles, it soon became a hit. According to statistics, eighty percent of instant noodles consumed by Chinese people are Kangshifu’s braised beef noodles. Kanagshifu’s braised beef noodles in soy sauce is very different from Meat Noodles not only in ingredients but also on taste. For seasoning, it not only contains flavoring powder, but also contains seasoning oil. It was the first instant noodles in China to have seasoning oil. Moreover, it adds more ingredients in the flavoring powder too. For example, it contains monosodium glutamate(味精), curcumin and crocin that Meat noodles did not have. (Kang, 2000) With all these ingredients, people can experience more tastes in the noodles and the soup in the noodles is more delicious. The evolution of taste in Chinese instant noodles from Meat noodles to braised beef noodles reflects Chinese people’s evolution in taste too. During 1980s, Chinese did not have much food to choose. Therefore, the food people ate are rather plain and are not diverse. The main goal is to fill their stomach. However, as China progress, people tasted more and more delicacy, so people have more requirement for food. As a result, people would eat noodles like braised beef noodle to enjoy a variety of taste in noodles.


Thirdly, I want to discuss the reason why instant noodles are more popular during 2000s than nowadays. According to BBC report in 2000s, China sold over 46.2 billion instant noodles each year. (Atkinson, 2017) This is around one third of the world’s consumption of instant noodles, making China the biggest consumer of instant noodles. However, recently, lesser and lesser people choose to eat instant noodles. I want to address this phenomenon in four aspects. First of all, in nowadays, customers want better food than instant noodles. Cooking instant noodles are really easy: Just adding hot water and seasoning into the bowls and wait for three to four minutes. However, people nowadays have higher expectation than having dehydrated vegetables and meat and noodles with preservative. With all kinds of restaurants everywhere in the city, less people will choose to have instant noodles which are not nutritious. Just like Zhao Ping, the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade said “The decline of instant noodle sales shows a shift in China’s consumption patterns. Consumers are more interested in life quality than just filling their bellies these days.” Secondly, less people choose to have instant noodles because of the population shift (Atkinson, 2017). One of the big consumers of instant noodles are migrant workers because they are away from home, often living in cramped conditions with limited cooking facilities, and keen to save as much money as they can to send back to their families. Before 2010, a huge number of rural Chinese went to cities to work. But that trend has now reversed for the following years. It shows that more people choose to live in rural areas than before. Therefore, less people will take the train and eat instant noodles during their travels. Thirdly, less people consume instant noodles might be the result of Infrastructure improving and people’s habits changing during travel times. According to a passenger: “Travelling in China 20 years ago, I filled my stomach (and time) by eating pot after pot of instant noodles during cross-country train journeys, which sometimes lasted three days or more.” (Atkinson, 2017)However, this phenomenon is changing. Chinese trains and stations have improved. Journeys are quicker, and the range of food options are far more international. For example, there are McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks in nearly all train station. Therefore, noodle sales on the railways have fallen. And then there is the boom in aviation as middle class Chinese people spend billions flying on domestic and international holidays instead of using trains. As a result, less people will buy instant noodles during travel. Fourthly, there is also the influence of internet and smartphones, which help promote food delivery everywhere. About 730 million people in China now have access to the internet according to government figures. And about 95% of those are using smartphones to connect. Among these smartphones, almost all of them would have food delivery app inside. Whenever people are hungry, they could just get the food by one click on their smartphones. After waiting for half an hour, the food will be delivered right to your home or office. Their menus are undoubtedly more expensive than a pot of instant noodles. But these meals can still be inexpensive. And arguably more tasty. So considering consumer’s expectation, population shift, infrastructure improvement and the commonality of delivery app, people can see why instant noodles are not as popular in nowadays as before.


In conclusion, the history of instant noodles in China really reflects China’s economic and culture development. From instant noodles, people can see the condensation of Chinese food culture. Because it combines the taste of general Chinese people into one seasoning powder. So by studying the change of Chinese instant noodles, people also study the change of taste in Chinese people. Moreover, by studying the popularity of instant noodles in China, people could also see China’s society change and technology improvement in China.








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The Instant Impact of Instant Noodles in India

Maya Aravapalli

Professors Li and Ristaino

Italian/Chinese 376

26 June 2018

The Instant Impact of Instant Noodles in India

In this world, there are so many factors that impact our every day lives. Change is inevitable, and often hard to notice. New companies are born while others die, and this process has a significant impact on the economy, which in turn affects our standard of living and our lives. Of the factors that affect our lives, food is a salient one. Food is a reflection of culture and tradition and has a massive impact on our day to day lives. It is more than something one eats in order to work; it is an experience that is cherished by every individual in the world.  Because of its enormous impact on everyday life, changes in food start to impact the social culture. One such example is the emergence of instant noodles in India. It was summer in 1983 when my uncle was just eight years old. My family was impoverished, and they barely had enough money to eat; however, every once in a while my uncle and his friends would save up some money and get some street food on their way back from school. He recalled that they would always try and find ways to eat something different, but money and access to different foods were obstacles that were hard to overcome. At the time, the only food available was traditional Indian food that would sometimes take hours to cook; however, when Maggi Noodles was introduced, it changed the whole dynamic of cooking. All a person needed was hot water to share a tasty, easy-to-make meal. It was something that they could make themselves, and it was very time efficient. The distinctive branding of the noodles allowed for more people to hear about them, that in turn increased the popularity of the product. These noodles marked a revolutionary shift in India’s food culture. They were the go-to food whenever someone was hungry, and due to its low price, it was a very accessible product for a majority of India’s population (Nagarajan). The emergence of instant noodles in India, made famous by the brand “Maggie Noodles,” has had an enormous impact on India’s social and economic culture by allowing for more women to go to work, conquering hunger for the poor, and improving India’s economy.

    Instant noodles were first introduced to the world in 1958 by a Japanese-Taiwanese businessman named Momofuku Ando. He came up with the concept of “3-minute noodles” and invented a way to mass produce them. While the noodles were a success, their consumers demanded more flavor and taste of the noodles. Hence, the company provided flavor packets along with the noodles. The brand he created later became known as Nissin Noodles that makes varieties of different flavors of “cup noodles.” To this day, Momofuku Ando is known as the father of instant noodles. Since the invention of instant noodles, they have become a worldwide phenomenon and are consumed by people of all different backgrounds (“History”). The mass production of these noodles made them easily accessible everywhere; however, India did not catch on to this “instant noodle craze” until 1983  when “Maggi noodle” was first introduced to India.

    Maggi started off as a brand in Switzerland in 1884 that made powdered soups. Julius Maggi, the founder of Maggi, aimed at making food that was affordable for the average worker and was time efficient. Its primary mission was to create a fast and easy meal that would help working women save time and focus on work (“Maggi History”). Maggi later expanded and created new products such as soups, sauces, seasoning, and noodles. Julius Maggi invested a great deal in the advertisements that helped the company grow and become more successful. Maggi was acquired by Nestle in 1947 and has sparked a noodle revolution in India (“Maggi History”). Its branding and impact on India’s consumers make it one of the biggest companies in India. Maggi noodles have had a great impact on the everyday life of the average working woman in India. Its low price for a filling meal has made it accessible to even India’s low-income families. The iconic branding of “2-minute noodles” baffled India’s women as they would spend hours in the morning cooking breakfast before going to work. Therefore, the Maggi brand targeted working women promising more efficiency due to its noodle’s fast cooking time. However, it did not initially have great success with India’s demographic. People still preferred to have traditional, home-cooked meals. After conducting many surveys, the brand started targeting children. Their slogan, “ Easy to cook, Good to eat” shows how the noodles are easy to cook for parents, and good to eat for the children. They not only target children, but they also target adults who are preparing the noodles as well. The noodles only became popular among India’s population once the company improved it branding techniques.

    Due to the typical Indian dinner time being between 8:30 pm and 11:00 pm, Maggi was a great snack in between meals. The company initially targeted working women, but later advertised it as a family brand. They focused mainly on convince and health while advertising, and promoted their brand in many ways: sampling, advertising, product size,  customized products, and variety of flavors. These methods worked for changing the consumer demand for traditional Indian food to this fast and easy meal. However, the Indian population was still skeptical of the health effects of instant noodles (“Branding Strategies”). Because of health concerns, Maggi introduced the whole wheat instant noodle called “Maggi Atta Noodle.” This introduction helped solve some of the concerns the Indian consumers had about the unhealthy nature of instant noodles.

    Maggi noodles have played a significant role in improving India’s economy. After the introduction of Maggi Noodles, India adopted the noodle culture and became the fifth in rank in terms of consumption of instant noodles. The industry of instant noodles has grown 7.6% between the years 2010 and 2017. Maggi shares 61% of the market for instant noodles in India (BusinessToday.In). In 2015, there was a ban on Maggi due to excessive amounts of lead, and it was taken off the shelves all over India. During this period, Maggi was still in high demand by Indian consumers who had gotten used to eating it. Before the ban, Maggi noodles had control over 80% of the instant noodle market in India, but it seemed that Maggi’s reign as the number one instant noodles brand in India was falling apart. However, after the ban was lifted, consumers went back to buying Maggi products (Mitra). Because of the prohibition of Maggi noodles, Nestle launched a campaign called a “#WeMissYouToo” to show how the Maggi ban has changed the everyday lives of its fans. During an interview I conducted, I asked to “describe what life was like when Maggi was banned in India,” to which Prahalad Krishna, a senior in high school, responded, “I tried looking for alternatives for Maggi, but none of the other brands tasted as good as Maggi. I just had to wait it out” (Krishna).  Although Maggi was banned in India for about eighteen months, the influence and impact of Maggi were made crystal clear.

    Maggi is one of the “fast foods” that has had fairly steady growth over the years that have had a direct correlation to the increase in nuclear families and employed women. India is a traditionally male-dominated society, and women did not start going to work until recently. Due to social and economic changes that led to the increase of purchasing power and needs, women started to be part of the labor force. Many factors impact fast food consumption among nuclear families with working mothers: “large variety /periodic new product, the price is affordable, cooking is considered a lower priority, and home delivery (comfort and convenience of food) ” (Joshi & Chopra). Based on the study of the fast food consumption of nuclear families with working women, it can be concluded that Maggi noodles, that is considered “fast food” is a reliable option for working women in urban areas of India. The noodles fit almost all of the factors that are described above; therefore, it is one of the foods that have contributed to a shift in India’s food culture.

     To see how the trends in food culture have shifted since the introduction of Maggi,  I conducted a series of interviews. Among those was a working woman from India named Rathna Krishna. She has been working for  Delhi telephones for twenty-two years and is the personal assistant to the deputy manager. I asked her a number of questions related to how Maggi has impacted the social culture in India from the perspective of a working woman. She expressed that she has never liked Maggi noodles herself, but her children love them. It saves time before going to work, and it is effortless to make. When asked if Maggi has changed India’s social culture in any way, she responded “Maggi has become the national fast food in India. Everyone is crazy about the brand, and even street vendors sell Maggi as a snack or meal. It is cheap and accessible to much of India’s population. Before Maggi came to India, people only ate traditional Indian food, but once it was introduced, it became everyone’s favorite snack – both adults and children” (Krishna). 

    The next interview was her son, who is a senior in high school in India for a different perspective. When asked how often he eats Maggi and why he likes it, he responded, “I eat Maggi Noodles about 3-4 times a month. I like it because the taste is good and it is very easy to make. During the noodle ban, I tried many other ramen brands, but none of them tasted as good as Maggi. In my school, you see at least one person bringing Maggi noodles to school every day.” When asked if he has any personal stories related to Maggi that he would be willing to share, he responded “I went to Kedarnath, Uttrakhand [a state in India] for a religious trip, and it is up in the mountains where it is extremely cold. It is only accessible through a helicopter ride, and there is absolutely nothing there – no stores or anything. We got out of the helicopter, and there was a vendor who was selling hot Maggi. A plate of hot Maggi in that weather was a luxury” (Krishna). By conduction these interviews, it became clear that Maggi is a brand that is available all over India – from the busy streets of Delhi to the deserted mountain tops of Uttrakhand. It is a quick and easy meal that has impacted both working women and children all over India.

    Maggi has almost become a part of Indian culture due to its immense popularity. To test if it has truly had an impact on Indian culture, I decided to interview a college student, Anirudh Krishna, who has lived in India for the majority of his life but moved here for college. During the interview, I asked him if he thinks Maggi noodles have impacted his diet even here in the United States where fast food resultants are much more available. He eats Maggi about two times a week, and as a college student its sometimes hard to find fast cheap food. He recalls that he did not eat Maggi much while living in India, but after moving to the United States, he consumed it more. Anirudh described that he eats Maggi when he misses home and it provides a connection he has with his past and his family. Even though it is not traditional Indian food, it still provides this nostalgic feeling that all comfort foods offer (Krishna). Ramen noodles have been a part of the college culture for years due to its convenient and efficient preparation time. Maggi noodles are the most valued brand of ramen noodles by people of Indian origin who have never lived in India. I interviewed my friend, Shailee Parekh, who has lived in the United States all her life. Although she has never been exposed to the popularity of Maggi noodles in India, she still prefers Maggi to other brands of Ramen noodles. She has grown up with it even though it is not available here. When asked why she believes Maggi is so prevalent in India, she responded, “I am a vegetarian, and the variety of vegetarian instant noodles that the Maggi brand provides is one of the reasons I choose Maggi. So that could contribute to the popularity of Maggi in India” (Parekh). The interview shows that the Maggi brand has had an impact on the Indian culture as Indians all over the world love eating Maggi noodles. Through conducting several interviews, it became clear that Maggi has had an impact on people of many different backgrounds and age groups.

    Instant noodles have also been suggested as a possible solution to conquer hunger among the poor. With its low price and accessibility, it may be a suitable solution to the problem of hunger; however,  Maggi has mainly targeted middle class and urban consumers. Due to the complex supply chain processes that need to take place for Maggi to reach India’s villages, the company has avoided focusing on rural areas. According to Sounak Mitra, “about 70% of India’s population still lives in its 638,000 villages, more than 55% of retailing actually happens in metros, mini-metros, and tier-I cities, according to a Technopak study” (Mitra). If Nestle India put a percentage of its advertisements in rural areas, it could help fight the hunger problem in India. According to the Times of India, instant noodles could be a terrific solution to world hunger as food becomes scarcer in the future. It has also been observed by researchers, that  “Instant noodles thus far have been virtually unstoppable – and, as such, their accomplishments are worthy of serious attention” (“Instant Noodles – Quick Solution” ).  Perhaps, instant noodles could be a solution to the global hunger problem as it is a cheap and filling meal that can be had any time of day.

   In conclusion, Maggi has had a significant impact on the lives of working women who do not have time to make a traditional Indian meal all the time. It could also be a solution to combat the issue of hunger in rural India, and it has helped India grow economically. While the Indian culture did not embrace the new instant noodles at first, it has expanded and become India’s favorite “fast food.” Mothers make it for their children as a quick and easy meal, and once the children are old enough, they make it themselves. It is widely available, from grocery stores in the city to small street vendors in the desolate Himalayan mountains. It is a delicacy in India and has become one of the most popular meals among children and adults alike. Its taste and aroma is recognized by many and has had an enormous impact on India’s social and economic culture.  Maggi is the most prominent noodle dish in India, and it is eaten throughout the nation. It is a quick and easy meal to turn to in the middle of finals week, or a snack to share with friends in between meals. Although changes in social and economic cultural differences are not readily noticeable when one is living through time, Maggi has played a massive role in shaping India’s food culture and has contributed to making India’s workforce more inclusive.

Works Cited

BusinessToday.In. “Will India Ever Get over Its Maggi Hangover?” How Nike’s Marketing Strategies Helped It Become a Global Brand, Business Today, 30 Nov. 2017, fine-fssai-fsda-hangover/story/264986.html.

“History of Instant Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association,

Ideasmakemarket. “Branding Strategy of Maggi Noodles.”, 3 Mar. 2015, noodles.html.

Joshi, Kiran, and Komal Chopra. “To Study Factors Affecting Fast Food Consumption for Nuclear Families Having Working Women in Mumbai / Pune.” International Journal for Research in Applied Science & Engineering Technology (IJRASET), Mar. 2016,

Krishna, Rathna. Personal interview. 27 June 2018.

Krishna, Prahalad. Personal interview. 27 June 2018.

Krishna Anirudh. Personal Interview. 27 June 2018.

“Maggi® History.” Https://,

Mitra, Sounak. “How Nestle Is Rebuilding in India-18 Months after the Maggi Ban.” Https://, Livemint, 15 Feb. 2017, xyFCHn7hGJm1zUkesEVy5L/How-Nestle-is-rebuilding-in-India18-months-after-the- Maggi.html.

Nagarajan, Vijay. Personal Interview. 27 June 2018.

Parekh, Shaliee. 28 June 2018.

PTI. “Instant Noodles: Quick Solution to World Hunger? – Times of India.” The Times of India, India, 27 Aug. 2013, solution-to-world-hunger/articleshow/22085102.cms.

Ramen and Ramyun in Korea_JeeyoungKim

Ramen and Ramyun in Korea


Ramen and is now popular everywhere. Ramen is a type of noodles with twisted strands usually cooked with chicken broth, beef broth, or pork broth.  The noodle of ramen is typically made with wheat flour, salt, water and soda-infused water(kansui), which provides the light-yellow color of the noodle, chewy and slippery texture and its unique scent (Solt). The topping of the Ramen includes vegetables, seafood, meat, and eggs. Ramen varies in the type and taste. One of the most typical types of ramen is Instant noodle, which also has various flavors and styles. It is convenient and affordable but has sophisticated taste. Similar to the most of the noodles and foods, Ramen is closely related to the society and its culture. Notably, in Korea, Ramen is developed as one of the most crucial parts of the food cultures and society though is not traditional Korean food.


As of any other food, the origin of Ramen still on a debate, but most of the scholars thinks it started from China. Such claim of the professionals has highly credible assertion since the noodles and China is deeply associated. In China, a 4000-year-old fossil of a bowl is noodle was found.  It is known as the earliest evidence of noodles ever found (Roach). Also, due to the vicinity of China and Japan, the cultural exchange had seldom happened in the past and present days, so it is conceivable that the recipe of Ramen or the root of the Ramen has started from China and transported to Japan (Solt). The scholars assume that Chinese merchants would have brought a bowl of soup what is now similar to today’s Ramen (Brickman). The first introduction of the Ramen can be assumed to be in the 1880s. In the busy port city of Yokohama, Japan, Chinese immigrants from Guangdong province worked as cooks at restaurants (Solt). The primary purpose of this restaurant was to serve students and foreign workers from their own country who is currently staying in Japan. However, in the 1910s, the Chinese chefs in the restaurant started to use the ingredients that are not formerly used such as “roasted pork, soy sauce, and pickled bamboo shoots” in the Chinese food (Solt). Japanese workers, student, and soldiers also started to consume the food, and the noodle soup served in the Chinese restaurants now became popular among Japanese.


Moreover, after the World War II, Ramen gained more popularity. Since Japan defeated from the war, food was scarce, and wheat flour, which is the main ingredient for making Ramen started to import from the United States. Those who returned from the Japanese occupied territory in China began Chinese restaurant and sold the noodles that now is called Ramen since they are familiar with the noodle-eating culture in China (“Correlation of Ramen…”). Though the root of the Ramen is China, later, Japanese had developed Ramen in different ways in a different region (Salt). With efforts of Japanese put on the development of Ramen, it became a national symbolic food of Japan and became one of the world favorites.


After the introduction of Ramen from China to Japan, Japanese Ramen became popular around the world, especially in Korea.  On the streets of different cities around the globe, Japanese Ramen restaurant is easily found.  Korea is one of them. There are two types of Ramen in Korea. One is called Ramen, which is a Japanese style Ramen, the other is called Ramyun, which refers to the Korean style instant noodles.  We will first discuss the Ramen in Korea.  Ramen is known as Japanese dish in Korea and influenced a significant part of Korea’s food industry. For instance, the restaurant called Aori Raman demonstrates the popularity of Ramen in Korea.  Aori Raman is a Japanese style Ramen.  They only sell one menu called Aori Ramen with customized toppings. The Aori Ramen is a type of Tonkotsu ramen, which is originated in Fukuoka, Japan. The soup is pork, and customers can add five different toppings: boiled pork, seaweed, boiled eggs, scallion, and fermented bamboo shoot (Kim Si Hwa). The Aori Raman restaurant first opened in 2016 in Seoul, Korea. In just two years, now, one Aori Raman in Seoul increased to 35 stores located not only in Seoul but also other parts of Korea. Their annual sales are approximately 25 billion (Lee Byeol Nim). This is just one example of Japanese Ramen’s cultural influence on Korea, but there are countless successful other Ramen restaurants in Korea. As shown in the sample, Ramen from Japan became a significant part of Korean culture as well.


Though Japanese style Ramen restaurant is a popular and thriving industry in Korea, Korean style Ramen, Ramyun is more familiar to most of the Koreans.  It is more affordable and acquainted than Ramen with Koreans. Some Koreans may believe that Ramyun is distinctively different from Ramen and is Korean food but some may argue otherwise. Ramyun is different from what Korean define Ramen as. It refers to instant noodles or cup noodles. In a package of instant noodles, they typically have a chunk of pre-cooked dried noodle, powder, and solid ingredients. The instant noodles are cheap and easy to cook. For packaged instant noodles, you need put dried noodle, powder, and solid ingredients after water are boiled and put vegetables or eggs according to one’s taste. It is even easier for the cup noodles: you need to put hot water into the cup and wait for 5 minutes (“About Instant Noodles”). Such convenience and tastiness allowed Ramyun to be one of Korean’s favorite dish to eat.


The origin of Instant Noodles also started in Japan and brought to Korea. In 1958, the time when the people’s consumption patterns have significantly altered due to development of new media: television, the world’s first instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando. The first instant Ramen is called “Chicken Ramen,” which was sensational and gained sudden popularity. For Ramen to become a ready-to-eat meal, Momofuku Ando has used a method called epoch-making system, which is a technique of “dehydrating the steamed and seasoned noodles in oil heat” (“About Instant Noodles”). This simple method allowed the mass production of the instant noodles.  This “Chicken Ramen” is cooked in just two minutes simply by boiling with the water, so it was called “a magic ramen” (“About Instant Noodles”). Later, due to people’s demand for better quality and taste, separately packaged flavoring powder was added. Furthermore, in 1962, healthier version of noodles was invented. The noodles no longer needed to be fried but were dried with heat (“History of Ramen…”). Then many types and flavors of instant noodles were launched, enhancing the taste of the products.


Moreover, the cup noodles were invented in Japan as well. The cup noodles are instant noodles in cups.  The most significant advantage of the cup noodle is the convenience. In contrast to the packaged instant noodles, you do not need to cook cup noodles. With the product and hot water, ramen is prepared anytime and everywhere.  In 1971, CUP NOODLES® was introduced to the world. It was another revolutionary discovery of Ramen and one of the sensational inventions in the food industry. Inside the Styrofoam container, flavored noodles, dried shrimp, dehydrated pork, dehydrated vegetables, and dried eggs were included (“About Instant Noodles”). Such developments of Ramen had stimulated Koreans to create their version of Ramyun.


The first Ramen in Korea was instant noodle developed by Samyang Ramyun. In 1963, Jung Yun Jeon, a founder of Samyang Food Company, introduced the technology of making Ramen from Japan to Korea. The reason why he imported the skill from Japan is similar to that of Japanese noodle got popularity. Due to the poverty after Korean War, Jeon decided to sell Ramyun as a solution to the problem (Kim Timothy). It was sold for 10 won, which can be converted to approximately 1 cent in U.S. dollars today.  Though the primary purpose of the Ramyun was to solve the poverty, Ramyun soon became one of Korean’s favorite dish. Interestingly, Korea leads per capita consumption of instant noodles. In 2017, Korea had 73.4 million servings per capita, which is exceptionally high compared to Vietnam (53.5 servings million per capita), the second highest and Nepal (51.1 million servings per capita), the third highest (“About Instant Noodles”).  This data shows how Ramyun became crucial to Korean culture, people, and daily life.

Since the 1960s, as Korea interact more internationally, Koreans rapidly expanded their presence all over the world. While Koreans are abroad they homesick and look for authentic but convenient Korean food (Lee, Joel). Ramyun was the perfect fit for the demand because it has Korea’s traditional spicy flavor and easy to cook. The rapid increase of Ramyun demand mainly from Koreans and other Asians made Ramyun market grew internationally. As a result, Ramyun manufactures exported their product to other countries, and it started to roll out of Korean and Asian groceries to some of the big local players. In recent years, as Korean culture (food especially) become more mainstream than before, more and more people started to consume Ramyun fascinated by its convenience, low price and stimulating taste. According to Food Focus a Korean newspaper reporting mainly on food and beverage issues in Korea, international sales of Korean Ramyun in 2016 was 290,366 thousand U.S. dollars, and this is 60.8% increase from 5 years before (Lee Jae Hyeon). To be more specific, China, The United States, Japan, and Taiwan are countries are the top consumers of Korean Ramyun and sales is keep increasing except for Japan. In the case of Japan, the consumption is not necessarily decreasing, but because of Abenomics policy, an Abe administration’s economic strategy to reduce the value of the yen to take advantage in international trading. It was only the sales amount that was decreased (“Abenomics”), which implies that Korean Ramyun demand and market all over the world had been getting more prominent, and the precedent shows that the trend will continue in the future as well.

As the Ramyun grew bigger on Koreans, new Ramyun reflecting people’s altering palate is launched. The Ramyun released in the past such as Shin Ramyun, Samyang Ramyun, and Neoguri Ramyun usually emphasizes on its spicy taste, so the red soup with red papers was a typical look of the instant noodle (“Timeline of History…”). However, Ramyun companies started to react to altering consumers’ tastes.  The different type of instant noodles such as Black noodle Ramyun with black sauce and Kkokkomyeon with white broth was released. Moreover, the companies tried to break the stereotypical appearance of Korean instant noodles. Ramyun only with the sauce dried vegetables, seafood, or meats and without the soup was launched in Korea and gained popularity. For example, Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen started in April 2012. When it was first released, this noodle did not gain much attention. The Ramyun liquid type sauce and the absence of the soup even made it spicier than typical Ramyun. Soon, the consumers were attracted to its spicy but addictive taste. In 2015, the annual sales of Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen were 66.2 billion won, and in 2016, the sales increase approximately 50% to 138 billion won, which is a drastic increase (Lee Yu Jeong). As society change, Ramyun also reflects the trend and taste of consumers, which shows the correlation between the Korean society and Ramyun.


Even though Ramyun has a lot of benefits such as its affordable price and convenience in cooking, there always has been a critical problem which it affects health negatively. Ramyun’s noodle is mostly fried and made out of flour. Too much of food that is fried and made out of flour causes obesity which leads to heart disease, diabetes depression and more. Ramyun’s soup powder also causes problems. The primary cause is its sodium content. According to USDA, Shin Ramyun contains 2000mg of sodium a bowl (“Food Composition Databases…”). This is over 80% of daily value in sodium. Considering most people eat three meals per day, Ramyun eaters will easily consume more sodium than what USDA suggested. Too much sodium consumption results in various cancers, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other crucial diseases.


Knowing that many consumers nowadays care about what they eat and try to eat healthily, Ramyun manufacturers are making their product healthier than before. Pulmuone’s “Real Noodle Texture” is a new product which uses a dried noodle to avoid frying (“Pulmuone’s” New Ramen…”), and Paldo launched “Paldo Bibim Myun” which its noodle contains kudzu root to reduce flour content. With these efforts, they could decrease the calories so that consumers can avoid obesity. There are also several products which reduced sodium content. Nongshim’s “Nuguri” rolled out mild taste which contains 1480mg of sodium. This is 280mg less than the regular version, and it was a massive hit in the market (Lee Seung Hyun). Ramyun companies’ effort to make the healthier product and to reflect the current trend of the society stimulates the expansion of consumers who enjoy Ramyun.


Moreover, since Korean society and the instant noodles are highly intertwined, Ramyun is often used as a symbol even in literary works.  When an object is used as a symbol in a poem, it must be representative enough for the audience to understand. Most of the times, Ramyun is used as a symbol of loneliness because a person can effortlessly cook the instant noodle without any experience with cooking.  Therefore, in contrast to other food made by the one’s mom or wife, the instant noodle is often compared with agony or hardship of life. For example, in the poem, While Boiling the Ramyun, by Gu Chan Jeong, a leading poet in Korea, the speaker describes his loneliness and the situation of absence of his wife using Ramyun (Jeong).


Ramen became a detachable culture to Koreans and the culture. Though both Ramen and Ramyun in Korea originated from a foreign country, Koreans embraces and values the noodles. As proved through Ramen, noodles, and food has unique and strong ability influence individual’s culture on a small scale and even the world in a larger size.  Though some people are unconscious of the impact of food on the society, the food and culture is deeply intertwined and is inseparable.



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“About Instant Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association,

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3국의 역사, 기원이 ‘중국’이라고?].” Chosun,Com Food, 10 May 2012,

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Jeong, Gu Chan. The House Where Letters Live [글씨가 사는 ]. Ppuli [뿌리], 2015.

Kim Si Hwa[김시화]. “Aori Ramen[아오리라멘].” Time Out Seoul,1 May 2017,

Kim Timothy [ 김디모데]. “50years Of History of Ramen, Why Did Samyang Failed[50년

라면의 ‘역사’ 삼양은 왜 추락했나].” Business Post, 4 Apr. 2014,

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역대 최고치…작년 32% 급증].” Food Focus Newspaper [식품음료신문], 19 Dec. 2017,


Lee Seung – Hyun[이승현]. “The Reason of Neoguli and Yuggaejang’s Long-Run [너구리·육개장사발면 30년간 장수 비결].” E Daily News, 14 Feb. 2012,

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Samyang’s Representative Ramen [불닭볶음면 2500억 ‘화끈한 매출’… 삼양식품 간판라면 꿰찼다].”, 4 Dec. 2017,

“Pulmuone’s New Ramen with Raw Noodle Texture[풀무원 라면 브랜드 ‘생면식감’으로 새로 론칭… ‘비유탕 라면’ 확대].” Pulmuone News Room[풀무원 뉴스룸], 8 June 2017,

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

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

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Matrix Timeline,








Noodles in Contemporary China: Social Aspects underlying the Noodle Evolution (Qiulun Li)

The earliest Chinese noodles can be traced to 4,000 years ago and was found in Lajia Site along Yellow River. Over time, in a country of the magnitude of China, the world’s second largest in area and with 56 ethnic groups, noodles evolved into various categories. Noodles can be divided into different types “according to the classification of the shape of noodles, seasoning gravy, cooking craft and so on” (Zhang). Today, there are more than 1,200 types of noodles people normally consume. In this paper, I will mainly discuss the evolution of noodles in contemporary China through the lens of social aspects.

The number of categories of noodles mainly increased in ancient China, especially in Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties. From my perspective, the evolution of noodles in pre-modern era is resulted from the cultural and natural factors in China.

In the pre-modern era, the formation of different varieties of noodles and their evolution can be influenced by ethnical, geographical and climatic differences across China. There are 56 ethnic groups in China and each ethnic group has its own customs and taboos for eating. For example, Hui people are Muslims and they are not allowed to eat pork. As a result, the only meat can be cooked in Lanzhou pulled noodles, which is a type of noodle invented by Hui people, is beef. Geographical variations also play a significant role in the evolution of noodles. In China, wheat is mainly cultivated in the North of Qinling Mountains – Huaihe River Line, which is the line separating North China and South China in the eastern part of China. Thus, noodles in North China are made from wheat. Paddy is cultivated in South China and therefore a large number of noodles originating in South China are made of rice, such as Yunnan rice noodles and Guilin rice noodles. Besides, climatic differences are significant factors underlying the noodle evolution. The climate could influence the local cuisine and then influence the way of cooking noodles. Provinces in the South-western part of China are very humid and people living in these areas would feel moist inside their bodies in the winter. In order to eliminate dampness and keep bodies warm, they eat a lot of pepper which becomes an indispensable ingredient of their cuisine. When they cook noodles, they will also add pepper and noodles in these areas such as Chongqing street noodles and Sichuan noodles are conspicuous examples of spicy noodles. In all, during the evolution of noodles in pre-modern era, ethical, geographical and climatic differences across China significantly contribute to the formation of different types of noodles.

The advancement of technology and the application of scientific methods mark the transition from the pre-modern era to the modern era. In my following passage, I will examine how social factors influence the evolution of noodles in contemporary China. In my opinion, social aspects, conspicuously the modern technology and social values, influence the evolution of noodles and endow them new forms in contemporary China.

Modern Technology as a Social Factor in Noodle Evolution

            The Industrial Revolution, which took place from 18thto 19th century in Europe and America, replaced hand tools or basic machines with “powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production” (Industrial Revolution). Under the Industrial Revolution, societies transform with the advancement of technology, which frees people from laborious work and makes life more convenient.

Although the Chinese industrialization did not begin until the 1950s, far later than the original Industrial Revolution in the Western world, it brought the same end to the Chinese society. Factories and machines replaced many jobs and increased productivity. In the absence of machines, noodles as a staple food in China was hand-made and it took a great amount time to grill the wheat into powder, mix the dough, knead the dough and shape noodles. With the modern technology, automatic noodle making machine was invented and marked a revolution in noodle making in China.

Today, most noodles on the market or in noodle restaurants are made by noodle making machines. Compared to hand making, the noodle making machine has several strengths. First, it takes less time and is easier to use the machine to make noodles than to make noodles by hand. Under the technological progress, noodle making machines have been upgraded since its initial appearance and makes the noodle making process much easier. In the traditional process of making noodles by hand, people have to grill the wheat into powder, mix the flour with water, knead the dough and shape noodles. It normally takes people at least one hour to make noodles by hand. However, with the noodle making machine, people only need to pour the flour and water in the proper amount into the machine and wait at most ten minutes to get noodles. The machine does all the laborious work and save time for people. People do not need to learn the complex process of making noodles and they can use the saved time to work on other things. What is more, the noodle making machine will produce noodles more uniform in texture and shape. When people mix and knead the dough by hands, it is extremely hard to make the water and flour completely mixed and evenly distributed. Therefore, it is not surprising that noodles made by hand sometimes are not uniform in their texture and this difference then will affect the taste. It is also hard to pull or cut all noodles in the same shape by hand since people cannot measure the size when they shape noodles. However, the noodle making machine could completely mix the dough and cut noodles all in the same shape with extra pressure by power. Besides, the machine makes noodles more accessible to people and allows people to fresh noodles whenever they like. Noodles is the staple food in North China and thus most people there are able to make noodles by hand. Although noodles are still a significant part of the food system in South China, rice is more consumed as the staple food. Therefore, many people in South China such as my family are not able to make noodles and every time we want to eat noodles we go to a noodle restaurant or buy dried noodles from the store. In this situation, the noodle making machine allows people who cannot make noodles by hand to have fresh noodles at home whenever they want. In a conclusion, the use of machine, as a product of social changes, brings a revolution in the noodle making process and contribute to the evolution of noodle, from hand making to machine making. As a result, it is easier to make noodles more uniform in both texture and shape and noodles become more accessible to people who cannot make them by hand.

Despite the revolution in noodle making process, social changes and modern technology also endow new forms of noodles, most notably the instant noodles. As the pace of life gets faster in the contemporary society and under the influence of the economic factor, instant noodles become an incomparable choice for meal. A pack of instant noodles includes a dried noodle block, sauce and dehydrated vegetable bags. With the proper amount of boiling water, people are able to get a bowl of delicious instant noodles in three minutes. The invention of instant noodles is resulted from the modern technology and scientific knowledge. Without drying machines, a bunch of noodles would not be packed into a small block and the volume of the noodles and vegetable bags would be much larger. The modern technology makes instant noodles portable. What is more, due to the preservatives added to the dried noodle block and sauce bags, instant noodles can be stored for a long time and ready to eat after immersed in hot water. Instant noodles quickly become popular around the world since the easy and quick preparation is perfectly compatible with the pace of life in the contemporary society. Also, Instant noodles are much affordable than traditional noodles and thus decrease the economic pressure for a meal. In all, the technology and scientific knowledge bring a new form of noodle – instant noodles, which change the way people eat noodles and bring more convenience. Instant noodles define a new way of eating noodles, in which people do not need to get fresh noodles and cook any more. Under the fast pace of life and economic pressure, instant noodles become a perfect choice for many people, especially the white-collar class.

Besides, the modern technology increased the population mobility in China and resulted in the fusion of different local cuisine. Under the unavoidable trend of mobilization and globalization, noodles evolved in that some traditional ways of cooking noodles are altered by the cuisine from a different area. Noodle dishes which embrace different cooking styles are common in contemporary China. One noodle restaurant in my hometown, which is a city in the South-eastern part of China, serve a very special noodle dish called noodles in pickled cabbage and fish pot. This noodles dish uses the same noodle as traditional noodle restaurants in my hometown do. However, it is cooked in a very different way and has a special side dish – the pickled cabbage and fish pot, which is a typical dish in Chongqing. Chongqing is a city 1500 miles away from my hometown and it is really surprising to combine traditional noodles in my hometown with a typical dish from such a city. The spread of food over such a long distance is the result of modern technology. Due to the advanced public transportation in China such as the high-speed railway, people are able to move around and there is an increase in the immigration population. As a consequence of the increasing population mobilization, food, as a carrier of local culture, spread to other areas over time. In a conclusion, the modern technology lead to increasing mobilization and noodles evolved when different styles of cooking are merged.

Social Values as a Social Factor in Noodle Evolution

            Since the Chinese Economic Reform implemented in 1978, China experienced rapid economic and social development and showed remarkable development potential. Under this situation, social values changed greatly with respect to the changing living conditions. When people’s basic capital and mental needs are fulfilled, the role of food is expanded from merely sustaining life and different social values bestow food new roles. Noodles, as a significant part of the food system, have functions other than nourishment. Various social values contribute to the evolution of noodles during which new forms of noodles appear and the preparation processes of noodles are altered. There are two very common social values in contemporary China – more valued if rare and the increasing attention on health  – shaping the evolution of noodles.

The concept, that an object is valuable if it is rare, has existed since ancient China. This concept also applies to food in that very rare ingredients, such as cubilose and sharks’ fin, are highly valuable. However, without the economic foundation and before the basic needs of living are sustained, the primary function of food is still nourishment. After the economic and social development in China, more people enter the middle class and have more spare money. With the increasing fortune, a large number of people intend to show their wealth through eating highly valuable dishes, which becomes ac trend in contemporary China. Traditionally, noodles are the staple food people can afford for meals. As a result of this emerging social value, some new forms of noodles appear, which are cooked with precious ingredients. In recent years, seafood noodle restaurants become very popular, spreading from cities by sea to inland cities. Noodle dishes served in these restaurants are much expensive than traditional noodle dishes due to the use of expensive seafood such as abalone and crab as side dishes. The increasing popularity of seafood noodle restaurants shows the social value that some people want to eat expensive food to show their wealth and this social value brings new way of cooking noodles.

Another social value contributing to the evolution of noodles is the increasing attention on health. When people get wealthier, they would have extremely good meals and in take nutrients in amounts far exceeding the standard needs. Many maladies, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, are resulted from unhealthy eating habits. Therefore, an increasing number of people realize the importance of a balanced meal and pay a great deal of attention to what they eat. Bearing this social value and the goal of staying healthy in mind, people alters the way of making noodles and cooking noodles. Today, noodles which are made from the mixture of vegetable juice and flour are very popular since people believe that vegetables are salutary to health and noodles made in this way would be healthier than normal noodles. What is more, it has been proved that some chemical seasonings such as chicken extract and monosodium glutamate are detrimental to health. People change the original ways of cooking noodles by decreasing the amount of seasonings added in noodles. In this way, the taste of the traditional noodle dish changes. To sum up, the focus on health as a popular social value changes the preparation of noodles and influence the noodle evolution.

In a conclusion, there are various social factors behind the evolution of noodles in contemporary China. The modern technology and different social values endow noodles new forms and change the way of making as well as cooking noodles.

Works Cited

“Industrial Revolution.” History, Accessed 27 June 2018.

Zhang, Na and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, 2016, pp. 209-212.





Fad Diets: A Study on Pasta in America – Jenna Grace Cooper

Jenna Grace Cooper

Dr. Li & Dr. Ristaino


29 June 2018

Fad Diets: A Study on Pasta in America

Pasta is the universally accepted staple in nearly every diet in the developed world, eaten by the rich and the poor, vegetarians and carnivores, and children and adults. Yet, its diverse and customizable nature allow the pasta to span cultures, continents, and language. From ancient Italy when Marco Polo rediscovered the noodle from China to the expansive rows of dried boxed pasta found on the grocery shelf today, the noodle plays an integral role in the American, Chinese and Italian diets. The noodle transcends time and adapts to new current environments with new technology. These innovations coincide with health, economic, and social trends which give way to new patterns of eating as society advances. With the growing obesity public health crisis and resulting health food movement in the United States, Americans look towards fad diets as a quick solution to their problems which severely alters the American agricultural and economic landscape in addition to detrimental effects on personal health effects. According to the University of Pittsburg Schools of Health Sciences, a fad diet can be characterized as:

a diet that is promising quick weight loss through what is usually an unhealthy and unbalanced diet, targeting people who want to lose weight quickly without exercises, and restricting certain foods. This can make [fad diets] difficult to follow on a long-term basis and some can actually be harmful to one’s health (“Fad Diets”).

These trendy fad diets lack the necessary nutrients that are vital to have well-balanced meals and proper nutrition. Compared to other cultures such as the Italy’s Mediterranean Diet and the traditional Chinese/Asian diet, America’s population of health is waning. This paper will look at both the situation leading to the fad diets that effect the pasta industry among various economic backgrounds and global cultures and the social outcomes that result from consumption.

While one might assume that Americans’ obsession with fad diets would stem directly from vanity and consumer culture, the origins of fad diets date back to the practices of Olympic athletes of ancient Mediterranean city of Athens, Greece (Applegate, 869S). The Greek Olympians practiced a symbolic form of dietary restrictions including consuming deer liver and lion heart before competition to impart bravery, speed or strength to improve their performance (Applegate, 869S). Following the creation of exercise science in the early twentieth century, fad diets became more popular for their science-based practices like carb loading, taking ergogenic aids, or excessive caffeine consumption (Applegate, 869S). In the past, fad diets have focused on the rapid improvement of performance of athletes, usually only during young ages for a short period of time, similar to a training regimen. However, as the American epidemic of obesity has grown, fad diets have taken a turn towards rapid weight loss, often at unrealistic goals.

Fad diets promote limited diets that are not sustainable for the long term. The Atkins diet preaches an “ad-libitum consumption of fatty meat, butter, and other high-fat dairy products, restricting only the intake of carbohydrates to under 30 grams a day” (Astrup, 897). The Zone diet encourages every meal to be comprised of four percent carbohydrates, thirty percent protein, and thirty percent fat to reach the “zone” which is a physiological state that can be measured in clinical tests” (Cheuvront, 1). More recently, the Gluten-Free diet, used to treat patients with Celiac disease, has become a widespread phenomenon across America among nearly twenty million non-celiac consumers (Nettleton). The Paleo diet encourages only foods “similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to ten thousand years ago” (Mayo Clinic). This diet consists of lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, only those that could be found by hunter-gatherers. Among many other variations, these fad diets focus on low consumption of carbohydrates, offering a faster metabolism, speedy weight loss without an indication on long term effects, which has caused both the social and economic environment surrounding food to shift.

The State of Pasta

            According to the National Pasta Association, the average American consumes approximately twenty pounds of pasta annually, making it the sixth highest food per capital in the country (National Pasta Association). Pasta has adapted to every shape, size, or flavoring that a consumer could desire. It is widely available at any supermarket with rows of boxes dominating shelves in dried or frozen varieties at a very affordable price. In a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive, researchers found that fifty-nine percent of American adults eat noodles or pasta in a meal at least once a week (Daniels).

While the origins of pasta are often linked to the Italian merchant, Marco Polo, and his travels on the Silk Road to China during the thirteenth century, historical evidence s of pasta have been linked to Etruscan tombs from the early fourth century BCE (Vita, ix). The popularity of pasta grew during the Renaissance as the dish would sit among aristocrats and incorporate pork and beef ingredients to make raviolis (López). By the late seventeenth century, pasta became a mainstay among the peasantry and commoners of Italy with its cheap wheat prices, compared to the increasing meat cost, the creation of an industrial manufacturing which made is more economical to produce, and its role as a filling alternative for when eating meat was banned in the Christian communities (López). As pasta spread across the world, it made its way to America during colonization.

Similar to the Italians’ affection towards pasta, the English expats came to enjoy pasta regularly, particularly among the upper class, some even importing from Italy (Kummer). The first pasta factory in America is credited to Frenchman, Antoine Zerega who set up shop on the Brooklyn waterfront in New York in 1848 (“History”). However, by the time of the Civil War, pasta factories were widespread, and macaroni and cheese became an American dish. This lead to pasta falling out of fashion, and it was no longer served at upscale restaurants (Kummer). Pasta, as many Americans know it today, as a staple of the middle class emerged after the large wave of Italian immigration during the end of the nineteenth century (Kummer). America’s grocery store consumer culture began to heat up after Chef Boyardee launched canned pasta in 1928, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese started selling in 1937 (Kummer). These commercially available pastas became some of America’s favorites and indispensable among the middle-class market, due to its long shelf life as dried or canned food, slow-releasing carbohydrates and its price accessibility.

Today, pasta innovations have expanded to reach every market condition. Fad diets have inspired healthful alternatives to regular white pasta produced by the top pasta companies such as Barilla with variations such as gluten-free dried pasta boxes, Zoodles, spiralized zucchini in the shape of spaghetti noodles, vegetable-infused orange and green pasta, protein-enriched pasta, cellophane noodles made of mung bean, and spaghetti-like tendrils from summer squashes. These types of pastas and substitutes are available at large supermarket chains such as Walmart, Publix, Kroger, and Whole Foods at a few dollars for multiple servings. Despite variety available, according to Mintel, overall pasta sales have continued to decline since 2011 due to the growing health concerns (Daniels).

The Health Condition

            The condition of Americans regarding physical health has declined in the recent years with obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases as the leading ailments of consumer health, leading many to look to fad diets and new regimens. In 1992, the United States Department of Agriculture published the first American Food Guide Pyramid which emphasizes foods from five major food groups to provide the nutrients needed to each day (USDA). The guide included six to eleven servings of grain, two to four servings of fruit, three to five servings of vegetables, two to three servings of meat, two to three servings of milk and dairy products, and fats, oils and sweets to be used sparingly (USDA). While other less,-detailed food guides were published prior to the Food Guide Pyramid, the marketing campaign for the new version increased popularity along with the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1990 (Office of Regulatory Affairs, FDA). The Food Guide Pyramid was updated in 2005 to include “physical activity and the concepts of variety, moderation, and proportion,” and it was later replaced by MyPlate, a visual representation of proportions of healthy eating, “not intended to provide a specific message” (Welsh, 6-11).

            These guidelines have often caused public confusion due to the variety of diets and conflicting reports of what is “best.” However, the Mediterranean diet, followed by most Italians, and the Asian diet food pyramid, followed by most Chinese, along with the American food pyramid, all agree that including plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits with physical activity, moderate consumption of alcohol, and limited sugar are practices of a healthy lifestyle (Center of Nutritional Policy and Promotion). In addition to differences in diet based on availability of agricultural products, cultural practices are often incorporated into the historical eating patterns. For example, compared to American diet, red meat is occasionally recommended monthly for Asian and Mediterranean diets with eggs and poultry as the primary protein sources, the Asian diet contains limited dairy products in mostly low-fat forms, and oils are devoted to regional differences with olive oil for Mediterranean, peanut oil for the Asian, and vegetable oils for Americans (Center of Nutritional Policy and Promotion).

            While these various pyramids spanning the world’s cultural and medicinal differences, it is clear that pasta as a grain, is beneficial to the diet in reasonable quantities on a low-glycemic index food. In a recent study published by St. Michael’s Hospital, a group of thirty randomized controlled trials including over two thousand five hundred people at three servings of past a week instead of other carbohydrate. Research found that participants lost approximately one and a half kilograms over a median follow-up of twelve weeks, concluding that “pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as a part of healthy dietary pattern” (Chiavaroli). The study was published in April of 2018 and received low coverage in the national media—the more popular narrative, sometimes called “carbophobia,” a reference to America’s apparent fear of carbohydrates, continues to affect the economic outcomes of pasta in the United States.

The Economic Condition

The future economic outlook of the pasta industry widely depends on the consumer behavior and public perception in the upcoming years. As discussed, pasta is an affordable meal for nearly all economic classes, yet it seen as a simplistic dish commonly associated with lower social status. Economic studies on pasta indicate the divide on social classes and income levels. Barilla is the largest pasta company in the world with $3.5 billion in sales (Sorvino). In a relatively localized industry, Barilla holds ten percent of the worldwide sales of pasta and thirty percent in the dry pasta market. Consumer insights for the Barilla indicate that when consumers purchase Barilla pasta over other brands, they pay primarily with food stamps with the pricing index of 122, secondarily with credit at index of 105, in cash at index of 103, and with debit at an index of 90 (“Barilla”). This indicates that the groups of consumers who purchase Barilla pasta over other brands, use the opposite forms of payments. Food stamps are limited to the type of ingredients bought at the grocery store and require a low income, whereas those who pay with credit typically have no limitations on types of food to purchase, must be in good standing with a bank, are typically employed with a disposable income. This represents the divide among pasta with the reason attributing to the strong influence of fad diets.

To increase market share, Barilla has invested $26.5 million to expand its pasta plants with two gluten-free options which now make up two percent of its volume sold in the US market (Sorvino). According to Euromonitor, global sales of gluten-free pasta increase eighty-nine percent since 2016, and Forbes projects this growth to expand by forty-three percent by 2020 (Sorvino). This investment directly resulted in the change in consumer index measurements which indicate that pasta-eaters who make over $100,000 annually are at a 105 index and over $125,000 at index of 120 compared to the index of 88 for less than $20,000 annual salary and 91 for consumers who make less than $40,000 annually of those who purchase Barilla over other brands (“Barilla”). The company’s efforts to be inclusive and incorporate fad diets has led to the increasing purchase by upper-class consumers while still maintaining affordability for lower income communities.

An additional hurdle that can be placed on lower income people is the access to proper nutrition regarding the toppings of the pasta sauce. According to the US Census data and Simmons National Consumer Survey, 265.38 million Americans use spaghetti / pasta sauce in 2017 which is projected to increase to 274.48 billion by 2020 (“U.S.: Usage of Spaghetti”). Because pasta acts like a canvas for many other complementary nutrients, pasta can be cooked with additional vegetables, oils, and meats to meet the standards of the American Food Guide Pyramid and the Mediterranean diet. However, for lower income people, it can be a challenged to find affordable, fresh food to top their pasta. These pre-made sauces are a quick and simple addition to the similarly affordable bowl of pasta, but the nutrition can compromise the benefits of eating pasta. Many pre-made tomato and cream-based sauces are packed with high levels of sodium, salt and preservatives (“U.S.: Usage”). In places such as food deserts where a grocery store is unavailable, or a limited spending amount like on Food Stamps, the appeal of pasta is more focused on the slow-burning carbohydrates which create a sense of fullness, rather than nutritional benefits or culinary prowess. These economic conditions presented by food inequality present numerous social hurdles among the different classes as well.

The Social Condition

It is no secret that food can make one happier. According to a study completed by the University of South Alabama, carbohydrates cause a significant effect on mood with both cravings and consumption. The study found that “carbohydrate cravers reported feeling distress prior to their cravings and satisfied, happy, and relaxed following carbohydrate consumption,” and “protein cravers reported feeling anxious or hungry prior to their cravings and happy, normal, bored, and energetic following protein-rich food consumption” (Christensen, 36). These cravings were primarily directed at sweet and sugar-rich foods such as chocolates at twenty-five percent, pasta at thirteen percent, and lower percentages of candy, ice cream, bread and pizza (Christensen, 139). Therefore, giving up pasta for a restrictive, low-carb fad diet can cause unwanted craving which can trigger mood swings, anger, and even depression.

Yet, the social condition of being on a diet is a change in mood itself. Some fad diets have become received cult followings on social media and within younger generations such as the vegan and organic dietary changes. While in the past, restrictive diets have been socially contested as “avoidance of foods because of food intolerance is associated with alternative and unconventional lifestyles, fashion, and trends,” and “being considered a ‘fussy eater’ [was] socially problematic” (Nettleton, 297). Especially among women, fad diets can become a secret guilty pleasure. As Town & Country Magazine, one of the premier publications for women, put it: among the high society/ upper class women and their cohorts, the belief is held that:

it has always been true that you can have your soufflé Furstenberg and eat it, too, just as long as you observe strict rules in private, exercise moderation, and are blessed with good genes. If pressed, though, they’ll lower their voices and dish about what those other girls are doing to stay thin (Widdicombe).

For many women, fad diets are like a new fashion trend: something to show off and to brag about to anyone who will listen. When coupled with social media, fad diets can become a toxic stressor to the participants due its air-brush tools, photoshop, likes and the nature of self-promotion.

A Pew Research project found that thirty-one percent of teens get health, dieting or physical fitness information from the internet, especially among teenage girls (Lenhart, 4). In a similar survey, the National Osteoporosis Society released a study that found four in ten people aged eighteen to twenty-five have tried dieting, twenty percent had to cut their calorie intake of dairy, and the group was most likely to receive their nutritional information from social media (Sherman). With the rise of eating disorders among young men and women, it can be difficult for people to decipher what is actually “a truly holistic, healthy approach versus the obsession with comparing and weight-focused discussions” said Claire Mysko, director of the National Eating Disorder Association to Elle magazine (Sherman). The online environment can affect any members of social classes and prevent people from receiving appropriate nutrients. Fad diets will continue, but proper qualifications on social media are necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Though it may be contested now, trends occur in cycles. There is a rise of innovators, early adopters and early majority, then the late majority and the laggards who eventually catch on. While some of the fad diets trends such as the gluten-free diet, ketogenic diet, and vegan diet have become a mainstay among Americans, the agricultural industry will adapt to the health, economic, and social changes. Pasta is a diverse connector among social classes, economic backgrounds and cultural diversity. Though its health benefits may come to question at times, pasta can be incorporated in proper proportions in a healthy meal plan full of complex carbohydrates, and it can be paired with a variety of nutritious sauces that created a well-balanced diet. The noodle plays an integral role in the American diet and has influenced people, companies and recipes to change. Economic conditions of which demand for pasta declined was adapted with the creation of new pasta innovations. As these pasta innovations and fad diets spread across social media and reach adaptation, patterns of eating are adjusted, and the new versions of American culinary landscape is created.

Works Cited

Applegate, Elizabeth, and Grivetti, Louis. “Search for the Competitive Edge: A History of Dietary Fads and Supplements.” The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 127, Issue 5, 1 May 1997, pp. 869S–873S,

Astrup, Arne, et al. “Atkins and Other Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Hoax or an Effective Tool for Weight Loss?” The Lancet, vol. 364, no. 9437, 2004, pp. 897–899., doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(04)16986-9.

“Barilla Consumer Insights and Demographics.”,

Center of Nutritional Policy and Promotion. “Nutritional Insights: Are All Food Pyramids Equal?” Insights 2. April 1997. Pp. 1-2.

Cheuvront, Samuel N. “The Zone Diet Phenomenon: A Closer Look at the Science behind the Claims.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2003. pp. 22:1, 9-17, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2003.10719271

Chiavaroli L, Kendall CWC, Braunstein CR, et al. “Effect of Pasta in the Context of Low-Glycaemic Index Dietary Patterns on Body Weight and Markers of Adiposity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials in Adults.” BMJ Open 2018;8: e019438. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019438

Christensen, L. and Pettijohn, L. “Mood and Carbohydrate Cravings.” Appetite. Volume 36, Issue 2, 2001. Pages 137-145. ISSN 0195-6663. (

Daniels, Jeff. “Pasta Demand Wanes – Even in Italy – as Health-Conscious Consumers See It as a Carb Demon.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 May 2017,

Kummer, Corby. “Pasta.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 July 1986,

“History.” National Pasta Association (NPA),

López, Alfonso. “The Twisted History of Pasta.” National Geographic, 1 Nov. 2016,

Nettleton, S., Woods, B., Burrows, R., & Kerr, A. (2010). “Experiencing Food Allergy and

Food Intolerance.” Sociology, 44, Volume: 44 issue: 2, page(s): 289-305

“Fad Diets.” University of Pittsburg Schools of Health Sciences,

Mayo Clinic. “Paleo Diet: Eat like a Cave Man and Lose Weight?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Aug. 2017,

National Pasta Association. “Pasta Facts | Pasta Nutrition Facts.” Pasta Fits,

Office of Regulatory Affairs. “Inspection Guides – Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) Requirements (8/94 – 2/95).” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research,

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Sherman, Elisabeth. “Is Social Media Making Us Eat Poorly?” Food & Wine,

Sorvino, Chloe. “Pasta Is Trending: Here’s How the Billionaire Barilla Family Heirs Are Taking Advantage.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 July 2016,

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 “U.S.: Usage of Spaghetti / Pasta Sauce 2011-2020 | Statistic.” Statista,–pasta-sauce-trend/.

Vita, Oretta Zanini De, and Maureen B. Fant. Encyclopedia of Pasta. University Presses Of California, 2009.

Welsh, S, Davis, C, and Shaw, A. “A Brief History of Food Guides in the United States. Nutrition Today. November/December 1992:6-11.

Widdicombe, Ben. “An Unofficial History of Rich Women and Their Diets.” Town & Country, Town & Country, 7 May 2018,





Japanese Ramen: From Exotic Street Food to Global Admiration

Japanese ramen (Fig.1), a chewy type of wheat noodles served in thick pork or fish-based broth, has become a popular dish throughout the globe. Despite the complicated and time-consuming process for preparing the ramen broth and its meat toppings, Japanese ramen could be both affordable and casual; served in street stalls of Tokyo for about 5 dollars. However, at the same time its humble background doesn’t impede it from being present in the menus of the most luxurious Japanese restaurants all over the world. Japanese ramen, named after Chinese pulled-noodles and still called “中華ラーメン”, by the Japanese people have no doubt exceeded its Chinese predecessors in international acceptance. In this essay I would examine both the history and present of Japanese ramen, further locate ramen in Japanese culinary culture and answer the question of why this food became immensely popular.

Fig.1: Japanese ramen in tonkatsu broth, with scallion, agaric and roast pork as toppings.

Part 1: Introduction and History
“Although there are as many types of ramen as there are ramen chefs, the most basic components of a bowl are the noodles, the stock, and the flavoring sauce.” (Solt, 3) Authentic ramen noodles present a yellowish color from the infused water (kansui) added in the dough, other ubiquitous components include wheat flour, salt, water and baking soda. Different regions in Japan have their own customs for making ramen broth, a combination of meat, seafood, and vegetables boiled for up to a whole day renders the broth a thick taste. Lastly, the concentrated seasoning sauce (tare), is usually available in three flavors – salt (shio), fermented soybean paste (miso), or soy sauce (shoyu).
“Ramen began life in Japan as a cheap, scrumptious and filling food from China.” (Solt, 5) Introduced by Chinese migrants from Guangdong in 1880s and referencing elements from Chinese pulled-noodles, Japanese ramen started as a street food for workers. Due to its industrialization, Meiji Japan fed more and more wage laborers, and therefore created a heightened demand for outdoor dining establishments. With its unexpected popularity, ramen was welcomed into restaurants and modified with toppings such as bamboo shoots and Chaashyu (roasted pork) that catered to the Japanese taste. To many Japanese people, Ramen also embodies the culmination of their country’s postwar history. After WWII, the filling nature of ramen made it a main dish to alleviate hunger and generate the labor power that stimulated the industrial recovery of Japan’s urban areas. Made with American wheat the noodle was “frequently alluded to in popular cultural productions… Artists and directors used the dish to represent various aspects of everyday life in early postwar Japan.” (Solt, 68) Artistic presentations of Ramen insinuated the desperate food situation, and the gap in dietary habits between people of varied ages and social status. In 1949, a poem was written in graffiti on the streets of Toyko, focusing on food scarcity among young couples:
Eating nothing but ramen on a date.
With an empty wallet, yesterday and today.
The tryst was most disappointing. (Ivy, 10)
For postwar Japan, although ramen was the affordable commodity that kept the country working, people labeled the low-cost food along with the hardship the working class faced during their country’s recovery period. The thought of considering ramen as the monotonous choice of diet altered accompanying the country’s rapid economic developments. In a 1985 Japanese film Tampopo, failing several times before making a satisfying bowl of ramen, the protagonist of the film reaches a “Ramen Enlightenment” and claims that: Good ramen represents all that is good in life. (Kushner, 7) Throughout the postwar decades, ramen chefs continuously introduced modifications to the original recipe, therefore the intricate process of creating a perfect bowl of ramen had conveyed the Japanese spirit of craftsmanship, the spirit to pursue excellency in one’s field of profession. Nowadays, ramen has become an inseparable part of Japanese pop culture, in the renown manga Naruto, the young ninja Naruto favorites the ramen (Fig.2) from the restaurant Rāmen Ichiraku (ラーメン一楽 ), he claims that the food fills him with strength. In modern Japan, ramen stalls are present in every corner of the streets, serving this comforting noodle dish to people after a day of hard work.

Fig.2: The ramen served in Rāmen Ichiraku from the anime Naruto
There are copious varieties of ramen in different regions of Japanese, recipe for both the noodle itself and the ramen broth could differ in different Japanese regions. The percentage of kansui affects the texture of the staple food (the higher the percentage the harder the noodle), noodles with high percentage of kansui tend to be served most frequently in the north and east of Japan. Hakata-style ramen and Okinawa soba contain noodles using no kansui, whereas Tokyo- and Sapporo- style ramen use noodles with a significant amount of kansui. On the other hand, the ingredients added to produce the broth significantly affects the taste of the ramen, while Tokyo ramen shops use only chicken and no pork in making the broth, Kyushu ramen are known for their heavy use of pork and pork bones (tonkatsu). Although the standard vegetables used in the broth are onions, scallions, ginger, and garlic, more recent shops start using kabocha squash, potatoes, and even apples in vegetable potage ramen. (Solt, 30) Japanese local customs for serving and consuming the product. In addition to the Japanese dining formality of notifying their companions when they start and finish eating by saying “いただきます” (I’m starting my meal) and “ごちそうさまでした” (I’ve finished eating, thankyou), Japanese people are accustomed to deliberately making loud noise when consuming ramen; a gesture that implies the tasteful flavor of the noodle, and gratitude to the chef who made it. (Rath & Assmann, 265)

Part2: Comparisons among ramen restaurants around the world
During the early 20th century, Ramen enjoyed increasing popularity in cities of the West such as Paris, New York and Honolulu, it became the first modern international food produced in the East. (Solt, 132) Today, Japanese or Asian fusion restaurants all over the world offer ramen to their customers. Ichiran-Ramen (一蘭ラーメン) is arguably the most popular ramen restaurant in Japan, founded in 1960 in the city Fukouka, the restaurant now has branch stores in Osaka, Tokyo, and other major Japanese cities, the restaurant is famous for its Hakata-style ramen (Fig.3) and insists in only selling such ramen. Ichiran started as a membership restaurant, since the founder was only content to offer his service to frequent customers who had shown their appreciation towards its ramen by returning to the restaurant time after time. Later, the competition in the foodservice grew more and more rapid, forcing Ichiran to open its doors to regular diners. Today, Ichiran-Ramen restaurants all over Japan have become crowded tourist attractions for those on a quest for authentic Japanese ramen. The restaurant grew into a merchandise that tenaciously abides by the ramen recipe handed down from its founder, focusing on the conformance in flavor standards among its branches.

Fig.3: Ichiran-ramen’s Hatakat-style ramen, characterized by the creamy tonkatsu broth, chili oil and light flavored chaashyu.
While the recipe of “authentic” ramen has always been debatable and may remain a mystery to the world, popular ramen restaurants from Japan have open chain stores globally. Mutekiya (無敵家) a ramen stall that started in Toyko, now owns multiple stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul. Mutekiya advertises on the effort they pay in making the ramen broth, the restaurant claims to spend a whole day boiling the tonkatsu and chicken before selling it to their patrons, therefore making their soup extra thick and creamy. In addition to the traditional shio, miso or shoyu ramen, they’ve improvised their menu to play up to the preference of foreign customers. In 2015, when the restaurant opened in Shanghai, it came up with a creative ramen dish “Mabo-Mazesoba” (Fig.4, ramen in pungent and spicy broth with Mapo-tofu)

Fig.4: Mabo-Mazesoba, ramen with spicy tofu and stir-fried vegetables
Adding in Sichuan culinary elements, such recipe was nothing orthodox compared with typical Tokyo ramen in lofty chicken broth, however, it was surprising successful among consumers who prefer a more pungent taste and vegetarians who chose bean curd as their protein source.
Ramen restaurants are not rarely seen even across oceans in the United States, the Hajime Ramen Bar located at 2345 Cheshire bridge rd NE is a rallying point for Asian students in Atlanta. The restaurant offers a great many choice of noodles in their innovation menu, including honey miso, wasabi shoyu and ultra-spicy ramen (Fig.5), these ramens comprehend complexed flavors in their broth. Differing from their peer restaurants in Asia that only provides a handful of toppings limited to Chaashyu, bamboo shoots, scallions and Onsen Tamago (half boiled egg), Hajime offers a lot more, including but not limited to seaweed, spinach, corn, mushroom and even fried chicken nuggets, ingeniously combining western and eastern culinary through their ramen.

Fig.5: Tonkatsu ramen served in Hajime.

Part 3: Economical value of the ramen industry
Ramen, along with Sushi has been a national cuisine of Japan, the food stands for Japan’s national identity and cultural homogeneity. According to a survey, “Ramen accounts for twenty-six percent of all meals eaten outside the home.” (Kushner, 3) There are around 80,000 ramen stalls in Japan, the accumulated income for these ramen stalls could go up to 0.8-1 trillion yen per year, with an average price of 700 yen per bowl, the Japanese people could consume 12-14 hundred million bowls of ramen per year. In Tokyo, the average cost of a bowl of ramen in “new-wave shops” is over 800 yen ($8.70). More traditional or family-businesses offer bowls from 550 yen ($6.00) and up, and some franchised shops offer 290-yen ($3.10) bowls for students and youth who just started their career. (Fig.6, Rath & Assmann, 262) Anyhow, the price of a ramen meal is well below the average cost of meal in Tokyo, which is 800 yen, throughout its 150 years of history, ramen has persistently played the role of filling the stomach of the commoners. Due to ramen’s ever evolving nature, keeping up with the newest ramenology could well be a full-time job. Guide books that meticulously comment on ramen from different restaurants are sold to ramen fanatics to guide them to satisfaction. Ramen museums are also founded in many Japanese cities, as they educate people on the characters of ramen in different regions.

Fig.6: A ramen stall in Tokyo, this stall could serve up to 200 customers each day.
Cup ramen emerged in 1960s, as the Japanese businessman Ando traveled to the US to promote instant ramen as a new food to Americans looking for an exotic “oriental” taste. (Kushner, 221) Nowadays in Tokyo, of the average man or woman questioned for the survey, about 50% admitted eating cup ramen about one-to-three times a month. In the rapid paced modern metropolitan, instant ramen has become the most popular convenience food. The largest instant noodle corporation Nissin (founded by Ando) design a variety of products that imitate the taste of Japanese ramen, the company claims that they are now competing with regular ramen on quality. Last year, the company came up with a series named “The King of Noodles” (Fig.7), providing their consumers with numerous of choices in flavor, although each bowl of “The King of Noodles” is sold at 400 yen, it is said to have perfectly replicated the broth of traditional Toyko ramen.

Fig.7: “The King of Noodles” soybean source flavor, cup noodle in Chinese version.
Ramen, a Japanese noodle that started as a necessity for the working class due to its filling and cheap nature, records the social development and improvement of life quality in the nation, and is now received global acceptance as Japan’s national food. Served in a variety of forms, ramen had no doubt spawned a fever for noodles internationally. Although the original recipe by the Chinese migrant who decided to sell noodles from his homeland for a living, had been modified for countless times throughout a century, the slipping texture of noodle and the thick broth remains the reason of its popularity; after a long day, a bowl of ramen offers diners an indulgent moment.

Barak Kushner, Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen- Japan’s Favorite Noodle Soup, Global Oriental Press, 2012.

Eric C. Rath and Stephanie Assmann, Japanese Foodways, Past and Present, Univerity of Illinois Press, 2010.

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

Marilyn Ivy, Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Picture References

The Search for the Truth

Michelle Boamah

CHN 375W/ITAL 376W

Research Paper


Can Gluten Free/vegetable Noodles still be Considered Noodles?


As time goes on, different variations of products become available for our consumption. From the food we eat to the technology we use, there are always modifications that we get to experience. This can be due to demand or just human curiosity. Sometimes it is a combination of both which is the case for the topic of this paper. Gluten free and vegetable noodles have become widely popular in recent years. Many people are turning to these types of noodles to get their fill instead of traditional noodles. However, with the popularity of these noodles increasing with time, one begs to ask, can gluten free and vegetable noodles still be classified with traditional noodles and pasta. In order to answer this question, we must first examine what the traditional noodle is and what it means to people and then compare it to these non-traditional noodles like gluten free noodles. For this paper, I will be using my own experiences, along with those of some of my peers who enjoy gluten free/vegetable noodles and those who enjoy traditional noodles. I will also be using some online resources and texts such as food blogs, books, and the accounts of others to reach my conclusion and answer the question.

When you look up the definition of noodles, you will usually get a definition describing dough made from some type of flour, usually semolina, and eggs that is usually eaten with some type of a broth or a sauce. This definition just tells you what noodles are at face value. They don’t go in depth to define what it means to people and their culture. In order to answer the research question, we must first examine what traditional noodles are as well as what they represent. I define noodles as food that transcends beyond its intended purpose of providing nourishment by influencing and connecting every part of the word while still managing to allow us to maintain a sense of self and community. Noodles are a way for people to showcase their culture and cultural influences proudly to the world. An example of this can be seen in Italian societies specifically the island of Sicily. Sicilian pasta dishes help to display Italian cultural heritage through their use of Middle Eastern spices. These spices highlight a group that had a huge influence on the island, the Arabs. In fact, pasta itself didn’t become a staple in this region until the Arabs arrived. Another way that noodles represents a society’s cultural background is the belief by many that Marco Polo was the one who introduced noodles to Italian societies. This claim is false; however, it allows us to see the impact the Silk Road and China had on Italy during its beginnings.  Also, noodles in Italy, in the form of mostly, pasta is served during the primo course of the dining experience as an appetizer and not the main dish. While most places in the world have their own version of noodles, different customs and traditions surrounding the noodles allow each of us to maintain a connection to our people and our societies. In China, it is a tradition for people to eat longevity noodles during birthday celebrations as a way of attaining long life. In Hawaii, saimin, a dish containing egg noodles, Japanese style broth, green onions and spam is enjoyed as a popular street food. This food originated in China, but it is said to have been developed and perfected by the Hawaiians. In my home country Ghana, we enjoy waakye, a dish consisting of rice and beans mixed with spaghetti noodles. It is known as one of the most popular lunch dishes in the southern region of the nation. One of my closest friends told me about a noodle dish her Mexican family like to enjoy called sopa seca which literally means dry soup. For this dish, they toss noodles with salsa, chicken broth and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. Shredded chicken is also usually added. Different types of noodles can be used for this dish depending on the preference of those enjoying it. From these examples, we can see that noodles are enjoyed in all parts of the world however each dish is different and significant to the region that is it enjoyed in and helps foster a sense of identity to those who share it. Noodles have the ability to show us who we are- through its shapes, the sauces, and broths it is enjoyed in, and the time we consume it. Noodles allow all of us to have a sense of security and comfort whether you are a visitor trying a noodle dish in a foreign land or a native enjoying a dish that has been in your family for hundreds of years.

Another thing we must examine in order to determine if gluten free and vegetable noodles can be classified as traditional noodles is to examine items that are classified as traditional noodles. These traditional noodles vary in size, ingredients and can also be differentiated according to the region of production. Some examples in China are biang biang noodles which resemble a belt and are popular in the Shaanxi province, rice noodles which are made from rice flour and are usually thin, glass noodles which are a transparent and kao mian jin which are grilled noodles shaped into spirals and baked over barbecue. As we mentioned in class, dumplings, steamed buns, and bing are also classified as noodles. Some items classified as noodles or commonly pasta in Italy are spaghetti which are long thin cylindrical pasta, ziti which are long, narrow, hose-like tubes, ravioli which are two squares of pasta on top of each other stuffed with different fillings like cheese and meat and lasagne which are flat wide pasta used to make lasagna. There are also soba noodles in Japan which are thin noodles made from buckwheat flour. From these different noodles, we can see that traditional noodles encompass different kinds of noodles. With this information, I can begin formulating my answer to the posed research question.

Since I have defined what traditional noodles are, I must also define what gluten free and vegetable noodles are. Gluten free noodles are noodles made without any form of wheat, rye, or barley. They are typically made with buckwheat, rice, quinoa, beans, or corn. They are made to resemble different types of traditional noodles while still providing the same taste. They come in different tastes, shapes and sizes which allows the consumer to have a wider variety of products to choose from. Brands like to make these noodles to have the same shape and feel as traditional noodles, so consumers don’t feel like they are missing out. Vegetable noodles which are the most popular form of gluten free noodles, nowadays, due to health trends like the keto diet, which removes carbohydrates from one’s diet, are made by usually spiralizing whole vegetables and using it in lieu of traditional carb dense noodles. These can also be made by cutting the vegetables into thin long strips using a knife. Some popular vegetables used to make these noodles are zucchini, squash, sweet potato, carrots, yams, and cucumbers. They are usually not prepared in the same way as traditional noodles due to their texture. They must be lightly steamed or eaten raw because cooking them too long causes them to be mushy and lose their texture.

Gluten free noodles have, surprisingly, been a part of our lives for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest evidence of noodles that were found in Laija, China happened to be gluten free and made from millet. It is extremely interesting that the earliest proof we have of the origins of noodles turned out be gluten free. According to a jovial article, “Eating gluten free pasta is not such a modern invention after all, it would seem.” This is true as many people believe that gluten free pasta is a new age item made popular by the growing need which is partly true because even though gluten free noodles have been a key part of our diets for thousands of years, their market didn’t explode until about five or so years ago. Vegetable noodles, on the other hand have no historic context that we know of as of date. They are twenty-first century concoctions with their popularity also increasing about five years ago due to many reasons including new diet plans and allergies. Their popularity can also be attributed to the texture it provides in meals which some say makes the transition from traditional noodles easier. Recipes utilizing these noodles can now be seen everywhere from food blogs to Instagram. Gluten free noodles and its subset, vegetable noodles, allow people to explore different options for creating meals.

In order to understand what gluten free and vegetable noodles mean to people, we need to understand why people choose it over traditional noodles. There are many reasons why people opt for gluten free noodles over traditional noodles. Some of these include diseases and health concerns like Celiac disease, Hashimotos disease and wheat allergies. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that damages your small intestines due to the consumption of gluten. This occurs because the bodies of those with this disease cannot break down the protein for the body to absorb. It is estimated that at least 3 million people in the US are living with this condition and one of the most effective ways to manage this disorder is to remove gluten from your diet which leads these people to seek alternative food options like gluten free noodles. The increased number of gluten allergies is also driving the need for gluten free foods. Scientist believe this is due to the high amount of gluten present in our everyday lives. There are some people, however, who do not have any allergies or diseases, associated with gluten that still decide to opt for gluten free food options. These people opt for this because of the many benefits associated with gluten free diet including high energy levels, decrease risks of developing heart diseases and certain cancers, weight loss and improved cholesterol. All these factors influence people to choose a gluten free diet.

For us to be able to decide if gluten free noodles can be classified as traditional noodles, we need to compare the two. The most basic difference between the two types of noodles are the ingredients. Traditional noodles are mostly made with wheat flour while gluten free noodles are mostly made with rice, buckwheat, vegetables and sometimes beans. Like traditional noodles, gluten free noodles also come in many different shapes and sizes usually with the same name as their counterparts just with gluten free in front of it. Brands like Jovial and Barilla make sure to make gluten free noodles shaped like penne, shells, and macaroni so the customer doesn’t feel like they are missing out. Another way to compare these types of noodles is by flavor. Most people who regularly eat gluten free noodles will tell you that there is no difference in taste when compared to noodles with gluten in it. This can be attributed to the fact that noodles are just one component of a dish and their substitution shouldn’t cause a dramatic change in the way a meal taste. This, however, is not the case for vegetable noodles since they lack the bite noodles made with flour or rice have. They have an initial crunch that can imitate the bite traditional noodles have, but they don’t have the longevity. Another point of comparison between these different types of noodles is how long it takes to make them. We know making traditional pasta is a time intensive task but making gluten free pasta is an even more time intensive and critical task. This is due to the fact that gluten free dough is extremely unforgiving and in order to mimic the taste and feel of traditional noodles, one must be extremely focused and aware of their surroundings. A seemingly unassuming change in the amount of eggs, water or buckwheat flour used can have consequential damage and render the dough useless. Ed Scarpone, the head chef at DBGB says, “It takes finesse. The eggs you use might not be the same size or temperature. You can just throw a gluten-free flour blend together with eggs and such . . . you won’t get a bad product, but I don’t think it mimics good fresh pasta.” This shows how intricate difficult it is to produce high quality gluten free noodles. This time-consuming process, however goes out the window when making vegetable noodles which only require a spiralizer and your vegetable of choice and can take as little as twenty seconds to make a serving of noodles. There might be twenty extra seconds added when using a knife, however, this is still a significantly less amount of when compared to making traditional noodles using flour. The only downfall with vegetable noodles is that you are limited to the amount of shapes the spiralizer can produce. These noodles usually come out to be extremely long tight coils, thick long coils, or flatter thin coils. You can also use a knife cut the vegetables to mimic lasagne. However, it is extremely difficult to mimic pasta shapes like farfalle or tortellini. Many brands now however are making traditional pasta infused with vegetables for those who do not want to lose the taste of their traditional pasta but still want to get their servings of vegetables.

For me to attain more information about gluten free noodles, I was able to talk to two of my friends who both only eat gluten free and vegetable noodles. One of them, Jacquelyn, had only been exposed to gluten free noodles since birth due to a family history of celiac disease and the other, Sam, just transitioned to eating gluten free noodles about five years ago for improved health. I sked Sam to tell me about the difference in taste between the two noodles. She answered, “When I started eating gluten free noodles I could tell that the taste wasn’t the same and I wasn’t enjoying my meals, but as time went on I was able to enjoy my meals and got the same happy feelings I would get when I ate traditional noodles.” Sam also admitted that she began enjoying her meals more when she began investing in higher quality noodles. She now says the gluten free noodles she eats tastes no different than the regular noodles she used to eat. I also asked both Jacquelyn and Sam if they considered the gluten free noodles they ate to be noodles. Sam, who is a quarter Italian, replied by saying, “yes, I still classify it as noodles because it does the same thing for me as regular noodles do for others. I am still able to enjoy time with my family when we gather for a meal even though they enjoy traditional pasta while I eat gluten free pasta. I still get to the same flavors from my mom’s dishes as I used to when I ate regular noodles.” “Now that I think about it,” she continued, “Eating gluten free pasta has allowed me to feel my family’s love more because when they prepare pasta dishes they make sure to also prepare the same for me using my pasta which they don’t have to, but they do anyway because of their love for me.” Jacquelyn responded to the question by saying, “I think they can be classified as noodles because I am still able to eat dishes originally made for regular noodles. It doesn’t matter what restaurant I go to. if I see a delicious noodle dish and I tell them to use gluten free noodles, they are always happy to comply, and I always enjoy the dish.” From this, we can see that those who eat gluten free noodles get to experience the same things those of us who eat traditional noodles get to experience.

I was also able to talk to a couple of my friends who had never tried gluten free noodles and I also asked them what they thought about gluten free noodles and if they classified them as regular noodles. They all agreed on the importance of gluten free noodles since some people’s bodies can’t handle gluten and they also brought up a great point on vegetable noodles They detailed how vegetable noodles could elevate even an amateurs noodle dish with its pop of brightness and crunch.

This paper has allowed me to assess a question that had plagued my mind since the start of this class; can gluten free and vegetable noodles be classified with traditional noodles and pasta? I believe the answer is yes. If we define noodles as dough pulled and stretched to form different shapes and sizes, then gluten free noodles can be considered to be noodles because they are also made from dough that is stretched and pulled to produce a multitude of shapes and sizes. I define noodles as food that transcends beyond its intended purpose of providing nourishment by influencing and connecting every part of the word while still managing to allow us to maintain a sense of self and community and gluten free noodles also fit under this category. There are millions of people worldwide who utilize a gluten free diet and all these people are somehow connected because of their diet. They may not eat the same noodle dishes and have dishes specific to where there are but they all share a sense of community through their use of gluten free noodles. From my friend Sam, we can see that gluten free noodles didn’t put a strain on her family relationship but in fact strengthens it. I have come to realize that when classifying noodles, it is not the ingredients that define the food. This can be seen in rice noodles. Rice noodles are in many dishes considered traditional noodles dishes, so it is not the gluten that make noodles. The deeper meaning of the word is what classifies something as being noodles. At the end of the day, Food isn’t meant to remain static. Different interpretations and significances of food to different people is what makes it special. It is an expression of all of us and gluten free and veggie noodles are a showcase of this.








Works Cited

Benwick, Bonnie S. “Why Gluten-Free Fresh Pasta’s Hard to Make – and How One D.C. Chef

Mastered It.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Mar. 2016,




Salustri, Cathy. “How to Do Noodles and Pasta – Celiac-Style.” Creative Loafing: Tampa Bay,