“Noodles are not only amusing but delicious.” ~ Julia Child
Derived from the German word “Nudel”, noodles has been one of the earliest staple food for many civilizations. Made from unleavened dough which is stretched, extruded or rolled flat and cut into a variety of shapes,as long thin strips or strings to waves, helices, tubes, strings or shells to mention a few. Often pan fried or deep fried, they can be made from wheat, rice, buckwheat, acorn meal and even seaweed.
The oldest historical mention of noodles are in the Chinese records as per a book dated to the eastern Han dynasty (25 to 220 BC). Archaeological evidence unearthed an earthenware bowl that contained 4000-year-old noodles at the Lajia, China. These noodle were said to resemble “lamian”, which are a type of Chinese noodle that is made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. In fact records show that the earliest Chinese noodles, don’t appear as strands of dough but were shaped into little bits, formed from bread dough and thrown into a wok of boiling water. This type of noodles, known as “mian pian” is still eaten in modern day China.
The udon (wheat noodles) of Japan were adapted from the Chinese by Buddhist monks. Across Europe and Near East, records mention about fried sheets of dough called lagana ( first century BC). Greek and Latinized itrium refer to homogenous mixture of flour and water, boiled in the case of the latter. The Jerusalem Talmud (fifth century A.D.) mentions itrium. Arabs adapted the form to a string-like pasta, “itriyya” made of semolina and dried before cooking. Regional specializations of noodles and pasta began, with concrete information traced back to 13th and 14th century Italy. Since then on, pasta as well as noodles have been globalized.
Various varieties have been present globally, forming the staple diet of many local cuisines. While in China, chefs pull the thinnest of noodles, “la mian”, bathing them in a long-simmering beef soup with chili, coriander and crumbles of meat. Whereas, “Spätzle” egg noodles are the highlight in Germany and the Alps and Italy delicate thin sheets of spinach noodles are rolled out, baked with bolognese and bechemel sauce. The Indian cuisine has its’ own rice noodles, “idiyappam” and Thai cusine have their “Khanom chin”.
Bake it, chill or fry them, or toss them along with rice after boiling them, noodles can be simple and basic or artsy and innovative, the choice is ours. Little wonder why then march 11th has been celebrated as “Eat your Noodles” Day by foodimentarians globally.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘cooking’ but I can make noodles. That means I can boil water, put the pasta in and wait until it’s done.” ~ Devon Werkheiser