Instant Noodles

It was once considered a fancy dish and cost six times more than a serving of fresh noodles. The story of its dramatic decline in status — from a luxury item to a student’s budget food — is very curious indeed.

In the Beginning There Were…Noodles

Two thousand years ago, noodles were common in many parts of the world. It’s not entirely clear who came up with the dish first. Some believe that it might have been invented in several countries independently of each other, but so far China seems to be the likeliest creator. The earliest evidence of the existence of noodles was found by scientists at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. During archaeological digs in northwestern China, they found a bowl with thin, long noodles that was 4,000 years old!

Mian pian
Mian pian

American researcher Jennifer Lin-Liu traveled around China to collect information for a book about the history of noodles. She suggests that a close relative or even ancestor of noodles could be the dish of mian pian. It can be found in China even in the present day: small strips are formed from bread dough, which are then thrown into a pot of boiling water. Mian pian is similar to noodles not only in its cooking method but also its name. The word mian means “white wheat flour” in Chinese and is also a term for the noodles that the Chinese cook in different variations. Traditional thin, handmade noodles are called la mian, literally meaning hand-pulled noodles, and thick wheat noodles are called cu mian, meaning thick noodles. Despite the long history of noodles in China, dry noodles appeared in another country, which adopted and adapted its fair share of Chinese inventions. As you may have guessed, instant noodles were invented in Japan.

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