Have youever peered into your pantry and wondered which came first, pasta or noodles? And where? Did the Chinese invent pasta or did the Italians invent noodles? Oh the confusion!
Food mythology has contained many an inaccurate theory about how the two similar foods have made their way across the earth to each zone, with one common tale detailing how the Venetian merchant, Marco Polo, brought pasta from China to Italy after an eastern adventure (that one we can lay to rest – it was just a clever marketing ploy, as John Dickie explains in the new SBS series, Eating History: Italy)
In 2005, the world’s noodle enthusiasts got really excited when Chinese scientists unearthed a 4000-year-old bowl of noodles at an archaeological site at Lajia, China. This discovery appeared to mark the earliest example of the noodle in history: surely it could put the noodle v pasta debate in your head to bed?
Scientists believe the noodles found may have been made from two kinds of millet, which are similar to but not the same as wheat grains (which is what modern Chinese noodles and European pasta is made from). But since the discovery there’s been quite a lot of debate about what it means – for one thing, millet, being gluten-free, isn’t suitable for making noodles as we know them. Respected historian Françoise Sabban has written about the scientific controversy that followed the initial announcement.
SBS got in touch with one of the Chinese scientists at the centre of the discovery, Houyuan Lu of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at Beijing's Chinese Academy of Sciences, to ask if the find was proof that China invented the noodle.
Lu simply replied: “The question as to which people invented noodles is unimportant. Regardless of whether noodles originated in China or elsewhere, their emergence was most probably even earlier than previously thought”. So the short answer is…not sure.
so many noodles!
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Feeling frustrated (and hungry) yet? You’re not alone. Many people in the USA use the term “noodles” to refer to pasta, adding to the confusion. And in Europe, there are many dishes where it’s hard to tell where the starch ribbons involved fall on the noodle-pasta spectrum.
In a determined attempt to clear up the murky mystery about whether noodles and pasta are actually Italian or Chinese, American food writer Jen Lin-Liu set out on a six-month fact-finding trip from Beijing to Rome throughout 2010 and 2011. The American travelled along the ancient trading route, the Silk Road, to China through Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and Greece before arriving in Italy.
“Through my research and the journey itself, I was able to establish that the earliest documentation of noodles was in China and it probably came around the third century [300-200] BC,” Lin-Liu, author of the book On the Noodle Roadtells SBS. Her estimations also tie in with the earliest written record of noodles, included in a book dated back to the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) in China.
Lin-Liu explains that we also know the Chinese were probably the first peoples to eat noodles, given that “on the western side of the world, the earliest documentation of noodles is dated at around 500 and 600 AD”.
However, Lin-Liu stresses that doesn’t mean China “invented” what we now consider to be pasta.
“We aren’t sure if the noodle developed in the west separately, after it appeared in the east or if pasta, as we know it, even relates to the noodles that were first eaten in China. There could have been two different food traditions that developed side-by-side in opposite parts of the world.
“But based on my journey, it seems that Chinese noodles made their way throughout Asia, Korea and Japan, all through Central Asia and then through to Turkey. It makes sense as that was the way migration patterns moved and trading routes went.”
Lin-Liu explains that as for Italian pasta, “Middle Eastern noodles, which developed after the fifth century, most likely influenced Europe”.
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Food historian from the University of Adelaide, Professor Barbara Santich, confirms the reasoning of Lin-Liu’s historical account, concluding that no one knows who technically ‘owns’ the noodle because there is a lack of definitive evidence specifically showing its origins.
However, Santich’s historical dates differ somewhat. She says that the earliest accounts of the noodle dates back to China in the fifth century [500-401] BC.
Santich adds that there’s no mention of noodles in the Mediterranean until around five centuries later (she also reminds budding food historians that Italy, as we know it, didn’t evolve into the Kingdom of Italy until the 1860s).
“Chinese noodles were made with soft wheat as China only had soft wheat back then: they couldn’t have created dried pasta, [which usually requires hard or coarse wheat to make],” says Santich. “So Chinese noodles didn’t evolve into what is now known as Mediterranean pasta. And pasta didn’t make its way from China to Italy.”
“Foods can arise in different places at different times with no connection to each other”.
Santich explains that the origins of European pasta date back to an early mention of the word ‘itri’ or ‘itria’ (meaning a flour and water dough that’s rolled into thin sheet and cut into strips) in Greek literature. Noting that Syria was once a Greek colony, she explains that these mentions later transformed into Arabic.
“The Arabs also conquered Sicily and southern Italy, so it’s possible the Arabs took pasta to southern Italy and Sicily and it was exported from there…The Mediterranean is a very mixed up world.”
Professor Santich concludes that variations of pasta then spread throughout Europe for centuries to come, evolving into the forms we now identify as vermicelli, macaroni, tortellini and ravioli.
So if noodles and pasta are more like friends than family, why do we all think they’re related?
Lin-Liu says it has to do with the term ‘noodle’ itself. “ ’Noodles’ is a tricky term that was contrived by the west and implies a long stringy substance,” Lin-Liu explains. “But in China, a noodle is not called a ‘noodle’ as it is called in the west. It is called ‘miàn’ or ‘mein’. Miàn is not based on the shape of the food you are eating but on the fact it is made from flour in a liquid. So in this sense a dumpling and the ravioli are both are miàn.”
So the food grouping of noodles and pasta are similar – both miàn – even though they aren’t related. Where does that leave us as we keep staring at our pasta and noodle packets? Santich says time spent wondering who owns the ‘noodle’ would be better spent pondering something else: “We just don’t know and it’s a pointless argument”.
Lin-Liu however, sleeps at night knowing that Europeans eat pasta that was (more or less) developed on the western side of the globe many years ago and in the east, Asians consume noodles that probably came from China, long before she was born.
“The message I received along with my journey in my quest to discover the identity of the noodle was that no one culture ‘owns’ a particular food, just because its peoples are eating it,” says Lin-Liu.
“The commonalities between distinct cultures lie in the fact that people are brought together by food and hospitality. Among people of all different religions and cultures and nationalities, we all share something.”
Oodles of Noodles includes delicious new recipes, stories and tips for buying, cooking and storing noodles.Find out morehere.
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The first written references to noodles or pasta can be found in Chinese texts dating back about 3200 years. Author Jen Lin-Liu says it's likely that pasta developed in China and in the Middle East within a couple hundred years ago.Who invented noodles Italy or China? ›
The oldest evidence of noodles was from 4,000 years ago in China. In 2005, a team of archaeologists reported finding an earthenware bowl that contained 4000-year-old noodles at the Lajia archaeological site.Who invented the noodle? ›
|Died||January 5, 2007 (aged 96) Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, Japan|
|Citizenship||Japan (1910–1945; 1966–2007) Republic of China (after 1945)|
|Alma mater||Ritsumeikan University|
|Known for||The invention of instant noodles Founder of the Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd.|
A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles unearthed in China is the earliest example ever found of one of the world's most popular foods, scientists reported today. It also suggests an Asian—not Italian—origin for the staple dish.Who invented Chinese noodles? ›
Chinese noodles originated in the Han dynasty, which has more than 4,000 years of history. There are many stories about the origin of noodles. To a certain extent, noodles also reflect the cultural traditions and customs of China, which essentially means “human nature” and “worldly common sense”.Where did noodles originally come from? ›
The oldest historical mention of noodles I could find appears in a dictionary from the third century A.D. in China. The earliest Chinese noodles, though, don't appear as strands of dough -- they were shaped into little bits, formed from bread dough, and thrown into a wok of boiling water.Was pasta invented in Italy? ›
While some historians believe pasta originated in Italy, most are convinced Marco Polo actually brought it back from his epic voyage to China. The earliest known pasta was made from rice flour and was common in the east.Did Japan invent noodles? ›
The first references of thin noodles to appear in documents date from the Nara Period (710-794) and indicate the noodles originated in China. Called sōmochi, they were made of rice flour and were twisted like rope, and eaten at the Imperial Court on special occasions throughout the Nara and Heian (794-1185) periods.Who was before noodle? ›
Noodle was born in Osaka, Japan on 31 October 1990. Noodle first came to Gorillaz in 1998 shortly after their original guitarist and 2-D's ex-girlfriend Paula Cracker was removed from the band's lineup for having an affair with Murdoc Niccals in the bathroom of Gorillaz' fictional headquarters at Kong Studios.Did ancient China have noodles? ›
Although China was not the originating place for noodles, the earliest form of noodles was discovered in a village in Northwest China. The uncovered noodles was more than four thousand years old, which provided evidence that Chinese had a culture of eating noodles for over four thousand years.
Noodles were invented in China, and are an essential ingredient and staple in Chinese cuisine. They are an important part of most regional cuisines within China, and other countries with sizable overseas Chinese populations.Did pizza come from China? ›
The origins of pizza have been discussed time and time again, but most everyone knows that pizza came from Italy. The word pizza itself was first documented in AD 997 in Gaeta and throughout parts of Central and Southern Italy.Where was ramen invented? ›
It starts in 1800s China, which is considered to be the birthplace of all things ramen. The idea of noodles in a soupy broth travelled with Chinese immigrants in the late 19th or early 20th Century to Japan after the Meijiichin [Meiji Restoration] in 1868.Is China known for noodles? ›
China is the homeland of noodles, and the earliest record of noodles in China shows they have a history of 4,000 years. Nowadays, Chinese people eat noodles as a staple food, snack, or as a delicious dish in a feast.When was pasta invented in Italy? ›
Some say pasta started with the Etruscans, a pre-Roman civilisation in central Italy, since a supposed pasta-making tool was found in an Etruscan tomb. This is a shaky theory, however, and it's more likely that pasta was introduced by Arab traders in Sicily throughout the 8th and 9th centuries.Are Chinese noodles called? ›
Mein (or mian) is simply the Chinese word for 'noodles' (pronounced 'me-an').Is noodles Italian or Chinese? ›
While we do think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it is likely the descendent of ancient Asian noodles. A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century.Which country is famous for noodles? ›
China. China has more indigenous noodles than any country on Earth.Who invented ramen? ›
Momofuku Ando (1910 – 2007)
Momofuku Ando was born on March 5, 1910. He established Nissin Food Products and founded the Ando Foundation. In 1958, Momofuku invented Chicken Ramen, the world's first instant ramen, creating the instant ramen industry.
Pizza dates back thousands of years, believe it or not, tracing its roots back to the flatbreads with toppings that were popular with ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. But modern pizza, the flatbreads with tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings, was born along the western coast of Italy, in the city of Naples.
When you think of Italian food, one thing probably comes to mind: pasta. With all of the varieties of pasta, sauces, and dishes, pasta has become a symbol of Italian culture. This is something many Italians take great pride in, as it has become the most popular main course dish in the world.Was spaghetti made in Italy? ›
spaghetti, thin, straight, cylindrical pasta of Italian origin, the most popular of all pastas eaten today.Who brought noodles to America? ›
Pasta made its way to the New World through the English, who discovered it while touring Italy. Colonists brought to America the English practice of cooking noodles at least one half hour, then smothering them with cream sauce and cheese.Did Japan get noodles from China? ›
Noodles were first discovered in Japan around 800 A.D durning the Heian period (794-1185). This dish was adopted from China and was highly idolized in daily dieting due to the dishes flexibility and multiple different forms of serving options.What came first ramen or noodles? ›
The dish evolved from southern Chinese noodle dishes, reflecting the demographics of Chinese settlers in Yokohama. Ramen gained popularity in Japan, especially during food shortages following World War II. In 1958, instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando, further popularizing the dish.Why is it called noodle? ›
But Nudel itself most likely comes from Knodel or Nutel, an old German word meaning "dumpling," or, more literally, a "turd" or "small knot." So for its early years, the Nudel was pretty much any addition to a boiled or baked dish, usually made of wheat flour, butter, and milk.Why do they call it a noodle? ›
Noodle came to English by several routes. The string of pasta, for instance, was called a noodle from the late 1770s because of the German Nudel, and is probably related to knodel, dumpling.What is the oldest noodle? ›
A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles unearthed in China is the earliest example ever found of one of the world's most popular foods, scientists reported today. It also suggests an Asian—not Italian—origin for the staple dish.What food did ancient China invent? ›
The Chinese are credited with inventing chicken noodle soup, pasta and ketchup. According to one story Marco Polo brought noodles back from China and invented spaghetti (See Noodles, Different Foods).What do Chinese believe about noodles? ›
In China, noodles are frequently eaten during the start of the Lunar New Year and on birthdays. In fact, they symbolize longevity and good health for the year ahead. But as the superstition goes, cutting them translates to cutting your life short.
The ancient Chinese planted the first seeds of modern-day ice cream, but it was the Italians who nurtured it into what we know today. It took more than 3,000 years for Chinese milk ice to reach Italian shores, and once it did, Italian nobles kept the recipe for milk ice a closely guarded secret.Was spaghetti invented in China? ›
The first written references to noodles or pasta can be found in Chinese texts dating back about 3200 years. Author Jen Lin-Liu says it's likely that pasta developed in China and in the Middle East within a couple hundred years ago.Who made pizza first China or Italy? ›
Pizza was first invented in Naples, Italy as a fast, affordable, tasty meal for working-class Neapolitans on the go. While we all know and love these slices of today, pizza actually didn't gain mass appeal until the 1940s, when immigrating Italians brought their classic slices to the United States.Why was ramen illegal in Japan? ›
Rationing in Japan during world war 2 did not allow ramen to be consumed or sold as it was seen as a luxury for eating out. Food shortages and famines made the government place heavy regulations on food supplies, and profits on selling food was prohibited.What was ramen first called? ›
Ramen is widely known imported from China to Japan, ramen-noodle shops first sprang to popularity in both countries in the early 1900s, and the noodles were actually called “Chinese soba” noodes in Japan up until the 1950s.Is ramen Korean or Japanese? ›
What is ramen? Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup with an umami flavour, made with wheat noodles and various savoury toppings. Unlike ramyeon, it is typically made fresh, and great care is taken over the ingredients and preparation, with specialty broths like tonkotsu taking almost a full day to make.Why is Chinese noodles white? ›
Made with just potato starch and water, the production process utilizes a combination of hot and cold water to get the noodles to be short, round and thick. After being cooked, their white coloring become brighter and their texture gets much softer and chewier.Do Chinese eat rice or noodles? ›
China has little water resources in the north, and historically Chinese people plant wheat instead of rice which is planted in the southern part of China. Consequently, for people in the south of China rice is the most important part of the meal, whereas Chinese from the north eat dominantly noodles.Do Chinese noodles have egg in them? ›
If you're new to cooking with fresh Chinese egg noodles, the assortment of varieties can be a little overwhelming. Located in the refrigerated section at most Asian markets, fresh egg noodles are yellow and mainly made with wheat flour and eggs.Does pasta have eggs? ›
Do pastas have eggs in them? No, they don't. Plain pasta, is produced with durum wheat semolina and water. In case of adding eggs for flavor, it is required to state in ingredients section and state in different colours or fonts, differentiating it from other ingredients, since it is an allergen.
Many people credit baker Raffaele Esposito from the Naples region of Italy for first creating the dish. Others believe that the history of pizza dates far further back than Esposito's era of the late 1800s. Much of the debate comes down to what you consider a "real pizza" and the evolution of food over the centuries.When was pizza invented? ›
Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century. The word pizza was first documented in AD 997 in Gaeta and successively in different parts of Central and Southern Italy.Are Japanese and Chinese noodles the same? ›
While both Japanese and Chinese ramen are similar in many ways, with both consisting of noodles in a savory broth with a variety of toppings, the Chinese version does not contain Motodare, according to Yamato Noodle Japan.Is lo mein a noodle? ›
At its root, lo mein simply refers to tossed or mixed noodles. A lo mein dish most often includes vegetables and some sort of protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, seafood or tofu. In essence, lo mein is a dry variation of traditional noodle soup.Are Chinese noodles just pasta? ›
While we may throw down the word with ease when it comes to whipping up dinner, noodles and pasta are actually two very different things. Sure, they may share the same shape at times and have a similar taste and coloring, but these two carbohydrate staples are actually quite different.When did Italy have noodles? ›
Although popular legend claims Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy following his exploration of the Far East in the late 13th century, pasta can be traced back as far as the 4th century B.C., where an Etruscan tomb showed a group of natives making what appears to be pasta.Is spaghetti from Italy? ›
spaghetti, thin, straight, cylindrical pasta of Italian origin, the most popular of all pastas eaten today.What do they call noodles in Italy? ›
Pasta is a staple food of Italian cuisine. Pastas are divided into two broad categories: dried (pasta secca) and fresh (pasta fresca).What is the difference between Italian pasta and Chinese noodles? ›
Asian wheat noodles are generally made with wheat flour and egg, just like Italian pasta. One key difference, however, is that—while Italian pasta is made by rolling and then slicing the dough—many forms of Asian egg noodles are made by pulling and stretching the noodles.Did China invent ramen noodles? ›
It starts in 1800s China, which is considered to be the birthplace of all things ramen. The idea of noodles in a soupy broth travelled with Chinese immigrants in the late 19th or early 20th Century to Japan after the Meijiichin [Meiji Restoration] in 1868.
Mein (or mian) is simply the Chinese word for 'noodles' (pronounced 'me-an'). Both lo mein and chow mein are made from the same type of Chinese noodle. This noodle is made from wheat flour and eggs, similar to Italian pasta.Is pizza Italian or American? ›
Pizza was first invented in Naples, Italy as a fast, affordable, tasty meal for working-class Neapolitans on the go. While we all know and love these slices of today, pizza actually didn't gain mass appeal until the 1940s, when immigrating Italians brought their classic slices to the United States.Is tomato sauce Italian or Mexican? ›
Tomato sauce is first referenced in the Italian cookbook Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), written by Italian chef Antonio Latini in 1692. Meanwhile, a recipe for pasta with tomato sauce appears in the 1790 cookbook, L'Apicio Moderno, by chef Francesco Leonardi.Why do Italians call it gravy? ›
Historians speculate that families who immigrated earlier used “gravy” to reflect the names of dishes they saw in America in order to better assimilate. Assimilation meant changing their language and/or approach to food. So, when they made a thick sauce that they poured over a meal, they called it gravy.Why is pizza called pizza? ›
Based on etymology, the “Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana” reveals that pizza comes from the dialectal pinza from the Latin pinsere, which means to pound or stamp. Other etymologists suggest it is related to the Lombardic word bizzo or pizzo, which means mouthful, and is related to the English word bite.Which country eats the most pizza? ›
Italy – The Home of Pizza
Each day, approximately 1 million pizzas are consumed in Italy.
Did you know pizza took the United States by storm before it became popular in its native Italy? Pizza has a long history. Flatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today's focaccia.)