Noodles hold a special place in the hearts and plates of people worldwide, representing the perfect fusion of taste and tradition. Explore the flavourful journey and some of the most delectable noodle dishes from different countries and regions across the planet.
The history of noodles spans thousands of years. Believed to have originated in China during the Eastern Han Dynasty some 4,000 years ago, noodles began their journey through the hands of explorers and traders along the Silk Road. From there, these delectable strands then made their way to Japan and Korea, carried by wisdom-seeking Buddhist monks.
The Silk Road also facilitated the spread of noodles to the Middle East and Central Asia. In these regions, noodles evolved into various forms like chow mein, lo mein, and other types of wheat-based noodles. The Arabic word "luz," meaning pasta, is believed to be the origin of the Italian word "lasagna." Noodles reached Italy by the 13th century, brought back by Venetian merchant Marco Polo from his travels to China. However, historians debate whether Marco Polo was responsible for introducing noodles to Italy, as pasta-like dishes were already known in the region before his time. Regardless of its origins, pasta quickly became a staple in Italian cuisine.
As noodles spread to different regions, various cultures adopted and adapted them according to their culinary traditions. For example, the Japanese developed udon and soba noodles, the Koreans made their unique naengmyeon and jjajangmyeon, and the Italians crafted a plethora of pasta varieties, such as spaghetti, penne, and ravioli.
Noodle production saw significant changes during the Industrial Revolution, with the invention of machines that could mass-produce noodles. This led to greater accessibility and popularity of noodles worldwide.
In the 20th century, noodles became a global phenomenon, partly due to the ease of preparation, versatility, and convenience. Instant noodles, first created by Momofuku Ando in Japan in the late 1950s, revolutionised the industry and are now enjoyed worldwide.
Today, noodles continue to be a staple in many cuisines around the world, reflecting the diverse and rich history of culinary exchanges across cultures and continents.
Ramen from Japan
Iconic and soul-satisfying, ramen is a bowl of wheat noodles bathed in a broth, enriched with soy sauce, miso, or tonkotsu (pork bone). Toppings like sliced pork, soft-boiled eggs, seaweed, and scallions make each bowl a work of art. From Tokyo to Hokkaido, each region boasts its unique style of ramen, making it an ever-evolving culinary delight.
Spaghetti Bolognese from Italy
The classic Spaghetti Bolognese, or "Spaghetti alla Bolognese," is an international favourite. Al dente spaghetti is tossed in a rich tomato-based sauce, made with minced meat (often beef or pork), onions, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, and a splash of red wine. Topped with grated Parmesan cheese, this Italian gem is a true comfort food that brings joy to any table.
Pad Thai from Thailand
When it comes to the flavours of Southeast Asia, pad Thai undoubtedly steals the spotlight. Flat rice noodles are stir-fried with tofu, shrimp, or chicken, and an array of ingredients like bean sprouts, peanuts, eggs, and lime are added to create a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and savoury tastes. It's a dish that showcases Thailand's mastery of balancing flavours.
Pho from Vietnam
Take a journey through the delicate yet robust flavours of Vietnamese cuisine with Pho. Tender slices of beef or chicken swim in a fragrant broth made from simmering bones, spices, and herbs. Fresh herbs, bean sprouts, lime, and chilli add an extra dimension to this soup.
Spaetzle from Germany
Venturing to Europe, we arrive in Germany to discover Spaetzle, a delightful noodle variation. These small, irregularly shaped dumplings are made from eggs, flour, and milk. Typically served as a side dish, Spaetzle can be boiled or pan-fried, offering a satisfying and comforting accompaniment to various meats and gravies.
Japchae from South Korea
Japchae is a Korean noodle dish that combines chewy sweet potato noodles with an assortment of colourful vegetables, beef, and a soy sauce-based marinade. The result is a dish bursting with flavours and textures, making it a popular choice for gatherings and celebrations in South Korea.
Laksa from Malaysia and Singapore
Laksa is a spicy and aromatic noodle soup that has its roots in Malaysia and Singapore. This dish features thick rice noodles served in a coconut-based broth, often garnished with prawns, chicken, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, and hard-boiled eggs. Each spoonful of Laksa takes you on a journey through the unique tastes of Southeast Asia.