April 25, 2020
Noodle is a type of food that is made from dough and cooked in a mixture of boiling water and oil. Noodles are known for such characteristics as thin, having an elongated shape, stingy and chewy. They are believed to be the oldest prepared type of food found intact. Today, they are a delicacy to many.
The origin and genesis of noodles has been a mystery and for a long time been a born of contention. This is because several nationalities have claimed to be the inventors. Italians for instance argue that they created noodles as them as a perfect complement to tomato sauce. The Chinese believe contradicts this. According to their scholars, the earliest and oldest noodles were found in the Qijia culture Lijia site. This is found in Qinghai of Shandong province. These appeared to be made from millet. According to these researchers Italians got it from Marco Polo, a Christian merchant from Venice. He and his friends embarked on a 24 year journey that is well documented today. It is believed that he first encountered noodles on his journey of Asia and only introduced it to the Venetian Italians upon his return.
Apart from the above two, the Japanese, Koreans, Germans as well as the French claim the ownership of this invention. Many researchers have tried to dig deep to uncover the mystery of who exactly it is that invented this widely eaten delicacy. Among them are Gary Crawford of Toronto University and Houyan Lu of Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing China. The Chinese researchers seemed to have solved this age old question after unearthing a 4000 year-old container of noodles. These were found in a well preserved bowl that was buried up-side down in clay. This bowl was found in an archaeological site located in Qinghai province of northeastern China. It was quite a unique discovery given that only ingredients such as corn and other ancient grains had been found earlier. There was nothing that concrete.
The unearthed noodles were considered older than any other that was previously discovered. They hence predated the earlier written records by 2000 years or more. Some celebrated fusion chefs from China could not believe the existence of other convincing evidences pertaining to the origin of noodles as these. According to them, the unearthed bowl proved without a shadow of doubt that indeed the Chinese were making noodles long before the Italian Marco Polo went to China. To them, it was a source of great pride.
Noodles of the early days were similar in various respects to those of modern times when compared. The major difference was found to be in their composition. Today’s noodles are made from rice or wheat but those from ancient China were made from millet. The history of millet in China can be traced back to over 7000 years ago. It still remains to be part and parcel of diet in the northeastern parts of China. This is confirmed by the works of Gary Crawford. As a researcher in Chinese sites dating from the same period, Gary reveals that the same period was characterized by high reliance on millet. According to him, this was a suitable explanation as to why grains were not found at some of the visited and studied sites. High reliance on millet meant that most of the grains were ground into flour and eventually made into noodles.
The unearthed noodles were delicate, yellow and about 20 inches in length. They were similar in appearance with the ‘lamina’ type of noodles. These are made by repeatedly stretching dough by hand. Upon examination of the starch grains and mineral deposits in the noodles, it was determined that they were made from millet. This is a plant re-known for its toughness as it has the ability to thrive in hot and dry climates, a characteristic feature of the northeastern part of china.
Presence of millet in the above mention part of China emphasizes that millet domestication was key in early civilization. It therefore goes without mentioning that millet had already been in use before other grains came to play i.e. the use of other grains came later on in China’s history.
With the availability of millet, it wasn’t that difficult to produce the first noodle. This is according to Tsui. He argued that the needed ingredients were readily available, flour and water. With the knowledge of grinding, the millet was ground. The then people realized that if eaten raw, the ground grain wouldn’t have an appealing taste. They ended up mixing it with water and eventually cooking as it would at least improve the taste, thereby making it more edible.
It is however important to note that not everyone is convinced that the Chinese did actually invent noodles. There are those that believe that there is a high possibility that they were invented many times over by different people. Other people trash arguments regarding the real inventors altogether. To them, noodles have been a solution to many people in one way or another. What matters is that they have been a source of food for many over the years. The argument of who really discovered it doesn’t really hold any water.
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