14 October 2005

The stuff in the back of the fridge: 4000-year-old Chinese noodles

I read this in yesterday's Globe and Mail and thought it warranted an "extra" post this month.

They published
Pasta its prime: 4,000-year-old noodles, an article about the discovery of 4,000 year-old noodles in north-west China, as reported in the British journal Nature. You may need to be an online subscriber to view the above link article...you definitely need to be a subscriber to view the paper on the magazine site.

The Chinese researchers who found the prehistoric noodles say it supports the theory that the noodle birthplace is in China and not Italy.

The 50-cm long, 0.3-cm , delicate, wide, yellow pasta strands were found covered in sediment, in a well-preserved earthenware bowl, in a settlement on the Yellow River that was destroyed by earthquakes and flooding 4,000 years ago. Since they are about twice the length of a standard spaghetti strand, researchers say it took quite a bit of slurping power to eat them.

They are similar to the traditional Chinese La-Mian noodle (similar to the Japanese
Raman noodle), and made by hand, pulling and stretching the dough. Unlike modern Chinese and Italian pasta, which are made from durum or bread wheat, these were made from millet. The strands quickly turned to powder when exposed to air.

Before this finding, researchers said the first written record of noodles appears in a book that dates to the
Eastern Han Dynasty; it has the first description of the origin and production of Chinese noodles.

Food experts generally recognize the noodle's Chinese origins, but many Italians believe that pasta is an Italian-born food. The article suggests (okay, it states) that "it may be that the Italians were the first to serve up pasta with sauce" which contradicts the wikipedia entry for Ramen, but we won't tell the journalist this...The manager of Rome's
Museo della Pasta (yes, the Pasta Museum) states they have an 11th Century document claiming pasta's Italian origins.

The researchers said that they didn't try the noodles--and from the picture (above), I don't blame them.

as always,


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