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Misua noodle making in Lukang, Taiwan

The noodle is a staple food made from unleavened dough which is stretched, extruded, or rolled flat and cut into one of a variety of shapes. While long, thin strips may be the most common, many varieties of noodles are cut into waves, helices, tubes, strings, or shells, or folded over, or cut into other shapes. Noodles are usually cooked in boiling water, sometimes with cooking oil or salt added. They are often pan-fried or deep-fried. Noodles are often served with an accompanying sauce or in a soup. Noodles can be refrigerated for short-term storage, or dried and stored for future use. The material composition or geocultural origin must be specified when discussing noodles. The word derives from the German word Nudel.


Vermeer van Utrecht's painting of a man eating noodles (National Museum, Warsaw)

In 2002, archaeologists found an earthenware bowl containing the world's oldest known noodles, measured to roughly 4000 years BP through radiocarbon dating, at the Lajia archaeological site along the Yellow River in China. The noodles were found well-preserved. They were described as resembling the traditional lamian noodle of China, which is made by "repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand." The composition of the oldest noodles was studied by a team of Chinese researchers, who determined the noodles were made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.

The earliest written record of noodles is found in a book dated to the Eastern Han period (25–220) of China. Noodles, often made from wheat dough, became a staple food for people of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE). During the Tang Dynasty, the noodles were first cut into strips, and in the Yuan Dynasty, the making of dried noodles began.

Wheat noodles in Japan (udon) were adapted from a Chinese recipe by a Buddhist monk as early as the 9th century. Reshteh noodles were eaten by the people of Persia by the 13th century. Innovations continued, as for example, noodles made from kudzu (naengmyeon) were developed in the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392–1897). Ramen noodles, based on Chinese noodles, became popular in Japan by 1900.

A bowl of roasted beef noodles

Instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando and first marketed in Japan in 1958. According to Ando's method, a bundle of fresh noodles is flash-fried, which dries them out and provides for a long shelf life.

Europe and the Near East
In the first century BCE, Horace wrote of fried sheets of dough called lagana. However, the method of cooking these sheets of dough, lagana, does not correspond to the current definition of either a fresh or dry pasta product, which only had similar basic ingredients and perhaps the shape. In the second century CE, the Greek physician Galen mentioned itrion, referring to all homogenous mixtures from flour and water. The Latinized itrium was used as a reference to a kind of boiled dough. The Jerusalem Talmud records that itrium was common in Palestine from the third to fifth centuries AD. Arabs adapted noodles for long journeys in the fifth century, the first written record of dry pasta. The 9th-century Arab physician Isho bar Ali defines itriyya, the Arabic cognate of the Greek word, as string-like shapes made of semolina and dried before cooking. Muhammad al-Idrisi wrote in 1154 that itriyya was manufactured and exported from Norman Sicily. Itriya was also known by the Aramaic speakers under the Persian sphere and during the Islamic rule referred to a small soup noodle prepared by twisting bits of kneaded dough into shape.

The first concrete information on pasta products in Italy dates to the 13th or 14th centuries. Pasta has taken on a variety of shapes, often based on regional specializations. Since at least the 20th century, pasta has become a staple in North America and elsewhere.

In the area that would become Germany, written mention of Spätzle has been found in documents dating from 1725, although medieval illustrations are believed to place this noodle at an even earlier date.

The different types of noodles commonly found in south-east Asia

Wide, uncooked egg noodles

Idiyappam, Indian rice noodles


Bakmi: Southeast Asian Chinese yellow wheat noodles with meat, usually chicken

Chūka men: Japanese for "Chinese noodles", used for ramen, champon, and yakisoba

Kesme: flat, yellow or reddish brown Central Asian wheat noodles

Kalguksu: knife-cut Korean noodles

Lamian: hand-pulled Chinese noodles

Mee pok: flat, yellow Chinese noodles, popular in Southeast Asia

Reshte: Central Asian, flat noodle, very pale in colour (almost white) used in Persian and Afghani cuisine

Sōmen: thin variety of Japanese wheat noodles, often coated with vegetable oil

Spätzle: a Swabian type of noodle made of wheat and eggs

Thukpa (Tibetan: Wylie: thug pa): flat Tibetan noodles

Udon: thicker variety of Japanese wheat noodles

Kishimen: flat variety of Japanese wheat noodles

Flat or thick rice noodles, also known as hé fěn or ho fun, kway teow or sen yai

Rice vermicelli: thin rice noodles, also known as mǐfěn or bee hoon or sen mee

Idiyappam is an Indian rice noodle.

Khanom chin is a fermented rice noodle used in Thai cuisine

Makguksu: local specialty of Gangwon Province in South Korea

Memil naengmyeon: Korean noodles made of buckwheat, slightly more chewy than soba

Soba: Japanese buckwheat noodles

Pizzoccheri: Italian buckwheat tagliatelle from Valtellina, usually served with a melted cheese sauce

Acorn noodles, also known as dotori guksu in Korean, are made of acorn meal, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt.

Olchaeng-chi guksu, meaning tadpole noodles, are made of corn soup put through a noodle maker right into cold water. It was named for its features. These Korean noodles are mostly eaten in Gangwon-do.

Cellophane noodles are made from mung bean. These can also be made from potato starch, canna starch or various starches of the same genre.

Chilk naengmyeon: Korean noodles made of starch from kudzu root, known as kuzuko in Japanese, chewy and semitransparent

Shirataki noodles: Japanese noodles made of konjac (devil's tongue)

Kelp noodles, made from seaweed


Basic noodles: These are cooked in water or broth, then drained. Other foods can be added or the noodles are added to other foods (see fried noodles) or the noodles can be served plain with a dipping sauce or oil to be added at the table. In general, noodles are soft and absorb flavours.

Chilled noodles: noodles that are served cold, sometimes in a salad. Examples include Thai glass noodle salad and cold udon.

Fried noodles: dishes made of noodles stir fried with various meats, seafood, vegetables, and dairy products. Typical examples include chow mein, lo mein, mie goreng, hokkien mee, some varieties of pancit, yakisoba, Curry Noodles, and pad thai.

Noodle soup: noodles served in broth. Examples are phở, beef noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, ramen, laksa, saimin, and batchoy.


Commonly referred to as macaroni art, dry noodles may consist of individual pieces of macaroni glued to a surface to produce a mosaic, or may take the form of sculptures.

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