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The noodle is a type of staple food made from some type of unleavened dough which is 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.
In American English usage, the word "noodle" is an inclusive term that denotes flour paste products in various shapes. In British English usage it generally denotes a food in the form of long, thin strips of flour paste products. The material composition or geocultural origin must be specified when discussing noodles. The word derives from the German word Nudel.
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). In Tang Dynasty, the noodles were first cut into strips, and in Yuan Dynasty, the making of dried noodles began. It is also noted that the Chinese presented Marco Polo with noodles during his exploration.
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.
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.
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 Hebrew 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.
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.
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