Taiwan, Mecca for Noodle-Lovers

By Trista di Genova, Oxford University
for TheWildEast.net

modern noodles
“I want noodle!”
I have heard this shouted many times on the streets of Taiwan, by both children and adults alike.

You may object to a translation of “noodles” in the singular, but in Chinese there is no such thing as the plural of anything. So to the Taiwanesey people, there can be only one noodle.

There are oodles of noodles here; perhaps it is easy to be oblivious that here, we are swimming in one collective ocean of Noodledom. And if the universe is composed of just one long noodle, how can you truly appreciate all noodles?

Even the average Taiwanese takes for granted what must be – certainly — a competitive edge to carve out a big niche in the international noodle market.

Bar none, hands down, Taiwan has the most cutting edge (well not literally), state-of-the-art noodles.

Most of the world seems wholly unaware that Taiwan in particular is the Home of the Noodle, and by noodular extension, the Unofficial Mecca for Noodle-Lovers.

This is one noodle-lovin’ nation, man.
In terms of noodles, the ROC ROCs.
And if you aren’t into noodles, you soon will be.
There is so much noodle to love.
If you have any doubts on this point, allow me to me win you over.

You may think every noodle looks pretty much the same. But Taiwan seems to have an infinite number of noodle dishes.

There’s yo mian, yellow shiny noodles; mifan or rice noodles; dong tian mian or winter noodles made of green beans (said by my colleague to “bite the stomach”), hefan or river noodles, bantiao mien or Hakka-style “plank noodles” in wide strips, daoxiao mian or noodles shaped by the cut of a knife.

There are thick, thin, medium-sized, rice noodles, egg noodles, millet noodles, dried noodle snacks for kids (xiao wong mien, or Little Prince), and a vast range of pao-mian — “fast noodles,” an astonishingly deluxe range of instant noodles…It’ll blow your mind!!

There are even oolong noodles inspired by the Japanese, or mahjong noodles, with sesame oil and what appears to be… peanut butter??

I like yo fan but that has nothing to do with noodles.

The funny thing is Taiwanese/Asians think of Italy as the home of the noodle, calling pasta and all spaghetti in general “Idalie mien,” Italy noodle.

They forget that even if Marco Polo hadn’t come in the 12th century, the only thing we’d be missing is maybe fettucini alfredo, and all the cheesy, fattening noodle dishes we should avoid anyway.

Where is the encyclopedic guide to noodles, anyway?
I had a look and only found “The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles,” which claims to explore “PASTA IN ALL THE VARIOUS GUISES AMERICANS ARE LIKELY TO SEE IT, EVERYTHING FROM FETTUCCINE TO SOBA NOODLES AND RAVIOLI TO GNOCCHI…”
But did you catch that?
These are all noodles from an AMERICAN perspective.
Everybody knows what Americans know about noodles.
Kraft macaroni & cheese – that’s all you got on us!
That and Smack Ramen in 4 flavors to feed your student population!

This “definitive” noodle guide has a chapter on Dried Semolina Pasta and Chinese Wheat Noodles, but that sounds lame!
Wheat noodles? Huhn??
Who knows what they are talking about.
It is impossible to contemplate that this book does justice to REAL noodles, in all of their glory, as they exist only in the Orient, and Taiwan in particular it seems.

One visiting Oxford scholar in Taiwan, Marcelo Gigi, compared noodles here to those in China, and recently confessed that Taiwan has more action and more diversity in noodular offerings.


ancient Chinese noodle
To give you an idea of the noodle’s ancient heritage we are dealing with here in the East, in October 2005 archaeologists discovered the oldest noodles in the world.

They found 4,000-year-old “la mien,” or pulled noodles — preserved under an overturned bowl and covered by 10 feet of mud during a catastrophic flood in Lajia, northwestern China. Once exposed to the air, they instantly vaporized. Poof!

“This is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found,” Houyuan Lu of Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences said.
Well praise be to jiajia for that!

National Geographic even wrote about the hot new noodle discovery.
“To determine what the noodles were made from, Lu and colleagues compared the shape and patterning of the starch grains and seed husks in the noodle bowl with modern crops.

The team concluded the noodles were made from two kinds of millet —broomcorn millet and foxtail millet. The grain was ground into flour to make dough, which was then likely pulled and stretched into shape, about 20 inches long.

Prior to the discovery of noodles at the Lajia archaeological site, the earliest record of noodles appears in a book written during China’s East Han Dynasty sometime between A.D. 25 and 220, Lu said.”

6 thoughts on “Taiwan, Mecca for Noodle-Lovers

  • October 24, 2010 at 12:31 am

    I talked to a Chinese mainlander lady from Fujian, whose husband is Taiwanese, and they have noodle shop in Mucha. I asked her about noodles in Taiwan vs. China, and she says there are many more types of noodles and noodle dishes here…. This plays right into my argument that TAIWAN IS A NOODLE MECCA.

  • August 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    The other day I found a place near Fuxing/Nanjing that sells lemon black tea with jelly noodles in it! A little strange, but okay! Any noodle is good noodle.

    And xiang mian, you can get it almost anywhere, lotsa roadside vendors — kind of like menudo with tripe, rice noodles, cilantro on top. delicious shite.

  • August 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    one quick note:

    mifan(米飯) is rice (not rice noodles)
    hefen(河粉) is rice noodles

    my favorite is liang mian(涼麵) cold noodles with sesame paste often served at breakfast … 好吃啦!

  • Pingback: 佳和里報告 (Joy Harmony Community Report): 外國小姐很會煮飯 « My Life in Anecdotes

  • July 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Forgot “xiang mien,” kind of like menudo with millet noodo. So good with bamboo shoots and fresh coriander on top!!! oh my GOD…

    Other comments:

    Did the list include Taiwan’s “yi” mien?
    Yi mien are like prefried noodles eg “gan yi mien”. Not sure if I’ve got that wrong, though. – Daniel Wallace

    “Now we’re talking my language, noodles are close to godly.” — Martin Campbell


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