Monthly Archives: June 2018

An Analysis of Food as a Powerful Tool that Brings the World Together in the Context of the Noodle

An Analysis of Food as a Powerful Tool that Brings the World Together in the Context of the Noodle

People around the world share a common need that exists despite differences in race, religion, ethnicity, and gender. That need is for food. It is perhaps a one of the greatest equalizers in the world. Many different cuisines exist based on global location and resources, but they take hints from each other. Chefs are influenced by dishes they have tried from different cuisines and subsequently try to incorporate some aspects into their own dishes. This sharing and appreciation for differences is what makes food such a great equalizer. It provides an avenue for people to exchange and share ideas while learning and growing together. One such dish that perfectly exemplifies this is the noodle. With origins in both China and Italy, this item has become a global phenomenon to the point where so many different shapes, sizes, sauces, flavors, and smells exist. With so many different countries having their own renditions, noodles have come to represent humanity as whole, showcasing that while superficial differences exist, they are all still noodles. Food is reflective of the people that prepare and enjoy it and when so many people enjoy and prepare variations of the same dish, it can be said that it reflects a similarity in all of them. The noodle is a unique dish that has the power to blend all sorts of different flavors into one unique experience, and just as with flavors, noodle dishes from around the world bring people together regardless of their differences because like different noodle dishes, in the end at our core people are all the same.

To truly appreciate and understand the noodle and its power to enact change it is helpful to understand it origins and first steps of expansion. Some of the earliest mentions of the noodle in China goes back to the Han dynasty which existed from approximately 206 BC – 220 AD. The first mentions of the dish actually called it a “cake” of sorts. This early definition is just one illustration of how the noodle has grown and changed drastically over time. After the Han dynasty, the Wei, Jin, Southern, and Northern dynasties innovated even more noodle types from the original cake form. The new forms of noodles were called the Shui Yin and Bo Tuo styles. For further context, the shui yin was described as, “flat noodles shaped like a leek leaf cooking in a pot with boiling water” (Zhang, 2016). This style represented some of the first variations from the original noodle style and was just the beginning of the worldwide expansion that took place. The Sui, Tang, and Five dynasties continued the trend and introduced even more types. The noodle continued to grow and expand over time across China to a stage where each region had its own signature type of noodle. This is extensively detailed in the article, Noodle, Traditionally and Today, as the author provides an extensive list showcasing the many different types:

“In East China, there are Shanghai noodles in superior soup, Nanjing small boiled noodles, Hangzhou Pian Er Chuan noodles with preserved vegetable, sliced Pork, and bamboo shoots in soup, … In Southern China, there are Guangzhou wonton noodles. In Central China, there are Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste. In North China, there are Beijing fried bean sauce noodles… In Northwest China, there are Xinjiang pulled noodles, Shanxi oil-splashing noodles…” (Zhang, 2016)

This is just an excerpt of the very extensive list that if fully included would take up the whole page. That level of variety shows how the noodle became a staple in many different regions because of its ability to be incorporated in with the local resources and customs. What makes the noodle so unique is its ability to adapt across so many different regions in China, and more importantly, beyond China.

Noodles continued to span across Asia and the rest of the world, tying together different cultures with an appreciation for a common dish. In her book, On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta, the author Jun Lin-Liu discusses noodles in different countries along the original silk road. In one portion, she mentions a dish that seems to be popular from China through central Asia, “In the northwestern region of China and Central Asia, Uighurs and Uzbeks make a dish called manta, steamed dumplings filled with mutton and pumpkin and served with cream” (Lin-Liu, 2013). This dish, manta, is based off of a dumpling which is a classic Chinese dish, so the influence can be clearly seen. However, the author goes on to detail how the dish changes as different regional influences are added, “In Turkey, the dish evolves into manti, tiny tortellini-like dumplings that are boiled and served with yogurt, mint-infused oil, paprika, and crushed walnuts” (Lin-Liu, 2013). From the description, it is clear this similar dish, manti, is based off the original dumpling while also incorporating some Italian influences, which led to the “tortellini” shape. The Italian influence that is present is very important as it illustrates the expansive presence that noodles have. This connection across Europe and Asia ties the many different cultures across the two together.

So far, the focus has primarily been on China and how their noodles connect to other cultures, but it is also important to consider the other main origin of the noodle, Italy. According to studies, the noodle can be traced far back to the Etruscan times in ancient Italy. Sometimes it is said that Marco Polo discovered them in his travels but that has been shown to be more of a re-discovery of the dish. Italian pasta is famous across the world and is a staple in many different households. There are so many different pasta shapes and sauces that have all been carefully crafted for a specific purpose and to make the dishes the best they can be. An interesting point about all these different shapes and such is that they are not unique to just Italy. In her book, Lin-Liu continues discussing the relationship between Chinese and Italian noodles stating, “Chinese “cat’s ear” noodles resembled Italian orecchiette. Hand pulled noodles, a specialty of China’s north west, were stretched thin as angel hair. Dumplings and wontons were folded in ways similar to ravioli and tortellini. Even the more obscure shaped of Italian pasta…had their Italian counterparts” (Lin-Liu, 2013). This resemblance between the two cultures is very important as it showcases a direct link between two seemingly different cultures. This link illustrates how theses cultures that admittedly are very different, still share some very important connections. The connections show that the two cultures have more than just a common food preference and that they both understand things like the nutritional value of noodles and pasta and how they are perfect dishes for tying together many flavors. Furthermore, it was noted that, “Italians, like Chinese, drank liquor infused with other ingredients in order to relieve everyday ailments” (Lin-Liu, 2013). All these connections illustrate an important fact and that is that the people of these cultures are more similar to each other than expected. Enjoying the same food is one thing, but expanding it and perfecting it to the degree that these two cultures have, showcases a different level of similarity in commitment. Food is representative of the culture behind it, therefore it stands to be reasoned that when two cultures have such similarities in their food choices, the reflected cultures have the same similarities.

All across the world from Asia to South America, unique noodles dishes can be found that reflect the culture and resources of the people in the area. The power of Italian and Chinese cuisine to be taken and adapted to cuisines around the world is what truly sets them apart. In an article from Condé Nast traveler, Around the World in 12 Noodle Dishes – From Ramen to Saimin, the author, Mary Holland, discusses and illustrates the wide variability of the noodle. She introduces the article stating, “A dish can tell you so much about a place. It’s more of an experience than just a meal – it’s an entry point into a culture…” (Holland, 2015). It is this sentiment that drives this analysis of food as a method of measuring similarity between different peoples. She goes on to introduce different noodle dishes from around the world starting with Pho, a Vietnamese dish featuring long and thin rice noodles in a broth with spices and topped with various vegetables. This dish is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine and is believed to have originated as a mix between French and Chinese dishes. Similarly, Saimin was originally a Chinese dish, but it became what it is known as today in Hawaii from a mix of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. It features egg noodles, a broth, and several other vegetables. Dishes like these are just a few examples of how noodles have spread across the world. What is perhaps more interesting is how noodles have spread to countries that one would not expect, like Iran and Peru.  In Iran, there is a popular dish called Ash Reshteh. This dish is described as, “linguine-shaped reshteh noodles, khask (Persian whey) and a variety of wholesome ingredients including spinach, lentils, chick peas, turmeric, and parsley, this vegetarian soup is brimming with flavor” (Holland, 2015). The connection to other countries is undeniable as this dish has a symbolic value similar to Chinese culture in that it is considered to be associated with good luck and is eaten around the New Year. The belief in the power of noodles reflects on the Persian culture behind the dish and reveals its unexpected similarities with Chinese culture. Peru also features similar connections to Chinese culture. In Peru, there is a whole segment of cuisine called Chifa which is a mix between Cantonese and Peruvian cuisines. Within this unique segment, there is a dish called Tallarin Saltado which is often described as, “fried noodle dish made from linguine or linguine-shaped noodles… tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, green onion, cilantro and beef, all stir fried in a piping hot pan” (Holland, 2015). Given the roots of this dish in Cantonese and Peruvian cuisine, there is clearly a link between the two cultures. This time the link spans the Pacific Ocean and reflects that despite the distance that the cultures are still linked. These different twists on the same dish illustrate the wide-spanning reach of the noodle across the world. These different interpretations encourage the sharing of styles and methods of cooking and thus cultural ways. Cultures and cuisines vary, but regardless of form the noodle is a constant that reflects that there are more similarities than expected between different people.

One of the earliest instances of food bringing different peoples together is a holiday that many Americans celebrate every year, Thanksgiving. While this holiday does not feature Chinese or Italian cultures, it is still a very important illustration of the power of food as a connector. This famous feast featured the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sharing food to celebrate a successful harvest. This interaction brought two completely different cultures together through a mutual love for food. This is just one example of the phenomenon and up until his recent tragic death, Anthony Bourdain, was a strong advocate for the power of food and connecting people. In season 8 episode 1 of his show, Parts Unknown, Bourdain shared noodles with President Barack Obama at a small noodle restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam. They each enjoyed some classical Vietnamese Bun Cha, which features rice noodles with pork and other delicious garnishes. In their conversation, Bourdain spoke about exploring the world and stated, “The extent to how you can see other people live seems useful at worst, and incredibly pleasurable and interesting at best”. This statement of encouragement to explore the world resonated with many. Bourdain spent his own life exploring the world through food as it is one of the best ways to understand the culture behind it. He would dine at the small family owned establishments that were close to the roots of the country and get a true feeling for the reflected culture. He did perhaps the best job of illustrating the power of food to reflect the cultural DNA of a country and how that DNA was more connected than one might expect. Running with that point President Obama then stated, “It confirms the basic truth that people everywhere are pretty much the same, the same hopes and dreams…”. This statement from a very influential figure of the modern era supports the sentiment that noodles are truly representative of people. Noodles come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes but in the end, they are all still noodles. This may seem like a stretch to connect humanity and noodles but the ability of noodles to reflect differences and similarities in various cultures truly draws the two together. In a separate instance Bourdain stated, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody”. Food has an uncanny ability to draw people together. Trying new and exotic foods often seems daunting to some people, but when a dish has a sense of familiarity, it eases the transition. Noodles do just that, as they have a familiar sense for many people that draws them in along with a new twist to introduce them to the new culture. This allows people to take a step into a new world and share and enjoy which as Bourdain said is, “a plus for everybody”.

This idea of using noodles to bring people together all comes down to people sharing food. Sharing food allows people to share their cultural differences. It is the avenue by which information is passed in all sorts of settings. In a National Geographic article titled, The Joy of Food, the author states, “Food is more than survival. With it we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings” (Pope). This sentiment is not unique. It is not something that people often think about, but instead do inherently because it is so tightly engrained in the cultural DNA. Business meetings, dates, family gatherings, and even work is planned around food without a second thought given to it. This level of inclusion is no mistake but rather an appreciation for the concept that keeps the world running. That may seem like a grand statement but recent highly important political meetings have been supported with food. Regardless of political opinion, it can be stated that the recent meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a landmark political event. The summit featured an elegant use of food as both leaders and their delegations enjoyed dishes native to both countries. While this may seem like a small gesture, it was symbolic of the two countries coming together and provides yet another example of food being used to connect the world. This is no modern concept either, as the same National Geographic article from above also states that, “The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. From Quesem Cave near Tel Aviv come evidence of ancient meals prepared at a 300,000-year-old hearth, the oldest ever found, where diners gathered to eat together” (Pope). This piece of evidence further supports the claim that sharing food is a part of human DNA. Given that the same practice has been going for at least 300,000 years, it provides almost irrefutable evidence that sharing food is a part of being human. It is a quintessential trait that links all humans and encourages all to find the common connection between each other. By eating together people share stories, and learn about others who may be similar or very different from themselves.

People around the world are brought together by food. The noodle is a prime example that metaphorically illustrates the bringing together of people through different flavors that are tied together. The term noodle is viewed in many different ways around the world, but in the end, they all share the same core, which shows that humans are the same despite surface differences. By sharing food, people are able to learn about each other and the different cultures reflected by different dishes. Food is a very personal tool that can be used to share and connect with others, thus creating an environment of shared differences. Understanding and appreciating different cultures is very important to coexistence as it mitigates misunderstandings that lead to conflicts. It seems odd to attribute a large phenomenon like coexistence between cultures to the noodle, but its adaptability and ability to reflect the cultures highlights similarities that are not often initially apparent. Whether it’s a high stakes political summit or just some friends at a potluck, noodles tie together flavors and people, bringing everyone a little closer together.

 

Works Cited

Bourdain, Anthony, director. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Netflix Official Site, 16 June 2018, www.netflix.com/browse?jbv=70304979.

Daniels, Shannon. “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” Girlswritenow, 23 Dec. 2011, www.girlswritenow.org/workshops/food-memoir/.

Holland, Mary. “12 Of the World’s Most Incredible Noodle Dishes-From Ramen to Saimin.” Condé Nast Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, 9 Nov. 2015, www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-11-09/around-the-world-in-12-noodle-dishes-from-ramen-to-saimin.

Lin-Liu, Jen. On the Noodle Road: from Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta. Riverhead Books, 2014.

Pope, Victoria. “Joy of Food.” National Geographic, www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/joy-of-food/.

Plimoth Plantation. “Plimoth Plantation.” Thanksgiving History | Plimoth Plantation, www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-history.

Sietsema, Tom. “The Culinary Diplomacy of the Trump-Kim Summit Lunch Menu.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 June 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/trump-and-kims-lunch-menu-showed-off-some-culinary-diplomacy/2018/06/12/53e8d3bc-6e49-11e8-bf86-a2351b5ece99_story.html?noredirect=on.

Zhang, Na, and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, no. 3, 2016, pp. 209–212., doi:10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.003.

 

 

 

 

Category: Student Work

A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption by Tanya Rajabi

A Multi-Faceted Exploration of China’s Decline in Instant Noodle Consumption

Great speculation dominates the argument concerning exactly when in history and where in the world noodles were first introduced. Four thousand year old strings of noodles unearthed under an overturned bowl, however, eliminates any doubt as to the long withstanding preservation of the noodle in the Chinese diet.[i] Through thousands of years of serving as a staple ingredient in Chinese cuisine, the noodle has garnered endless unique varieties, methods of preparation, and uses with diverse meats and vegetables. One such variety of noodles that revolutionized the way noodles were consumed was the invention of the instant noodle in 1958. Momofuku Ando of Japan dehydrated steamed and seasoned noodles in oil heat to create the first instant noodles, and then established its industrial manufacturing. This product, which could be ready to consume in solely two minutes, quickly spread throughout Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. Traditional, homemade noodles remain as the typical form of the dish consumed in rural areas. However, growing in popularity at the same time that China was beginning its rapid transformation into an industrialized state, the instant noodle practically served as fuel to propel the urbanization and sustenance to nourish the labor force driving the urbanization in large cities. If noodles are to be considered the staple of the Chinese diet, then it is only just to consider instant noodles as the staple of urban megacities like Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes. The unannounced need to hustle in all aspects of work and daily life, as well as limited time and money available to dedicate to cooking homemade dishes or enjoying meals at restaurants has placed instant noodles as the center of what advances individuals in urban centers. Furthermore, some might go beyond to claim that the dependence of urban dwellers on instant noodles is what drives the economy, society, and state of China as a whole. Today, China contains by far the largest instant noodle market in the world, with 38,970 million servings sold in 2017.[ii] Despite this statistic, China surprisingly has in recent years been experiencing a significant decline in the demand and dependence on instant noodles. Through this paper, it becomes evident that the fluctuations in the market for instant noodles can best be examined alongside the movement of rural migrant workers, changes in economic patterns, and the emergence of recent health trends in China.

Prior to the 1970s, China was primarily an agricultural economy, with approximately 82 percent of the country’s population residing in rural areas. However, reforms allowing private ownership of, or de-collectivizing, rural lands in the 1980s resulted in more efficient food production while consequently causing 240 million agricultural laborers to be in surplus. As a result, unemployed rural residents began traveling to cities in search of greater economic opportunities in factories, construction sites, and other forms of cheap labor.[iii] According to polls conducted in 2016 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, decades of urban migration have resulted in an estimated 282 million rural migrant workers, which constitute over twenty percent of China’s total population.[iv] These migrant workers represent one of the most marginalized sectors of the population, as they are generally forced to work long hours with low pay rates and unfavorable living conditions. The average monthly wage for migrant workers in 2017 stood at 3,485 yuan, or roughly 525 United States dollars, which is far from a comfortable living wage in urban settings like Beijing. Additionally, surveys conducted by the National bureau of Statistics revealed that the average migrant worker living in a medium-sized city in China owned solely 15.7 square meters of space, and over a third of workers did not own a fridge or any cooking technologies.[v] Due to the aforementioned difficulties facing migrant workers upon their arrival to cities, little money and time remain for them to purchase and cook the traditional, time-consuming Chinese meals they would enjoy back home with their families. Alternatively, noodles, which are a staple in a wide variety of dishes in the Chinese diet, are consumed in the form of instant noodles. The minimal cost, wide availability, and quick preparation time of instant noodle packets are favored by migrants and are suitable for their strenuous lifestyle. With the rapid annual increase in rural to urban immigration within the majority of the last forty years, the demand for instant noodles is believed to have had consequently increased by an annual rate of twenty percent in the beginning decades of its introduction.[vi] This great increase in demand for instant noodles was spearheaded by rural workers residing in cities, who are the largest consumers of instant noodles in China.[vii]

While rural migrants themselves suffer from low wages and harsh living conditions, their presence in factories and construction sites are responsible for the major industrialization and urbanization that Chinese cities have experienced in the second half of this century. However, the economic boom caused by rural to urban migration is slowing, and the migrants’ temporary stays in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and the likes are coming to an end as they begin returning to their hometowns.[viii] China is outgrowing its emphasis on manufacturing, construction, and other labor intensive jobs and has begun outsourcing these occupations to other countries in Southeast Asia. In their place, China now wants to focus on developing high-end technology and improving its service sector of the economy. Unfortunately, migrant workers do not have the skills and qualifications necessary to successfully work in these more advanced sectors of the economy, and as a result, millions of jobs have been lost. According to one rural migrant, “Today, it is harder to find a job and it is easier to lose one.”[ix]  However, these trends of unemployment have not gone unnoticed by the Chinese government. Rural provinces such as Guizhou have been encouraging migrant workers to return to their hometowns through incentives such as providing resources to start their own businesses, offering classes to gain greater skills in the workforce, and helping them find employment in their hometowns.[x] Due to the efforts of the government, as well as the unavailability of employment in urban locations, approximately 1.7 million fewer migrant workers resided in cities in 2015 than in 2014, indicating a migrant population decrease in China for the first time in thirty years. Similarly, between the years of 2010 and 2016, the growth in migrant workers significantly decelerated to 0.5 percent, in contrast to the previous migration rate of 5.2 percent.[xi] Migrants are willingly returning to their hometowns, and with these new entrepreneurs, China hopes to experience equivalent economic growth in its rural areas as well.

Occurring at the same time as the rather dramatic decrease in rural to urban migration has been the rapid decrease in sales of instant noodles. Data on instant noodle consumption in China has demonstrated that the number of packets of these convenient noodles sold have been unprecedently declining. In 2013, the sales of instant noodles in China exceeded 46.2 billion packets, which is equivalent to 1,465 packets of instant noodles consumed every second. It was recorded in 2016, however, that only 38.5 billion packets of instant noodles were sold, which is approximately a decrease in 8 billion packets over the course of three years. In terms of percentages, this difference in sales indicates a dramatic 17 percent drop in instant noodle consumption in China.[xii] Major instant noodle companies in China are currently suffering from the shrinking market size of instant noodles caused by the decrease in their demand. Tingyi Holding Corporation, which owns the popular instant noodle brand name Master Kong, reported in 2016 a revenue of 3.2 billion United States dollars, which was a 25.24 percent decrease from 2013’s revenue of 4.3 billion United States dollars. Similarly, another popular instant noodle brand in China, Uni-President, reported a 7.06 percent decrease in gross revenue and a net profit drop of 26 percent in 2016.[xiii] Instant noodle companies throughout China continue to struggle to keep their companies and brand names alive in the midst of the declining consumption of their products.

It is not merely a coincidence that the decline in instant noodle consumption in recent years is occurring simultaneously with the fluctuation in the rural and urban economies and migration patterns. As discussed previously, the slowing economy in urban locations and the spark in the economy of rural areas has resulted in the migration of rural workers back toward the countryside. This rural labor force was once greatly attracted to instant noodles due to their convenience, low cost, and availability. However, now that these migrants are being lured home with government incentives, they for the most part now have access to adequate cooking spaces and cheaper ingredients, longer periods of time dedicated to leisure, and are closer to families who can cook meals for them. Thus, the need for convenient, ready-made instant noodles is virtually eliminated once migrants return to their rural homes. Furthermore, more individuals in the labor force are choosing to remain in rural areas, where employment opportunities are increasing, rather than migrate to cities in search of work in the first place.[xiv] According to Zhang Xin, an economics professor at Tongji University, “far fewer low-paid migrants from rural China are moving to or living in cities, where they are one of the biggest consumers of instant noodles.”[xv] Therefore, as the number of rural migrant workers limited to impoverished living conditions in bustling cities are dwindling, the demand for quick, already-prepared meals like instant noodles continues to decrease as well in China.

As explored earlier, rural migrant workers in cities, alongside other Chinese residents in the lower economic class, are responsible for a great fraction of the instant noodle sales in China. However, individuals and families in the middle and upper classes are also regular consumers of instant noodles. The unlimited availability, quick preparation time, and portability of instant noodles tailors to the hectic, fast paced lifestyle experienced by residents living in the bustling urbanized areas of China, causing them to be in high demand even among the wealthy. However, Chinese citizens have begun taking interest in the recent upspring in health trends popular in the United States, such as limiting carbohydrate, sugar, salt, and gluten intake as well as emphasizing natural, fresh foods. According to Zhao Ping of the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International trade, those following new fad diets “are more interested in life quality than just filling their bellies these days” and have deemed the original instant noodles as “junk food.” Seeking better alternatives to premade noodles with dehydrated vegetables and meats, customers have found delicious, high quality, and healthy noodles through food delivery companies.[xvi] Companies such as “Meituan Waimai” and “Ele.me” meet all of the requirements of convenience for busy urban residents. Mobile applications have been created to allow practically any dish to be ordered at customers’ fingertips and transportation methods have been arranged for rapid delivery to customers’ doorsteps.[xvii] Research conducted by the China Internet Network Information Center in 2016 reported that food delivery services had reached 295 million users, indicating a 41.6 percent increase in just one year.[xviii] As a result, the growing popularity and increased utilization of on-demand food delivery services by China’s growing middle class have made it difficult for longstanding instant noodle brands to prevent their sales from plummeting. In response, however, some companies are abandoning their outdated, “junk food” noodles and instead are taking measures to meet the demands of changing trends and fad diets in China. According to Alex Lo, president of Uni-President Enterprises, the instant noodle company is now focusing on high-end instant noodle products, which “[are] in line with the consumption upgrade in China.”[xix]

Whether the main reasoning behind the reduction in consumption of instant noodles is because of limited rural worker migration to China’s large cities, the desire for more nutritious and higher quality foods, or a culmination of both, it is without a doubt that movements in China’s economy and social tendencies have a direct impact on the state of the instant noodle.  However, noodles as a whole are so heavily engrained in the Chinese culture that these fluctuations in society have not had the power to eliminate noodles from the Chinese diet. Rather, the type and the way the noodles are prepared and served are simply transformed alongside the historical transformation of China itself. Noodles have served and will continue to serve as a manifestation of the preferences of the Chinese palate and the state of China as a whole.

 

[i] Roach, John. “4,000 Year Old Noodles Found in China.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 12 Oct. 2005, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/1012_051012_chinese_noodles.html.

[ii] “Global Demand of Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association, 2018, instantnoodles.org/en/noodles/market.html.

[iii] Li, Shi. “The Economic Situation of Rural Migrant Workers in China.” China Perspectives, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, 15 Dec. 2010, chinaperspectives.revues.org/5332.

[iv] Migrant. “282 Million Rural Migrant Workers in China.” GBTIMES, GBTIMES Beijing, 15 Mar. 2017, gbtimes.com/chinas-rural-migrant-workers-totals-282-million-2016.

[v] “Migrant Workers and Their Children.” China Labour Bulletin, China Labour Bulletin, 24 May 2018, www.clb.org.hk/content/migrant-workers-and-their-children.

[vi] Huocan, Lin. “Listed Instant-Noodle Manufacturers See Profit Declines in H1.” China Economic Net, Chine Economic Net, 12 Sept. 2013, en.ce.cn/Insight/201309/12/t20130912_1486469.shtml.

[vii] Atkinson, Simon. “Why Are China Instant Noodle Sales Going off the Boil?” BBC News, BBC, 20 Dec. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/business-42390058.

[viii] Liu, Coco. “Returning Migrants: the Chinese Economy’s next Great Hope.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 17 Mar. 2018, www.scmp.com/week-asia/business/article/2137034/returning-migrants-chinese-economys-next-great-hope.

[ix] Rasper, Anke. “World in Progress: Chinese Migrant Workers Return Home | DW | 25.01.2017.” DW.COM, Deutsche Welle, 25 Jan. 2017, www.dw.com/en/world-in-progress-chinese-migrant-workers-return-home/av-37269340.

[x] Reuters. “As China’s Economy Slows, Migrant Workers Head Home.” Fortune, Fortune, 10 Oct. 2016, fortune.com/2016/10/10/china-economy-migrant-workers/.

[xi] Chan, Tara Francis. “Falling Instant-Noodle Sales Points to the Economic Rise of Rural China.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 18 Dec. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/fewer-rural-migrants-moving-to-chinas-cities-2017-12.

[xii] “Sales of Instant Noodles Declining Fast in China.” The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings, 17 Dec. 2017, www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/sales-of-instant-noodles-declining-fast-in-china.

[xiii] Zhuoqiong, Wang. “Instant Noodles Market Cools Off.” China Developing a Taste for the World’s Best Wine – EUROPE – Chinadaily.com.cn, 17 Aug. 2017, europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2017-08/17/content_30722149.htm.

[xiv] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

[xv] Chan, Tara Francis. “Falling Instant-Noodle Sales Points to the Economic Rise of Rural China.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 18 Dec. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/fewer-rural-migrants-moving-to-chinas-cities-2017-12.

[xvi] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

[xvii] Shi, Kaikai. “The 5 Most Popular Food Delivery Apps in China.” AllTechAsia, AllTechAsia, 9 Feb. 2018, alltechasia.com/5-popular-food-delivery-apps-china/.

[xviii] Liangyu. “China Focus: Sales of Instant Noodles Softening Fast in China.” XinhuaNet, XinhuaNews, 17 Dec. 2017, www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-12/17/c_136832517.htm.

[xix] He, Laura. “China’s Growing Middle Class Lose Appetite for Instant Noodles.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 21 Aug. 2017, www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107540/chinas-growing-middle-class-lose-appetite-instant-noodles.

Category: Student Work

The Role of Korean Ramyeon – Christina Ji Young Chang

Christina Chang

The Role of Korean Ramyeon

Instant Korean ramyeon is popular all over the world today. It can be found in myriad places, including western supermarkets, majority of Asian markets, and even at the summit of Jungfrau in Switzerland due to its popular demand. In the motherland, ramyeon consumption is about 70~90 ramyeon per person a year, and 3.3 billion for the whole population of Korea every year. Lim Chun-aem, a track-and-field athlete who won 3 medals in the 1986 Asian Games, even stated that she only ate ramyeon and ran to train for the race.  Despite the world’s view of being unhealthy and a quick fix to a fast paced life, instant ramyeons are continuing to evolve and carry a significant place on everyone’s table as a staple food; ramyeon creations also reflect the Korean’s open cultural mindset that welcomes cultural identities and enjoys creating hybrids.

 

The history of Korean ramyeon began in 1963, as a cheap filler food during the post-Korean war age when most were famished. Samyang food came up with their reputable Samyang ramyeon with the help of Japan’s mechanical equipment and started the boon of the stereotypic red and spicy soup. Afterwards, the ramyeon rush continued in the 1980’s when Shin Ramyeon was launched. In a span of 10 years, Shin ramyeon was exported to foreign countries and  the Korean ramyeon industry continued to propel forward. As many were tired of the same stereotypic ramyeon, new fusion types began to arise in the 2000’s. Although it has only been 55 years since the start of the first Korean ramyeon, this industry has become one of the most prominent Korean export regime and a part of Korean cultural DNA. Dong-ryun Ko, a Korean engineer, mentioned that “ramyeon is like kimchi (one of the most popular side-dishes) to Koreans. The smell and taste create an instant sense of home.” Similarly, ramen has this impact on many Koreans continuing its conquer in the history of South Korea.

 

The now leading Korean export regime of ramyeon first started off by exporting into neighboring Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and North Korea. The response was very positive to the point where North Koreans used ramyeon as a mode of diet, food when appetite is lost, ; North Koreans would enjoy Korean ramyeon over all other types, leading to Chinese companies putting Hangul on their products on purpose to mislead the customers into thinking that they were from South Korea. Although the boom in other countries are mainly due to the taste and easy accessibility, I believe that K-Pop and K-drama also had a colossal effect. Through an interview with Ellie Halm, she mentioned that as she was learning the Korean language by watching K-drama, she also learned to eat the food that appeared on the shows, especially ramyeon. There are many dramas and shows that are dedicated to food and cooking, such as “Let’s Eat”. These types of shows promoted the Koreans’ love for their food, in this case ramyeon, that was reflected and spread throughout Asian and Western countries.

 

Although the consumptions of ramyeon are very high, it is hard to deny the fact that they are as nutrition deficient as any other types of instant ramens when it is cooked and eaten by itself. Purposive fortification with essential micronutrients may provide some additional nutritional value to ramen but it still cannot be the primary and the only source of food for individuals. If consumption is high, it is also known to be positively related to the obesity, cardiometabolic risk factors, and heart failures due to the lack of nutrition and sodium, as one instant ramyeon delivers more than 90% of the recommended daily sodium intake. Just like any other junk food, ramyeon is massively consumed around the world and there are certainly other factors that precede such health risk.

 

Even though ramyeon is merely known as a quick and filling meal with health risks stated above, there are many culturally significant meanings behind this bowl of noodles that makes it the popular dish that it is today. First, it is known to help overcome hangovers, also known as haejang. Koreans are known to be the second highest alcohol consumer in the world.  With such high percentage of alcohol consumption, ramyeon is a meal that is consumed at night or even in the morning after a night out to overcome and decrease the effects of alcohol hangover. In an interview with Jessica Lee, she said, “similar to Americans drinking Bloody Mary after drinking, we eat ramyeon to lessen the hangover”. Second, ramyeon is a one of the necessities that are essential to bring when camping. Ramyeon soup base can be used in all Korean stews to enhance the taste and the noodles can be added for taste at any time also. When at a Korean camping base, the smell of ramyeon fills the air, as most if not all utilize ramyeon in their meals in some shape and form. Indeed, ramyeon is a way of life for Koreans.

 

Third, ramyeon somehow became a pop culture in recent years. After a successful episode in the Korean Saturday Night Live few years ago, ramyeon became a litote in Korea. It turned into a symbol of seduction. “Do you want to eat ramyeon at my place?” became the modern litote which is similar to phrase “wanna come up to see my etchings?” in America during the mid-20th century. Rather a litote than a double entendre, it became immensely popular across all generations which was contrary to the deep-rooted confucianism and conservationism among the Koreans. In my opinion, the familiarity and comfort of ramyeon have nullified the sexuality commonly associated with the litote.

 

Lastly, ramyeon is rationed out as emergency food in Korea. Along with other essentials, ramyeon is distributed as staple food in areas affected by natural disasters. Due to its durability and mobility, ramyeon is distributed to both victim and rescuers. During the Sewol ferry incident in 2014, thousands of ramyeon was distributed to the emergency shelter for everyone to quickly consume food and resume rescue works. Tons of ramyeon are occasionally shipped to North Korea as part of humanitarian efforts. Even when hot, clean water is unavailable, ramyeon is eaten raw which is also considered a delicacy. Following that concept, there is even a snack in Korea called “ppushu ppushu smash noodle” which is essentially a raw ramyeon noodles with seasonings. It is consumed by smashing the noodles into pieces and mixing up well with given seasonings. This simply showcases the undying love Koreans have for ramyeon. According to Koby Han who has completed two years of military service in Korea, a variety of ramyeon is rationed to the soldiers weekly to be consumed as an addition to the given meals. Even during his combined military exercises with the United States Forces in Korea (USFK), ramyeon was rationed out to both Korean and American soldiers. Koby claimed that ramyeon is a delicacy every soldier love to eat after completing his guard duty overnight and it creates inseparable bonds with your comrades. From such perspectives, I can infer that ramyeon is indeed a soul food that fuels the spirits of Koreans in any occasion.

 

Creativity with ramyeons is one of the reasons why it is so popular and well-known. So many different recipes could be made with one ramyeon by adding different ingredients. Relating it to the interview that I have done with Sandy Lin, Sandy talked about the balanced diet that Chinese noodles can have by eating it with different sides, such as vegetables and meat; this can also be true with Korean ramyeon. Countless of ingredients can be added, such as bean sprouts, bean paste, carrots, potatoes, meat, milk, and even coke to advance it into a better balanced and nutritious meal despite its lacking nutritional values when eaten alone; ramyeon can also be added to existing, traditional, nutritious dishes and add on to the delicate taste. Tim Alper, a journalist, has been living in Korea for over 10 years and has been conducting what I see as the most effective fieldwork, participant observation. Participant observation is an inside perspective on culture of an individual who can apply his or her outsider’s perspective in order to draw wider conclusions. It involves everyday tasks that are essential in learning culinary tradition and understand the final outcome. Tim Alper saw countless different combinations of ramyeon that were made by people living in Korea. I believe that these countless customization led to the fame that it has today.

 

Furthermore, ramyeon can also be mixed from two different types. For example, the most famous and popular mix would be jjapaguri. This is a mix of two different ramyeons, jjapagetti and neoguri, that is known to make an unprecedented taste that captured the hearts of hundreds and thousands of citizens of Korea. This recipe first originated from the soldiers who were experimenting during their free time and the recipe was available on the internet, but started its boom when it hit the TV in 2013. Since then, people started to share their recipes of mixing different types of ramyeon together on the internet. Furthermore, some ramyeon companies responded by actually manufacturing the popular ramyeon mix recipes. For instance, the popular mix of buldak-bokkeum noodle with jjapagetti was eventually produced as a single ramyeon product called Jjajang-buldak by the Samyang food company. These types of versatility in the ramyeon recipe led to people sharing their own recipes with their friends and family, creating time for them to bond and connect. Seen in the reading, The Dog who Ate the Truffles”, special recipes were passed down to their family members as they were spending quality time together, allowing time for bonding, understanding, and connecting with each other. This parallelism shows that ramyeon is not merely a quick, easy, and unhealthy meal eaten in the fast paced society, but method for members of society to connect and share time together while sharing a bowl of ramyeon. Such phenomenon is also a fine reflection of a common symptom among the Koreans: the parrot effect. Koreans tend to like doing what others are doing, often resulting in an ubiquitous fashion, styles and delicacy. Mixing of ryameon became an instantaneous phenomenon, thanks to the parrot effect, which eventually resulted in a mass love for creative ramyeon mixes. This also reflects the strong unity and sense of togetherness among the Koreans; the cultural DNA.

 

As ramyeon transformed into a meal, instead of merely being a quick fix, fusion ramen came to surface and showed the versatile mind that Koreans have, accepting other cultures and identities as part of their own. After countless similar stereotypic red and spicy ramyeon, fusion ramyeon were made. These ramyeon not only represent Korea, but different countries. For example, there are curry spicy ramyeon, a fusion of Korean and Indian taste, bean paste ramyeon, a fusion of Korean and Chinese taste, soba ramyeon, mix of Korean and Japanese, and more. I believe that this reflects upon Korean mindset of being open to myriad societies, and cultures.

 

In my personal experience, ramyeon was a comforting food that helped me feel as if I was home when I was in a foreign place and feel calm when I was upset. Although it is merely a bowl of noodles that could be fixed in 5 minutes, I could relate to the bonding that could be formed via food as mentioned above for ramyeon and the book “The Dog who Ate the Truffle”. In my case, my brother and I have been growing up in separate countries for most of our lives as we went to school. During summer and winter breaks, we would come back to our house, but still not see each other very often due to our busy schedules. One of the times we would gather together was when we wanted to make ramyeon. My brother would come over to my room and ask me to start boiling the water. We would wait with anticipation for our noodles and even share and try new recipes together. I think these times were very meaningful as I look back at my childhood; it was a conversation starter for us and would get us talking and bonding, which was not an easy thing to do for teenagers. For me, ramyeon was not just a bowl of noodles but also a bridge to connect with my brother.

 

In conclusion, ramyeon is more than what it is known to be; it has many cultural and historical backgrounds, relating it to the military, foreign relations, quality bonding time with friends and family, and more. It has cultural values and holds a dear place in every Korean’s heart allowing them to take a taste of home wherever they may travel. Due to its phenomenal values, I believe that it is not an understatement to claim that ramyeon is indeed part of the Korean cultural DNA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Alper, Tim. “Instant Success: Why Koreans Are Crazy for Instant Noodles.” KOREA.net Gateway to Korea, 13 July 2016, www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Column/view?articleId=138467.

Farrand, Clare, et al. “Know Your Noodles! Assessing Variations in Sodium Content of Instant Noodles across Countries.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5490591/.

Huh, In Sil, et al. “Instant Noodle Consumption Is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Factors among College Students in Seoul.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449380/.

Hurwitz, David. “They Call It Ramen, We Call It Ramyeon.” Stripes Korea, 24 July 2015, korea.stripes.com/travel/they-call-it-ramen-we-call-it-ramyeon.

“History of Korean Ramyun/Ramen.” It’s Snack Time, 1 Jan. 1970, ilovekoreansnack.blogspot.com/2012/10/history-of-korea-ramyun.html.

“Instant Noodle Consumption Linked to Heart Risk in Women.” Harvard T. H. Chan, 29 Aug. 2014, www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/instant-noodle-consumption-linked-to-heart-risk-in-women/.

“Instant Noodles: Friend or Foe? South Koreans Defend Diet.” The Japan Times, 22 Aug. 2014, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/22/world/instant-noodles-friend-foe-south-koreans-defend-diet/.

Category: Student Work

“You are What You Eat”: The Intertwined Nature of Food and Identity – Eunheh Koh

America is a nation that is worldwide famous for being built on immigrants; in the history of America, the efforts of immigrants from Europe allowed them to reach success, causing America to become an icon of hope. This image of America persisted over the years, leading to large waves of immigration to the United States, with many immigrants leaving the comforts of their homes and coming to the United States, in the hopes to fulfill their dreams. With this big move to the United States, they brought new ideas, recipes and customs from their home culture. Unfortunately, Americans began to exhibit negative feedback to the growing “differentness” that was occurring all over the nation as more immigration occurred. Although it was hard for Americans to accept the foreigners, over time, food was something that the Americans loved about the introduction of these new ideas, especially after the most of the recipes were modified to match the American tastebud which fueled it to become an integral part of the American culture. These new foods incorporated both their roots and the influences of their new environment, fueling the creation of a new type of food, like Chinese-American food. Through generations, these ideas were passed on and have now become a large component of the lives of many immigrants and their families. The Chinese-American food became integral in helping people, particularly those are of Chinese heritage, embrace their multi-faceted identities; this is a prevalent phenomenon created by the immigration of new ideas from many cultures to the United States.

When thinking about the motive for immigration to the United States, the American Dream cannot be left out of the conversation. The American Dream fundamentally grew from America’s history in which the hard-working efforts of immigrants granted their success. This was an essential concept that was followed in the Declaration of Independence, that promised Americans the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Hanson 2). From these core values, America became famous for its fulfillment of prosperity, which instilled a great deal of hope for many future immigrants. Despite the difficulties of leaving the familiar customs of home and family, immigrants made the difficult travel across the ocean to get the “Land of Freedom.” However, as more and more foreigners came to partake in the American Dream, they were faced with more discrimination. The Chinese immigrants, in particular, experienced a great deal of discrimination in the United States. At first, during the Gold Rush in California, Chinese immigrants were incorporated into the labor force to help in the prosperous search for gold (PBS). However, as the economy worsened in the United States after the Gold Rush, Americans became concerned with the few number of jobs that were available in the job market, causing the Chinese to experience much more discrimination. This hatred took a multitude of forms, including anti-Chinese attacks, leading to the Chinese aggregating in neighborhoods, which were known as “Chinatowns,” to allow people to take safety in numbers (Goyette). Chinatown quickly grew to become a haven for Chinese immigrants as the discrimination continued to increase, especially with the oppressive legislation of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented Chinese residents of America to obtain their citizenship and restricting the new immigration of Chinese immigrants. As a result, many organizations began to offer programs in Chinatown for people whose immigration status were at risk with the new law (Goyette). Thus, Chinatown grew to become an integral aspect of the Chinese-American culture, as it became a haven for large community of Chinese-Americans, and in this safe space, they were able to celebrate their culture through food, as many people opened Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.

However, as time progressed, restaurants began to make two versions of their menus. One version utilized more traditional recipes from their hometown Canton, as most of the first Chinese immigrants were from Canton. On the other hand, the other menu had dishes that incorporated regional ingredients to their traditional recipes and were changed to tailor to the American palette, by becoming sweeter and more heavily deep-fried (Rude). For example, a popular American-Chinese dish, broccoli and beef, includes broccoli whereas the Chinese equivalent utilizes a Chinese broccoli called gai lan, which was likely changed because the gai lan was not available to Chinese chefs when they immigrated to the United States (Wong). Over time, the American-tailored menu overcame the more traditional Chinese menu in popularity as more and more Americans loved the food. The popularization of Chinese food was also positively impacted through the canning and freezing of Chinese meals, making them an affordable, yet delicious choice for dinner (Liu 50).

However, as these foods got more popular, the dishes began to veer much more from its roots, catalyzing the birth of Chinese-American food, which has now developed into an integral aspect of American culture. According to Jennifer Lee, many dishes of Chinese-American foods do not even exist in China. For example, the iconic, ever-famous Fortune Cookie that we always receive at the end of a meal at a Chinese restaurant, actually traces its origin to Kyoto, Japan, where there are many shops that carry the recipe through family lineages (Lee). These fortune cookies are not even recognized by the Chinese, as seen in Jennifer Lee’s TedTalk, when Chinese people are asked what the cookies are and have a hard time recognizing them (Lee, “The Hunt for General Tso”). These fortune cookies from Japan were brought to San Francisco, and were then incorporated to become an essential part of the Chinese-American menu (Wong). Chinese-American food, like all foods, is constantly changing; particularly, as Chinese chefs moved to different regions of the United States, they began to make new regional variations of Chinese-American dishes. For example, in the Midwest, cream-cheese wontons were created, which is now known as the popular crab rangoon while the chow-mien sandwich was developed in New England (Wei). The development of these regional specialities is another example of how American influence with the introduction of new ingredients, like cream-cheese, has shaped Chinese-American food more, and thus, making it into its own unique food type. It became what Americans considered to be “Chinese food,” especially since more authentic versions of Chinese dishes were introduced in the 1960s-1970s (Rude). These foods have become an integral part of the American culture, as they were adopted into American traditions over time. For example, the Jewish community often frequents Chinese restaurants on Christmas, not only because they are one of the only restaurants open on Christmas, but also because the cuisine matches well with Jewish law by not mixing milk and meat. This tradition started when the Chinese and Jewish people were the largest, non-Christian outsider groups in the 1900s, which connected the two communities, but has since developed and upheld to become a cultural tradition of many Jewish-Americans today (Chandler). Culture is ever-changing as well as food, which has led to the creation of Chinese-American food and its integration into American culture.

P.F. Chang’s., the restaurant chain, has become an interesting point of comparison of Chinese-American food to Chinese food. P.F. Chang’s was designed in 1993 by Phillip Chiang, a chef who aspired to create a chain restaurant that brought a more authentic dining experience, preserving the atmosphere of sitting down and eating, rather than takeout food, of Chinese culture. In China, the culture of bringing of people to eat together and developing deeper connections through food is very highly valued, which was lost in the eventual development of Chinese food into a popular option for takeout during the economic boom after World War Two (Great Big Story). The recipes for the dishes in P.F. Chang’s were authentic, as they did not purposely change the ingredients or flavors to tailor to the American tastebud (Liu 131). They included five major Chinese regional cuisines from Guangdong, Hunan, Mongolian, Shanghai and Sichuan, whereas American-Chinese food mainly came from Cantonese cuisine, which is the Guangdong region, because that was where early Chinese immigrants were from (Liu 131). At first, the restaurant experienced many comments of backlash, as Americans did not like the saltier and oilier dishes, which are the more typical flavors of the Chinese palette, but over time, the appeal for the more authentic Chinese dishes grew and the popularity of P.F. Chang’s grew. P.F. Chang’s began in a mall outlet in Arizona and spread all over the United States. Now, the chain has grown to make an international impact (Ell). In 2018, P.F. Chang’s opened their first location in Shanghai. To the surprise of many, the fast-food chain is advertised as an “American Bistro” on the logo, contrasting the “Asian Flavors” advertising in America, and is very popular in Shanghai (Ell). This contrast in advertising, however, indicates that some of the authenticity of the dishes on the menu may have been influenced by American customers, even though the mission of the restaurant is to not diverge from the traditional recipes. This is confirmed by a quote of the CEO of P.F. Chang’s, Mr. Oslanoo, as he describes the Chinese appeal as “‘[the Chinese] love the concept that it’s an American bistro, serving some of their favorite American dishes for an American-style palette, which is heavy protein’” (Ell). Thus, even though the original aim of the restaurant was to create a menu that was similar to an traditional Chinese menu, the American palette still influenced how many of the dishes were cooked, as chefs became aware that their customers preferred the heavy protein dishes of their foods. In this way, the food has become foreign to the Chinese, as they consider the dishes served at P.F. Chang’s as “American” for these changes like the heavier protein content that are not typically seen in the Chinese dishes, even though these dishes originated from traditional recipes.  The juxtaposition between the advertisement as an “American Bistro” in China while as “Asian Flavors” in America demonstrate how the Chinese-American food served at P.F. Chang’s is truly unique in its own sense. It stemmed from Chinese dishes, but was also heavily influenced by the environment of the United States, as chefs were receptive to the palette of the customer. While this may have been a more subconscious change, as chefs at P.F. Chang’s hoped to align with the restaurant’s mission of serving authentic food, the dishes served inevitably changed, as shown by the Chinese not recognizing these foods as Chinese, but alternatively considering them to be American. This brings up the question of authenticity: is P.F. Chang’s truly authentic? In what ways? In what ways is it not? What type of food is served at P.F. Chang’s? American or Chinese food?

Ultimately, P.F. Chang’s serves Chinese-American food; it is not purely Chinese or American, but is heavily influenced by both countries’ palettes and has become its own type of food. In this way, Chinese-American food is often criticized by people for its lack of authenticity. Many consider it to have stemmed too far away from its roots, as many of the dishes that are popular in Chinese restaurants in America are not recognizable to the Chinese in mainland China, as they have been heavily influenced by America’s tastebuds, like seen with the fortune cookie (Lee, “The Hunt for General Tso”). Thus, the definition of authenticity must be considered to further this analysis.

In her article “Rethinking the Meaning of Authentic Chinese Food,” Elena Zhang, a second-generation child of Chinese immigrants, considers what the true definition of authenticity is. When she originally thought about Chinese-American food, she did not think it was very authentic, as it was so heavily impacted by the foreign (American) influence, but the more she considered this definition of “purity from foreign influence,” she realized the extent to which foreign influence had truly affected Chinese food (Zhang). In particular, she mentions how in 3000 BC, wheat was introduced and now is a quintessential ingredient in many Chinese dishes (Zhang). Thus, even many of the foods that are considered to be authentic in China are still subject to foreign influence. As a result, she steered away from that definition and as she thought more about the dishes she considers to be authentic, she noticed they were the ones that she ate at home. As she continued her analysis, she then “realized that [her] mother was doing just what other Chinese chefs, chefs of any nationality really, have been doing throughout history: preserving tradition, while adapting to the times” (Zhang). Zhang argues how authenticity in terms of food can also be defined as foods that are passed down from generation to generation; it is the food that your family finds comfort and connections to home with (Zhang).

Thus, when considering this more accepting definition of authenticity and applying it to Chinese-American food, Chinese-American food has developed to become its own authentic cuisine. It may not fit into the distinct categories of being truly American or Chinese as it has diverged from its Chinese roots and made changes based on the American palette, but it has also developed into its own cuisine, and it becomes authentic based on its rich food history and how it is passed on over time. Chinese-American food incorporates ingredients of America, and thus is able to “adapt to the times” (Zhang). By substituting broccoli for gai lan, Chinese chefs were able to bring their favorite dish to America, but also make the necessary changes, as they lacked the gai lan (Wong); over time, these recipes with these changes are passed on through generations, from mother to daughter. Authentic food is the food that becomes important to your family and to your background, and it is flexible as it is able to embrace multiple facets of its own identity of its Chinese roots and American influence. The food served as P.F. Chang’s is a good example of this; both the Americans and Chinese view the food as foreign for its foreign qualities, however, the food itself has become its own authentic genre of cuisine that have become an important part of both cultures, as they both love to eat it. So while it may be perceived as foreign, it embraces both aspects of the Chinese and American cultures. These ideas of flexibility and fluidity of food are concepts that can also applied to identities; we, as people, are heavily influenced by our roots but also by the environment we grow up in, which ultimately impacts our identities. Our identity is not set in one category or the other – someone is not Chinese or American and we are able to adopt multiple aspects just like food. Identity is heavily shaped by our family, our heritage, our cultural values, our experiences with our friends and classmates, and our growing up experiences; we are constantly changing and learning throughout life, and as we grow up, our identities are also influenced by our changes.

Many people undergo the complex process of determining one’s identity, particularly many descendants from immigrant families undergo the struggle of being comfortable and accepting of our complex identity while growing up. We are tempted by the idea that by adopting only one identity, we are able to be a part of a strong community which may cause us to want to get rid of another aspect of our identity. However, as more time passes on and we learn more about ourselves and our core values, we begin to realize how special and important each aspect of our identity plays in our lives, especially as we begin to meet more people who are from similar backgrounds and undergo the same struggles of balancing and embracing both cultures.

From my personal experience, I have struggled my entire life accepting my identity as a Korean-American, from both sides of the spectrum, of not wanting to be Korean to not wanting to be American. When I was little, my parents had separated to allow my sister and I to grow up in a school environment that was more fostering to our dreams in America, moving us away from the cutthroat, competitive school experience that was prominent in Korea. As a result, I attended an elementary school that did not have as many Korean classmates as my pre-school classes in Korea, and from the moment I entered my homeroom classroom, I instantly realized how much I stood out because no one else looked like me.

The first day of elementary school brings particularly memorable memories that I can still remember to this day. In particular, my homeroom teacher was checking the attendance, and went down the list and called out a name that no one responded to. It was a very unique combination of sounds that I even thought to myself, wow that sounds like quite a different name from any of the American TV shows I watched. However, I quickly realized everyone was looking at me, and a few moments after, I looked up and she asked me to pronounce my name. I immediately flushed as she phonetically wrote the pronunciation of my name in English. I felt an overwhelming feeling of outsiderness and embarrassment; it was so evident how much I did not fit in, whether it was the color of my hair, skin, and even my name. It was a feeling that resonated with me all throughout my grade school experience, as teachers year after year, day after day, struggled to pronounce my name. Thus, all during elementary school, I wanted to become accepted as an American. I desperately wanted an American name to avoid the nervousness and embarrassment I felt during role call.

Unfortunately, role call was not the only time I felt like the outsider. Nothing quite beats the infamous incident that occurred during my first day: lunchtime. All of my classmates sat together at the lunch table in the cafeteria, just like I had seen in the TV shows, with their lunch boxes and perfectly made sandwiches, as I sat with my rice, seaweed and side dishes, happily munching away. I knew that I did not like the taste of sandwiches; they were quite bland in my opinion, and I was more than satisfied with the lunch my mom had made me. Unfortunately, unlike the meal I usually happily enjoyed in the comfort of our home’s living room, the lunch table was accompanied by mixed reaction, including stares of fascination and glares of disgust. The girls in front of me held their nose and made it clear how “weird” my food smelled, and I instantly blushed. I shoved my food back into the bag, and did not eat the rest of my lunch, which was something that had never happened to me, as I had a large appetite as a child. When my mom saw my lunchbox when I brought it back from school, she asked me if there was a problem. I began to cry as I debriefed her about my day, and asked if I could buy my lunch from the school cafeteria instead, to eat pizza and mac and cheese, just like the rest of my classmates. Over the years, I began to ask to do more activities that were more similar to my classmates, like Girl Scouts and horse back riding, rather than go to piano lessons, which was a more typical activity of my Korean friends from home.

However, after I began to visit Korea more and more often, I had the opportunity to develop closer relationships with my grandparents. I also had the chance to try so many more dishes of Korean food, in particular, my favorite dish (naengmyeon or 냉면). However, an inverse type of embarrassment came upon me; instead of being labeled as “Korean” and “different,” I was now seen as the “American” and “study abroad student” who could not speak a word of Korean to my grandparents. I began to heavily dislike this “Americanized” side of me.  I felt so ashamed by the fact that I threw away so much of my heritage for the want to fit in with my classmates to the point that I could not speak a word of Korean and that I was so unfamiliar with Korean food and its culture. As a result, I desperately tried to become “more” Korean, by watching Korean TV shows, eating primarily Korean food, and only speaking Korean at home. This dislike of my American identity grew, and was particularly prominent during my first year at Emory. At Emory, I was not the only Asian student in my classes; in fact, I was one of many, which was something very unique to me. I finally met and had the opportunity to make friends who were of a similar identity as me.

However, a very unique situation happened to me last year that I had never expected before in my life. A classmate of mine told me that I was “not even Korean, [I was] just American.” With that one statement, I felt my entire heart shatter; even though I had spent the last few years attempting to become more Korean, to the international students, I was not even Korean as I was purely American. I was not able to shed my “American” identity, no matter how hard I had tried. I was extremely disturbed by the fact that someone could so easily throw away one of the most important aspects of my identity; my Korean identity was the one that connected to my family, heritage and home culture, which are all things I have grown to incredibly cherish over the years.

In retrospect, I know that my identity is my own – my identity is heavily influenced by my own life experiences and no one has the right to truly determine my identity. However, this instance did catalyze my questioning of my identity; if I told myself I was not Korean growing up, but then threw away my American side all during high school, who am I? I am currently still trying to figure this out, but am on the road to accepting my Korean-American identity; it has been a difficult journey, but the more I learn about myself and what I value, the easier I find it to appreciate both aspects of my identity. For example, some of my core values have stemmed from my American education; my high school placed a large emphasis on environmentalism, and it has greatly shaped the way I view the world and has had a big influence in determining one of my primary academic interests, food waste. On the other hand, my respect for elders is one of the core values that has stemmed from my Korean heritage. By being at Emory, I have been able to find people of similar identities of me, which has helped me feel much more comfortable in my own skin, as we talk more about our similarities in our experiences of growing up.

However, while finding this group of people has been important in my path to discovering that identity, something that has also played a significant influence in this acceptance is food, which is more of a recent realization. Through the context of this class, I have been analyzing dishes that are particular to my home and family culture and even in my favorite Korean dishes that are important to me because of the memories they bring, they in fact incorporate American aspects to them. For example, one of my favorite dishes is the 부대찌개 (budae jjigae or army stew) that includes spam, vegetables, and ramen noodles. This dish is particularly special to me as my grandfather would always make it for us whenever we visited our grandparent’s house, because it is one of his favorite foods. Thus, whenever I eat the dish, I always think of my grandfather and my childhood in Korea. However, this dish is not only important to me, but also to the history of Korea and its cuisine. The army stew originated when the Korean War led to food being scarce in Korea, so the processed meats from the American military bases became an essential ingredient in the meals of the soldiers, and the army stew was born (Ro). Thus, every time I eat this dish, I also am reminded about the hardship of that Korea faced during the Korean War. Food is able to tell stories and connect us to home, even if it is thousands of miles away, and we are able to appreciate that story telling whenever we eat the dish.

Food has also served as a pathway for me to generate a great deal of pride in my identity, particularly my Korean heritage. This is also a similar sentiment shared by Zhang, who writes how even though it has changed from the traditional dishes, “her rich cultural heritage is able to live on” through Chinese American food, and that is something she is able to take pride in (Zhang). She is proud of the fact that throughout time, it has persevered and become such an essential part in American culture, especially despite all of the discrimination Chinese people faced in American history. Similarly for me, as Korean food becomes more popular in America, especially with the popularization of kimchi, I am able to eat the food I grew up with and share it with my friends by going to Korean restaurants and showing them some of my favorite aspects of my heritage. I used to eat the food in shame like at the elementary school lunch table, but as I become more comfortable with my identity, the food I eat is such an integral aspect of my lifestyle as I begin to cherish more foods for the stories they tell and memories they hold. It is a way I am able to show my pride for my roots, as I know how deliciously captivating the flavors of Korean food are, and I am so happy that I am able to display these with pride.

Finally, the immigrant experience has led to the creation of new identities that originated from the hopes to achieve the American Dream. These new identities are influenced both by our family’s roots and our growing up experiences, as they heavily shape our values and ultimately, who we are. This phenomenon is also true of food; the food we eat has also been shaped as it has been brought from our family’s hometowns through our parent’s meals at the the family table and has been adopted over time to include the regional ingredients of our new environment, which we also incorporate when we learn how to make the dish and pass it on to our kids. Just like Chinese and Korean culture, the importance of these dishes is the meaning of these foods to our family and heritage, rather than how free of foreign influence it is, making them authentic. Food is able to carry so many stories and memories with it, which is how we place value on certain dishes. As our world undergoes more globalization and the sharing of new ideas, this continuous change in recipes is inevitable and will continue to occur. Food is a flexible entity, just like our identity, and ultimately, they are constantly intertwined. The food we eat and cherish is tied to our roots, but as we are exposed to new environments and new cultures, we begin to incorporate what is important to us, which is also happening to our identity. Our palettes are heavily influenced by the foods we eat while growing up, which is ultimately the outside environment. The phrase “you are what you eat” not only applies environmentally, but also to the food we eat at home, as it embodies the story of our roots and our growing up experience, which are both important aspects of our identity.

Works Cited

Chandler, Adam. “Why American Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 25 Dec. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/12/why-american-jews-eat-chinese-food-on-christmas/384011/.

“Chinatown.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/kqed/chinatown/resourceguide/story.html.

Ell, Kellie. “P.F. Chang’s Heads to China to Serve American-Style Chinese Food.” CNBC, CNBC, 1 May 2018, www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/p-f-changs-heads-to-china-to-serve-american-style-chinese-food.html.

Goyette, Braden. “How Racism Created America’s Chinatowns.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/11/american-chinatowns-history_n_6090692.html.

Hanson, Sandra., et al. The American Dream in the 21st Century. Temple University Press, 2011.

Lee, Jennifer, speaker. The Hunt for General Tso. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_8_lee_looks_for_general_tso.

Lee, Jennifer. “Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Jan. 2008, www.nytimes.com/2008/01/16/dining/16fort.html.

Liu, Haiming, and Huping Ling. Canton Restaurant to Panda Express: A History of Chinese

Food in the United States, Rutgers University Press, 2015, pp. 157–158. JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt16nzfbd.15.

Ro, Hyosun. “Budae Jjigae (Army Stew).” Korean Bapsang, 25 Sept. 2016, www.koreanbapsang.com/budae-jjigae-army-stew/.

Rude, Emelyn. “Chinese Food in America: A Very Brief History.” Time, Time, 8 Feb. 2016, time.com/4211871/chinese-food-history/.

“The Truth About Your Chinese Takeout Box.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 Mar. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4k9bIXNpr8.

Wei, Clarissa. “8 Truths About American-Chinese Restaurants That Nobody Talks About – American-Chinese Restaurants Have Their Own Regional Distinctions.” First We Feast, First We Feast, 1 June 2018, firstwefeast.com/eat/2016/07/american-chinese-restaurants-truths-revealed/regional-distinctions.

Wong, Rosaline, et al. “History and Culture: Chinese Food.” New University, University of California, Irvine, 2 June 2008, www.newuniversity.org/2008/06/02/history_and_culture_chinese156/.

Zhang, Elena. “Rethinking the Meaning of Authentic Chinese Food.” Pastemagazine.com, www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/05/rethinking-the-meaning-of-authentic-chinese-food.html.

Category: Student Work

Food, Intersectionality, and Categorization – Suman Atluri

Since I first learned about intersectionality, I have been interested in finding out more about how the concept impacts the daily lives of people from all around the world, from various walks of life, and overall from very different backgrounds. The idea of intersectionality ties in well with the anthropological concept of marked and unmarked categories, which transcend cultures, religions, and geographic locations. Creating a working definition of marked and unmarked categories is key to understanding the basis by which I will discuss this topic, and how it relates to international food studies. For the purposes of this paper, I define a marked category as one which stands out in the particular context of the situation. While many people do not refer to these categories by any sort of specific definition, they play a very important role in our everyday lives and how we view those around us. Until recently, I did not fully grasp how the concept of context can fully shape what is considered marked or unmarked in a specific situation. While it may seem obvious that normal ideas about migration and food in one society might not translate perfectly to another, these categories do not follow this often simplified differentiation in various surroundings. It is true that what may be considered marked in one situation revolving around food and migration may be unmarked in another; however, the group that holds power greatly differs within any given situation. The idea of marked and unmarked categories is especially important to analyze within the context of migration studies as well as food studies. When considering immigrants, it is important to note that those who migrate are not always the marked category nor those who lack power in a specific situation. That being said, in many studies that intersect with analysis of migration, such as food studies, it is those who migrate who often fall into marginalized and oppressed groups. Food studies and specific topics within this larger umbrella provide vehicles for analysis of intersectionality, marked and unmarked categories, and food security. Through analysis of literature surrounding food studies and immigration, we are able to gain a better understanding of how intersectionality plays a critical role in the development of marked and unmarked categories within migration and food studies.

While many say that the force of intersectionality is diminishing in power throughout the world, it still remains the dominant factor in the status of millions of people. With socioeconomic class, ethnic background, sex, gender, religion, and other factors possibly playing into a person’s role in many societies, certain groups of people are often unable to voice their opinions safely and effectively. This leads to regions and sometimes whole nations where certain groups of people are considered inherently beneath others and deemed inferior. One arena in which this is seen most is studies surrounding food security. Food security, as defined by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) (on its website about the topic), is “the condition to which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Food security is vital to the successful development of a region and/or nation. IFPRI reflects on the fact that “economic growth is only sustainable if all countries have food security. Without country-owned or country-driven food security strategies, there will be obstacles and additional costs to global, regional, and country-level economic growth. Food security needs to encompass women … and vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.” Whether through government policies (such as the indirect forcing of migrants into specific areas of a certain city or region), or through social interactions between groups, the force of intersectionality directly impacts which people or groups have complete food security in the context of their region. In addition, the lack of inclusion of voices of people from historically marginalized groups within food studies furthers the problems that have already been created surrounding access to food.

When first considering how food studies (and furthermore, food security) was linked to migration, I wondered which had more impact on the other. Did food insecurity cause people to migrate, or did migration somehow cause food insecurity? Arup Maharatna, in his article “Food Scarcity and Migration: An Overview,” discusses how “migration as we know it, both at the household and collective levels, is essentially a response to crisis situations (for example, food scarcity)” (Maharatna 2). This ideology makes sense, as history has seen many large movements and diasporas of people as a response to specific incidents – such as national disasters and famines. While Maharatna’s viewpoint seems to be part of the idea that food scarcity, among other issues, can cause widespread migration, I believe that because of intersectional forces, migration also impacts food security.

Due to intersectionality and the way it works in countries around the world, those who are oppressed and marginalized because of one facet of their identity (such as race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender) are more likely to be in others as well. As a result, people who come from low socioeconomic statuses and migrate, for example, are at a very high risk of being affected by food insecurity. Walter Imilan, in “Performing national identity through Peruvian food migration in Santiago de Chile,” describes how “food and the activities surrounding it are not only a resource for economic integration, but also act as a mediating factor in the re-creation of a national identity. Migrants indeed use food as a way of performing their national distinctiveness from the host society” (Imilan 1). Therefore, when migrants are seen as the marked category indirectly restricted from access to fresh and healthy food because of various factors, a domino effect begins to take place. This effect passes onto national identity and more.

Food security has often only been discussed in the context of rural settings; there is a significant lack of academic analytical work surrounding food security of migrants and groups who do not identify as being from rural communities. Jonathan Crush, in “Linking Food Security, Migration, and Development,” discusses how “if the global migration and development debate sidelines food security, the current international food security agenda has a similar disregard for migration. The primary reason for this is the way in which “food security” is currently problematized. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that food insecurity is primarily a problem affecting the rural poor and that the solution is a massive increase in agricultural production by small farmers” (Crush 62). Crush brings up an important topic that is rarely discussed in the fields of food or migration studies: by considering only the rural poor as those affected by food security, experts are failing to analyze major problems facing millions of migrants all around the world and the ways that they are able, or in fact unable, to access healthy and fresh food on a consistent basis.

Analyzing food security and how it can impact migration, and vice-versa, could have a major beneficial impact on how studies surrounding food and migration studies are viewed; as a result, there could be a much better widespread understanding of motives for migration and how these are associated with issues related to food. Crush states that “the implications of the new mobility regime for food security in general (and urban food security in particular) need much further exploration and analysis. To what degree is heightened mobility related to problems of food insecurity? Food security shocks and chronic food insecurity can certainly be major motives for migration for income-generating opportunity” (71). Crush’s analysis sheds light on the fact that there is little to no analysis of food insecurity within migrant communities around the world. For this reason, we can see migrant communities as the marked categories and/or the marginalized group in this context. By giving more people in this group the chance to share their stories about food and their access/lack of access to fresh food, we would be able to have a better understanding of why, and perhaps more importantly, how, food insecurity and migration are linked.

By giving marginalized peoples a larger voice in the academic fields of migration and food studies, there would be a better understanding of issues facing certain groups, which are currently rarely discussed. Irma McClaurin, in her writing, reflects on how through academic writing, people from historically marginalized groups can regain the power that has been taken from them; this could be seen as an especially effective in migration and food studies, where migrants are often forced to give up their national identities and sometimes their gastronomic traditions as a result of their new home. McClaurin notes that “[people from oppressed groups], ever marginal to the authoritative discourse, cannot sit at the dining room table because they were never invited” (McClaurin 50). She brings up an important topic: the tendency in academic works to write about people from marginalized groups or the groups as a whole without having a first-hand perspective. While many authors of articles surrounding food studies and migration studies have completed large studies involving interviews with people within these groups, the authors themselves often identify as being from an unmarked group within society.

This reinforces a power structure within food and migration studies, as well as academia as a whole, that causes “minority scholars [to] still struggle for credibility … [and] battle a rising tide” (McClaurin 52). Until recently, these scholars had to seek validation from people in power, thereby falling victim to the social systems which they were writing about. While a hierarchy based on power continues to exist in academia, alongside other disciplines, many would argue that, with the increasing numbers of people from marginalized groups sharing their works and ideas, a slow blockage of the centuries-old power system within academia, specificically migration and food studies, is beginning to form. In addition, this problem of the norm of authors within academia has finally been uncovered for discussion and analysis.

Reflecting on the new era of accepted authors within academic disciplines, McClaurin highlights the idea that when people from groups which have historically been oppressed by society contribute to pieces such as an autoethnography, they are “[promoting their] interpretations of [their world] as authentic without the validation of other social scientists” (McClaurin 67). This statement represents the complete takeback of power from those in control and from the dominating structures that our society has created in fields of academia — in other words, a marking of these structures. Furthermore, by shifting the focus away from those who have historically held power, societal issues such as oppression and marginalization of marked groups are underscored. While these topics of power, intersectionality, and oppression may seem distant from food studies, I believe that they go hand in hand. My giving more people from certain groups a larger voice within academia, and specifically food studies, we would gain perspectives that are currently widely lacking. By doing so, there would be an ability to have increased analysis, and therefore, a better understanding of how food can affect migration and vice-versa.

The academic disciplines of food studies and migration studies can be easily related back and tied into the anthropological concepts of marked and unmarked categories as well as the overarching force of intersectionality. The disparities between groups who have food security and those who do not often come down to societally created power differentials that exist in groups, nations, regions, and societies around the world. While many societies worldwide are experiencing changes in power differentials between unmarked and marked groups, few focus on the works created by people from marked categories – often people who have been marginalized and oppressed. When societal norms that have existed for decades or even centuries are disrupted, underlying themes of oppression and marginalization are often brought to light. Power shifts away from those who have historically held it sparks conversations about the history and social structures of those who have been downtrodden. As we can see through academic writing in the fields of migration and food studies and beyond, the need to analyze works surrounding food security written by people from marginalized groups is greater than ever, and a deep understanding of these works could empower people in marked groups, helping to ensure food security for more groups of people around the world, on a consistent basis.

 

Works Cited

Crush, Jonathan. “Linking Food Security, Migration and Development.” International Migration, vol. 51, no. 5, Oct. 2013, pp. 61-75. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/imig.12097.

 

“Food Security.” International Food Policy Research Institute, www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security.

 

Maharatna, Arup. “Food Scarcity and Migration: An Overview.” Social Research, vol. 81, no. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 277-298. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/sor.2014.0026.

 

McClaurin, Irma. 2001. “Chapter 2: Theorizing a Black Feminist Self in Anthropology.” Essay. In Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis, and Poetics.

 

Milan, Walter A. “Performing National Identity through Peruvian Food Migration in Santiago De Chile.” Fennia, vol. 193, no. 2, June 2015, pp. 227-241. EBSCOhost, doi:10.11143/46369.

 

Category: Student Work

The Role of Crayfish in the Economic and Social Spheres of Chinese Food Industry

A video clip posted by Weibo user Jiuke showing a crayfish, a close relative of lobster, making daring escape from being boiled alive in a Sichuan hotpot by clipping off its own claw has gone viral since a month ago on Chinese social medias and social medias around the world. Although these freshwater crustaceans, also known as crawfish and literally “little lobster” in Chinese, have the ability to regrow their lost limbs, amputating its own claw still appears courageous and intelligent. Now the surviving crayfish becomes a pet and is living in an aquarium in Jiuke’s home, according to Casey Quackenbush on Time.com. Crayfish being one of the most popular culinary delicacies in China nowadays was first viewed as an invasive species and pest in the agricultural industry sector. It caused catastrophic damage to rice terraced fields. Rice farmers in China hated them and used pesticides to kill them in order to save their crops. This came to an end when people found out about the great economic value of crayfish.

According to Robert John’s blog about business in Asia, the first recorded commercial harvest in Lousiana of the United States became the first successful model for the commercialization of crayfish. This provided an excellent business solution for China to solve the “crayfish dilemma”. This consequently gave birth to a booming industry of crayfish. With Louisiana producing 85-95% of crayfish production in the United States and China having similar agricultural conditions, the Jiangsu province of China quickly became the second Louisiana (John). According to China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the crayfish sector in China is worth of 42 billion USD up to date, which takes into account both upstream and downstream sales (Harkell). Upstream includes crayfish cultivation and farming and factory processing. Downstream includes catering, markets and online retailing etc. It is ironic that a rice farmer’s worst enemy serving as cheap agricultural fodder becomes the most sought-after food among urban millennials and a pillar industry of the total Chinese food service market.

According to the statistics of MoA, China is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of crayfish:

 

China is the world’s largest crayfish producer, according to a 2017 report by the then Ministry of Agriculture, now known as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Its output skyrocketed to 852,300 tonnes in 2016 from 265,500 tonnes in 2007. Outside the domestic market, Chinese crayfish have found fans in the United States and Europe. In 2016, China exported 23,300 tonnes of crayfish worth 259 million U.S. dollars. Nearly 40 percent went to the United States, while 90 percent of the crayfish consumed in Europe came from China. (“Across China”)

 

 

The long development of crayfish industry in China since the initial imitation of the U.S. model has created a huge innovative industry which encompasses a whole chain of sub-industries, which include but not limited to entertainment, catering and online shopping etc. The significance of crayfish in Chinese food industry is reflected from the transformative impact that it acts on the economic and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market. Crayfish has reshaped the Chinese food industry on various aspects especially in the economic sphere because these “little lobsters” have boosted the development of industrial transformation and upgrade. In the social sphere, on the other hand, crayfish has served as a social tool for people to interact and connect with each other.

Crayfish has lead the transformation and upgrading of the Chinese food industry because these “little lobsters” unleash the market power on economic development and industrial upgrade. In the upstream level, it promotes transformation by raising huge demand for food quality control among Chinese customers. Crayfish, being a highly adaptable freshwater aquatic species, is often seen living in seemingly dirty environments. This fact has raised great concerns about the safety of crayfish among Chinese customers because they are really worried about whether the “little lobsters” they eat live in a sanitary environment and are fed with clean and nutritious food sources. Qingjiang in Hubei Province, a city famous for its crayfish production and industrial improvement attempts, offers a satisfactory answer to this question of Chinese customers.

In order to dispel the concerns regarding the sourcing of crayfish, Qianjiang first introduces “ID cards” for live crayfish to counteract the concern of sanitary condition and nutritious value of crayfish. According to Xinhuanet, “by scanning a QR code on a carton of crayfish, the buyer can learn information about the animals inside, such as where they were raised, where they were bred, and even details about their food. The measure is part of Qianjiang’s efforts to build a quality traceability system for crayfish. The city produces one-tenth of China’s crayfish” (“Across China”). Chinese customers’ demand for better food quality stemming from the environmental adaptability of crayfish has provided incentives for crayfish sourcing companies to improve their services by implementing technological advancement to ensure food safety and quality.

In addition to implementing the “ID cards”, Qianjiang still turned to technological innovation. Qianjiang chose to build an online quality monitoring system and a quality testing center and is cooperating with SF Express, which enabled monitoring use of food sources, living conditions and rapid precise tests of crayfish and fast delivery of live crayfish ordered online to more than 300 domestic cities within 2 days (“Across China”). These attempts of incorporating technological innovations are examples of structural reforms in the supply side of the crayfish industry, which in turn sets a great exemplary model for other food service sectors. In the downstream, on the other hand, crayfish culinary training and crayfish-themed restaurants have become very popular and incurred increasing demand for the innovation, reform and upgrade of the upstream industry.

“As Chinese policymakers seek to promote domestic consumption in order to reduce the economy’s reliance on fixed-asset investment and exports, the growth of industries such as crayfish is a welcome development” (Wildau). In addition, according to MoA, “Crayfish has afforded undeveloped rural regions an effective catching-up strategy for rural development and poverty alleviation; played an important role in cultivating new opportunities for local economic growth; promoted structural reforms in the supply side of the agricultural (fishery) industry and efficiency; and increased the income of farmers (fishers)” (Harkell). Crayfish’s important role in reshaping the economics and social landscapes of the total Chinese food service market has been magnified in the background of Chinese government encouraging and supporting the development of Crayfish industry. The accidental effects crayfish have on the Chinese food industry provide thoughts on how to develop or reform a specific industry by focusing on commercializing a targeted product. These “little lobsters” become a successful symbolic representative of this economic development strategy.

In the social sphere, crayfish night-outs trends in the social culture of Chinese millennials and boosts the development of crayfish-themed cultural activities:

 

Affluent urbanites enjoy the ritual of donning plastic gloves to peel and eat the critters, which are typically slathered in a spicy sauce. Some note that the sauce-drenched gloves prevent fellow diners from checking their mobile phones during a group meal, encouraging social interaction. The restaurants typically stay open late at night, the aroma drawing in revellers. “Crayfish satisfies the culture of late-night snacking, and it also substantially raises the quality of social interactions,” He Mingke, wrote in a research report on the industry by Cyanhill Capital, a venture fund. (Wildau)

 

The underlying significance of eating crayfish in a social setting and the pure joy of this feasting ritual are interconnected. Crayfish is the carrier of cultural and interpersonal communications. This is truly an interesting phenomenon that crayfish plays such an important role in Chinese food industry and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Quackenbush, Casey. “Crayfish Amputated Its Own Claw to Escape Hotpot in China.” Time, Time, 4 June 2018, time.com/5299950/china-crayfish-escapes-hotpot/.

 

John, Robert. “Chinese Crawfish vs. Louisiana Crawfish.” NOLASIA, NOLASIA, 7 Apr. 2016, nolasia.net/chinese-crawfish-vs-louisiana-crawfish/.

 

Harkell, Louis. “China Gov’t Says Country’s Crayfish Industry Worth $42bn.” Undercurrent News, Undercurrent News, 19 June 2018, www.undercurrentnews.com/2018/06/19/china-govt-says-crayfish-industry-worth-41bn/.

 

“Across China: China’s ‘Hometown of Crayfish’ Moves to Improve Quality.” Quotable Quotes on Belt and Road from World Intellectual, Business Personnel – Xinhua | English.news.cn, Xinhuanet, 30 June 2018, www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-05/28/c_137212908.htm.

 

Wildau, Gabriel. “Chinese Urban Consumers Gobble up Crayfish as Industry Booms.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 25 Aug. 2017, www.ft.com/content/4445afba-66e9-11e7-8526-7b38dcaef614.

 

Category: Student Work

The History of Chinese Instant Noodles (Final Paper)–Ruiyue Hong

Ruiyue Hong

CHN 375W

June 29, 2018

Final Paper

The History of Chinese Instant Noodles

Instant noodles are the noodles that could be cooked just by adding hot water. With the addition of flavoring powder and seasoning oil, people can get a hot bowl of noodles within just three minutes. Instant noodles help people save time from cooking and fill people’s stomach. Therefore, nowadays, instant noodles can be seen everywhere in the supermarket and its consumers include people from all classes. In this paper, I want to study the development of Chinese instant noodles from the perspective of history, economic, anthropology and culture. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part will describe the general development of instant noodles considering the economic and historic situation in China. The second part will focus on exploring the changing of ingredients and packaging of instant noodles in China. And the third part will reflect on the question of why instant noodles are more popular in the old times than nowadays.

 

Firstly, I want to examine the development of instant noodles considering the economic and historical situation in China. From research, Instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods in Japan. (Fijimini, 2012) They were launched in 1958 under the brand name Chikin Ramen. However, it was not until 1964 when instant noodles are finally introduced to China. In 1964, Beijing Food Factory tried to use duck oil to produce dried and fried instant noodles. However, they did not succeed. Four years later, the first instant noodles were invented by Shanghai YiMing Fourth Food Factory.(Du, 2017) It used the technology of high pressure in cooking fried noodles to produce almost 2 millions package of instant noodles to Chinese consumers, signifying the start of Chinese instant noodle production. During the 1978 to 1980, the scientists cooperated with Beijing Food Factory and designed an exclusive technology of producing instant noodles by steaming noodles with high pressure and drying them with infrared ray. Therefore, from the year of 1964 to 1980, China was in the period of exploring instant noodles.

 

From 1981 to 1986, China began its initial mass production of instant noodles. In 1981, Shanghai Yiming Food Factory and Beijing Instant Noodle Factory imported several assembly lines of instant noodle from Japan. During 1980s, with China opened its door towards foreign companies and embraced the idea of market economic, China had imported almost 100 assembly lines from Japan and put them into Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuxi etc. to start the instant noodles production. (Du, 2017) With the introduction of instant noodles into Chinese market, people began to learn about instant noodles. However, the instant noodles at that time was rather expensive compared to rice because it involved foreign technologies. According to history document, people needed to spend a quarter and two food coupons(粮票) in order to have one instant noodles. But normal Chinese family do not have such spare money to buy things other than necessities. Therefore, instant noodles don’t have lots of consumers in the beginning. So during the period of 1981 to 1986, there were few profit in making instant noodles and instant noodles were not very popular among China.

 

The year from 1987 to 1991 was the transitional and developmental period for Chinese instant noodles. In 1987, China no longer used food coupon as a way for people to buy rice and oil. People have more freedom in buying food. Therefore, the limitation of producing and consuming instant noodles was reduced. Moreover, it was the time when Chinese economic were growing. Citizen’s life quality improved significantly and the pace of life quickened. Therefore, the efficiency and convenience of instant noodles were discovered by the public, making the industry of instant noodles boomed. Soon, the instant noodles industry expanded from urban to suburban and its price remained almost the same. The instant noodles change from luxury to affordable everyday product. In addition, during this time, a lot of foreign companies entered Chinese instant noodles industry, including the famous brand “kangshifu” from Taiwan. With their entrance, the variety and taste of instant noodles increased, making the instant noodle even more popular. (Du, 2017)

 

During the year of 1992 to 1995, instant noodles in China developed quickly. There were advertisements of instant noodle everywhere and people were made to believe that instant noodles were the necessity for traveling and for everyday life. (Du, 2017) During this time, lots of foreign companies were competing with each other. They released all kinds of instant noodles and attracted customers with its stretchiness, smooth, unique taste and pretty packaging.

 

The year after 2001 to now, Chinese instant noodles began to develop stably. The noodles nowadays strictly followed the food standards set by Chinese government. The industry now aimed to produce healthier and more nutritious instant noodles with more diverse taste and packaging. Moreover, the seasoning also began to change slightly. Before, it was comparably plain for it was only salty. Nowadays, people add more seasoning and oil inside so that it has the tastes of spicy, Unami and salty. In addition, there are more variety of instant noodles. For example, besides noodle with soup(汤面), there are also lo mein(拌面) and crispy instant noodles(干脆面).

 

Therefore, with the history advancement and economic development in China, we could see the change of instant noodles in taste, packaging and cooking style.

 

Secondly, I want to explore the change of ingredient and packaging of the Chinese instant noodle. In order to show the change of taste in instant noodles, I will mainly compare the ingredient differences between Meat Noodles(肉蓉面) from old times and Kangshifu’s braised Beef Noodles with soy sauce(红烧牛肉面) nowadays. Meat Noodles were produced by Shanghai Yiming Food Factory. It was among one of the first instant noodles produced in China. It used to be popular in old times. By opening the paper packaging, there was only one powder seasoning and curved noodles. In the powder seasoning, it contains salt, sugar, flour and onion powder, pepper powder and rousong(肉松). After it is cooked, the noodles are stretchy and according to consumers, the noodle soup is mainly salty without other taste. Therefore, many people nowadays mainly used this noodle in the hot pot because it is very smooth and stretchy. (Cheng, 2017) On the other hand, Kangshifu’s braised beef noodles is completely different from Meat Noodles. Kangshifu is a Taiwanese company who was among the first foreign companies to produce instant noodles in China. When Kangshifu produced this kind of braised beef noodles, it soon became a hit. According to statistics, eighty percent of instant noodles consumed by Chinese people are Kangshifu’s braised beef noodles. Kanagshifu’s braised beef noodles in soy sauce is very different from Meat Noodles not only in ingredients but also on taste. For seasoning, it not only contains flavoring powder, but also contains seasoning oil. It was the first instant noodles in China to have seasoning oil. Moreover, it adds more ingredients in the flavoring powder too. For example, it contains monosodium glutamate(味精), curcumin and crocin that Meat noodles did not have. (Kang, 2000) With all these ingredients, people can experience more tastes in the noodles and the soup in the noodles is more delicious. The evolution of taste in Chinese instant noodles from Meat noodles to braised beef noodles reflects Chinese people’s evolution in taste too. During 1980s, Chinese did not have much food to choose. Therefore, the food people ate are rather plain and are not diverse. The main goal is to fill their stomach. However, as China progress, people tasted more and more delicacy, so people have more requirement for food. As a result, people would eat noodles like braised beef noodle to enjoy a variety of taste in noodles.

 

Thirdly, I want to discuss the reason why instant noodles are more popular during 2000s than nowadays. According to BBC report in 2000s, China sold over 46.2 billion instant noodles each year. (Atkinson, 2017) This is around one third of the world’s consumption of instant noodles, making China the biggest consumer of instant noodles. However, recently, lesser and lesser people choose to eat instant noodles. I want to address this phenomenon in four aspects. First of all, in nowadays, customers want better food than instant noodles. Cooking instant noodles are really easy: Just adding hot water and seasoning into the bowls and wait for three to four minutes. However, people nowadays have higher expectation than having dehydrated vegetables and meat and noodles with preservative. With all kinds of restaurants everywhere in the city, less people will choose to have instant noodles which are not nutritious. Just like Zhao Ping, the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade said “The decline of instant noodle sales shows a shift in China’s consumption patterns. Consumers are more interested in life quality than just filling their bellies these days.” Secondly, less people choose to have instant noodles because of the population shift (Atkinson, 2017). One of the big consumers of instant noodles are migrant workers because they are away from home, often living in cramped conditions with limited cooking facilities, and keen to save as much money as they can to send back to their families. Before 2010, a huge number of rural Chinese went to cities to work. But that trend has now reversed for the following years. It shows that more people choose to live in rural areas than before. Therefore, less people will take the train and eat instant noodles during their travels. Thirdly, less people consume instant noodles might be the result of Infrastructure improving and people’s habits changing during travel times. According to a passenger: “Travelling in China 20 years ago, I filled my stomach (and time) by eating pot after pot of instant noodles during cross-country train journeys, which sometimes lasted three days or more.” (Atkinson, 2017)However, this phenomenon is changing. Chinese trains and stations have improved. Journeys are quicker, and the range of food options are far more international. For example, there are McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks in nearly all train station. Therefore, noodle sales on the railways have fallen. And then there is the boom in aviation as middle class Chinese people spend billions flying on domestic and international holidays instead of using trains. As a result, less people will buy instant noodles during travel. Fourthly, there is also the influence of internet and smartphones, which help promote food delivery everywhere. About 730 million people in China now have access to the internet according to government figures. And about 95% of those are using smartphones to connect. Among these smartphones, almost all of them would have food delivery app inside. Whenever people are hungry, they could just get the food by one click on their smartphones. After waiting for half an hour, the food will be delivered right to your home or office. Their menus are undoubtedly more expensive than a pot of instant noodles. But these meals can still be inexpensive. And arguably more tasty. So considering consumer’s expectation, population shift, infrastructure improvement and the commonality of delivery app, people can see why instant noodles are not as popular in nowadays as before.

 

In conclusion, the history of instant noodles in China really reflects China’s economic and culture development. From instant noodles, people can see the condensation of Chinese food culture. Because it combines the taste of general Chinese people into one seasoning powder. So by studying the change of Chinese instant noodles, people also study the change of taste in Chinese people. Moreover, by studying the popularity of instant noodles in China, people could also see China’s society change and technology improvement in China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

“Inventor of instant noodles dies” BBC News. 6 January 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6237013.stm

 

Chinese earliest instant noodles (video) By CEO, 05 September, 2017

https://www.bilibili.com/video/av14173159/ Simon Atkinson

 

Atkinson, Simon Why are China instant noodle sales going off the boil? 20 December 2017

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-42390058

 

Cheng, Guang, From Coco Cola to Chinese instant noodles, 23, March, 2018

http://www.iheima.com/zixun/2018/0323/167644.shtml

 

“National Trends in Instant Noodles Demands”. World Instant Noodles Association (WINA). Archived from the original on 6 June 2012.

 

Asian noodles : science, technology, and processing. Hou, Gary G. Hoboken, N.J. ISBN 9780470179222OCLC 907642187.

 

Li, Man; Sun, Qing-Jie; Han, Chuan-Wu; Chen, Hai-Hua; Tang, Wen-Ting. “Comparative study of the quality characteristics of fresh noodles with regular salt and alkali and the underlying mechanisms”. Food Chemistry. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.11.020.

 

“Asian Thai Foods”. Asian Thai Foods. Retrieved 7 November 2012.

http://www.asianthaifoods.com/main/

Category: Student Work

The Instant Impact of Instant Noodles in India

Maya Aravapalli

Professors Li and Ristaino

Italian/Chinese 376

26 June 2018

The Instant Impact of Instant Noodles in India

In this world, there are so many factors that impact our every day lives. Change is inevitable, and often hard to notice. New companies are born while others die, and this process has a significant impact on the economy, which in turn affects our standard of living and our lives. Of the factors that affect our lives, food is a salient one. Food is a reflection of culture and tradition and has a massive impact on our day to day lives. It is more than something one eats in order to work; it is an experience that is cherished by every individual in the world.  Because of its enormous impact on everyday life, changes in food start to impact the social culture. One such example is the emergence of instant noodles in India. It was summer in 1983 when my uncle was just eight years old. My family was impoverished, and they barely had enough money to eat; however, every once in a while my uncle and his friends would save up some money and get some street food on their way back from school. He recalled that they would always try and find ways to eat something different, but money and access to different foods were obstacles that were hard to overcome. At the time, the only food available was traditional Indian food that would sometimes take hours to cook; however, when Maggi Noodles was introduced, it changed the whole dynamic of cooking. All a person needed was hot water to share a tasty, easy-to-make meal. It was something that they could make themselves, and it was very time efficient. The distinctive branding of the noodles allowed for more people to hear about them, that in turn increased the popularity of the product. These noodles marked a revolutionary shift in India’s food culture. They were the go-to food whenever someone was hungry, and due to its low price, it was a very accessible product for a majority of India’s population (Nagarajan). The emergence of instant noodles in India, made famous by the brand “Maggie Noodles,” has had an enormous impact on India’s social and economic culture by allowing for more women to go to work, conquering hunger for the poor, and improving India’s economy.

    Instant noodles were first introduced to the world in 1958 by a Japanese-Taiwanese businessman named Momofuku Ando. He came up with the concept of “3-minute noodles” and invented a way to mass produce them. While the noodles were a success, their consumers demanded more flavor and taste of the noodles. Hence, the company provided flavor packets along with the noodles. The brand he created later became known as Nissin Noodles that makes varieties of different flavors of “cup noodles.” To this day, Momofuku Ando is known as the father of instant noodles. Since the invention of instant noodles, they have become a worldwide phenomenon and are consumed by people of all different backgrounds (“History”). The mass production of these noodles made them easily accessible everywhere; however, India did not catch on to this “instant noodle craze” until 1983  when “Maggi noodle” was first introduced to India.

    Maggi started off as a brand in Switzerland in 1884 that made powdered soups. Julius Maggi, the founder of Maggi, aimed at making food that was affordable for the average worker and was time efficient. Its primary mission was to create a fast and easy meal that would help working women save time and focus on work (“Maggi History”). Maggi later expanded and created new products such as soups, sauces, seasoning, and noodles. Julius Maggi invested a great deal in the advertisements that helped the company grow and become more successful. Maggi was acquired by Nestle in 1947 and has sparked a noodle revolution in India (“Maggi History”). Its branding and impact on India’s consumers make it one of the biggest companies in India. Maggi noodles have had a great impact on the everyday life of the average working woman in India. Its low price for a filling meal has made it accessible to even India’s low-income families. The iconic branding of “2-minute noodles” baffled India’s women as they would spend hours in the morning cooking breakfast before going to work. Therefore, the Maggi brand targeted working women promising more efficiency due to its noodle’s fast cooking time. However, it did not initially have great success with India’s demographic. People still preferred to have traditional, home-cooked meals. After conducting many surveys, the brand started targeting children. Their slogan, “ Easy to cook, Good to eat” shows how the noodles are easy to cook for parents, and good to eat for the children. They not only target children, but they also target adults who are preparing the noodles as well. The noodles only became popular among India’s population once the company improved it branding techniques.

    Due to the typical Indian dinner time being between 8:30 pm and 11:00 pm, Maggi was a great snack in between meals. The company initially targeted working women, but later advertised it as a family brand. They focused mainly on convince and health while advertising, and promoted their brand in many ways: sampling, advertising, product size,  customized products, and variety of flavors. These methods worked for changing the consumer demand for traditional Indian food to this fast and easy meal. However, the Indian population was still skeptical of the health effects of instant noodles (“Branding Strategies”). Because of health concerns, Maggi introduced the whole wheat instant noodle called “Maggi Atta Noodle.” This introduction helped solve some of the concerns the Indian consumers had about the unhealthy nature of instant noodles.

    Maggi noodles have played a significant role in improving India’s economy. After the introduction of Maggi Noodles, India adopted the noodle culture and became the fifth in rank in terms of consumption of instant noodles. The industry of instant noodles has grown 7.6% between the years 2010 and 2017. Maggi shares 61% of the market for instant noodles in India (BusinessToday.In). In 2015, there was a ban on Maggi due to excessive amounts of lead, and it was taken off the shelves all over India. During this period, Maggi was still in high demand by Indian consumers who had gotten used to eating it. Before the ban, Maggi noodles had control over 80% of the instant noodle market in India, but it seemed that Maggi’s reign as the number one instant noodles brand in India was falling apart. However, after the ban was lifted, consumers went back to buying Maggi products (Mitra). Because of the prohibition of Maggi noodles, Nestle launched a campaign called a “#WeMissYouToo” to show how the Maggi ban has changed the everyday lives of its fans. During an interview I conducted, I asked to “describe what life was like when Maggi was banned in India,” to which Prahalad Krishna, a senior in high school, responded, “I tried looking for alternatives for Maggi, but none of the other brands tasted as good as Maggi. I just had to wait it out” (Krishna).  Although Maggi was banned in India for about eighteen months, the influence and impact of Maggi were made crystal clear.

    Maggi is one of the “fast foods” that has had fairly steady growth over the years that have had a direct correlation to the increase in nuclear families and employed women. India is a traditionally male-dominated society, and women did not start going to work until recently. Due to social and economic changes that led to the increase of purchasing power and needs, women started to be part of the labor force. Many factors impact fast food consumption among nuclear families with working mothers: “large variety /periodic new product, the price is affordable, cooking is considered a lower priority, and home delivery (comfort and convenience of food) ” (Joshi & Chopra). Based on the study of the fast food consumption of nuclear families with working women, it can be concluded that Maggi noodles, that is considered “fast food” is a reliable option for working women in urban areas of India. The noodles fit almost all of the factors that are described above; therefore, it is one of the foods that have contributed to a shift in India’s food culture.

     To see how the trends in food culture have shifted since the introduction of Maggi,  I conducted a series of interviews. Among those was a working woman from India named Rathna Krishna. She has been working for  Delhi telephones for twenty-two years and is the personal assistant to the deputy manager. I asked her a number of questions related to how Maggi has impacted the social culture in India from the perspective of a working woman. She expressed that she has never liked Maggi noodles herself, but her children love them. It saves time before going to work, and it is effortless to make. When asked if Maggi has changed India’s social culture in any way, she responded “Maggi has become the national fast food in India. Everyone is crazy about the brand, and even street vendors sell Maggi as a snack or meal. It is cheap and accessible to much of India’s population. Before Maggi came to India, people only ate traditional Indian food, but once it was introduced, it became everyone’s favorite snack – both adults and children” (Krishna). 

    The next interview was her son, who is a senior in high school in India for a different perspective. When asked how often he eats Maggi and why he likes it, he responded, “I eat Maggi Noodles about 3-4 times a month. I like it because the taste is good and it is very easy to make. During the noodle ban, I tried many other ramen brands, but none of them tasted as good as Maggi. In my school, you see at least one person bringing Maggi noodles to school every day.” When asked if he has any personal stories related to Maggi that he would be willing to share, he responded “I went to Kedarnath, Uttrakhand [a state in India] for a religious trip, and it is up in the mountains where it is extremely cold. It is only accessible through a helicopter ride, and there is absolutely nothing there – no stores or anything. We got out of the helicopter, and there was a vendor who was selling hot Maggi. A plate of hot Maggi in that weather was a luxury” (Krishna). By conduction these interviews, it became clear that Maggi is a brand that is available all over India – from the busy streets of Delhi to the deserted mountain tops of Uttrakhand. It is a quick and easy meal that has impacted both working women and children all over India.

    Maggi has almost become a part of Indian culture due to its immense popularity. To test if it has truly had an impact on Indian culture, I decided to interview a college student, Anirudh Krishna, who has lived in India for the majority of his life but moved here for college. During the interview, I asked him if he thinks Maggi noodles have impacted his diet even here in the United States where fast food resultants are much more available. He eats Maggi about two times a week, and as a college student its sometimes hard to find fast cheap food. He recalls that he did not eat Maggi much while living in India, but after moving to the United States, he consumed it more. Anirudh described that he eats Maggi when he misses home and it provides a connection he has with his past and his family. Even though it is not traditional Indian food, it still provides this nostalgic feeling that all comfort foods offer (Krishna). Ramen noodles have been a part of the college culture for years due to its convenient and efficient preparation time. Maggi noodles are the most valued brand of ramen noodles by people of Indian origin who have never lived in India. I interviewed my friend, Shailee Parekh, who has lived in the United States all her life. Although she has never been exposed to the popularity of Maggi noodles in India, she still prefers Maggi to other brands of Ramen noodles. She has grown up with it even though it is not available here. When asked why she believes Maggi is so prevalent in India, she responded, “I am a vegetarian, and the variety of vegetarian instant noodles that the Maggi brand provides is one of the reasons I choose Maggi. So that could contribute to the popularity of Maggi in India” (Parekh). The interview shows that the Maggi brand has had an impact on the Indian culture as Indians all over the world love eating Maggi noodles. Through conducting several interviews, it became clear that Maggi has had an impact on people of many different backgrounds and age groups.

    Instant noodles have also been suggested as a possible solution to conquer hunger among the poor. With its low price and accessibility, it may be a suitable solution to the problem of hunger; however,  Maggi has mainly targeted middle class and urban consumers. Due to the complex supply chain processes that need to take place for Maggi to reach India’s villages, the company has avoided focusing on rural areas. According to Sounak Mitra, “about 70% of India’s population still lives in its 638,000 villages, more than 55% of retailing actually happens in metros, mini-metros, and tier-I cities, according to a Technopak study” (Mitra). If Nestle India put a percentage of its advertisements in rural areas, it could help fight the hunger problem in India. According to the Times of India, instant noodles could be a terrific solution to world hunger as food becomes scarcer in the future. It has also been observed by researchers, that  “Instant noodles thus far have been virtually unstoppable – and, as such, their accomplishments are worthy of serious attention” (“Instant Noodles – Quick Solution” ).  Perhaps, instant noodles could be a solution to the global hunger problem as it is a cheap and filling meal that can be had any time of day.

   In conclusion, Maggi has had a significant impact on the lives of working women who do not have time to make a traditional Indian meal all the time. It could also be a solution to combat the issue of hunger in rural India, and it has helped India grow economically. While the Indian culture did not embrace the new instant noodles at first, it has expanded and become India’s favorite “fast food.” Mothers make it for their children as a quick and easy meal, and once the children are old enough, they make it themselves. It is widely available, from grocery stores in the city to small street vendors in the desolate Himalayan mountains. It is a delicacy in India and has become one of the most popular meals among children and adults alike. Its taste and aroma is recognized by many and has had an enormous impact on India’s social and economic culture.  Maggi is the most prominent noodle dish in India, and it is eaten throughout the nation. It is a quick and easy meal to turn to in the middle of finals week, or a snack to share with friends in between meals. Although changes in social and economic cultural differences are not readily noticeable when one is living through time, Maggi has played a massive role in shaping India’s food culture and has contributed to making India’s workforce more inclusive.

Works Cited

BusinessToday.In. “Will India Ever Get over Its Maggi Hangover?” How Nike’s Marketing Strategies Helped It Become a Global Brand, Business Today, 30 Nov. 2017, www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/maggi-nestle-india-ltd-uttar-pradesh- fine-fssai-fsda-hangover/story/264986.html.

“History of Instant Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association, instantnoodles.org/en/noodles/index.html.

Ideasmakemarket. “Branding Strategy of Maggi Noodles.” IdeasMakeMarket.com, 3 Mar. 2015, ideasmakemarket.com/2012/02/ideasclash-2-0-entry6-branding-strategy-of-maggi- noodles.html.

Joshi, Kiran, and Komal Chopra. “To Study Factors Affecting Fast Food Consumption for Nuclear Families Having Working Women in Mumbai / Pune.” International Journal for Research in Applied Science & Engineering Technology (IJRASET), Mar. 2016, www.ijraset.com/fileserve.php?FID=3716.

Krishna, Rathna. Personal interview. 27 June 2018.

Krishna, Prahalad. Personal interview. 27 June 2018.

Krishna Anirudh. Personal Interview. 27 June 2018.

“Maggi® History.” Https://Www.nestle.tt, www.nestle.tt/brands/allbrands/maggi-history.

Mitra, Sounak. “How Nestle Is Rebuilding in India-18 Months after the Maggi Ban.” Https:// Www.livemint.com/, Livemint, 15 Feb. 2017, www.livemint.com/Companies/ xyFCHn7hGJm1zUkesEVy5L/How-Nestle-is-rebuilding-in-India18-months-after-the- Maggi.html.

Nagarajan, Vijay. Personal Interview. 27 June 2018.

Parekh, Shaliee. 28 June 2018.

PTI. “Instant Noodles: Quick Solution to World Hunger? – Times of India.” The Times of India, India, 27 Aug. 2013, timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/Instant-noodles-Quick- solution-to-world-hunger/articleshow/22085102.cms.

Category: Student Work

Ramen and Ramyun in Korea_JeeyoungKim

Ramen and Ramyun in Korea

 

Ramen and is now popular everywhere. Ramen is a type of noodles with twisted strands usually cooked with chicken broth, beef broth, or pork broth.  The noodle of ramen is typically made with wheat flour, salt, water and soda-infused water(kansui), which provides the light-yellow color of the noodle, chewy and slippery texture and its unique scent (Solt). The topping of the Ramen includes vegetables, seafood, meat, and eggs. Ramen varies in the type and taste. One of the most typical types of ramen is Instant noodle, which also has various flavors and styles. It is convenient and affordable but has sophisticated taste. Similar to the most of the noodles and foods, Ramen is closely related to the society and its culture. Notably, in Korea, Ramen is developed as one of the most crucial parts of the food cultures and society though is not traditional Korean food.

 

As of any other food, the origin of Ramen still on a debate, but most of the scholars thinks it started from China. Such claim of the professionals has highly credible assertion since the noodles and China is deeply associated. In China, a 4000-year-old fossil of a bowl is noodle was found.  It is known as the earliest evidence of noodles ever found (Roach). Also, due to the vicinity of China and Japan, the cultural exchange had seldom happened in the past and present days, so it is conceivable that the recipe of Ramen or the root of the Ramen has started from China and transported to Japan (Solt). The scholars assume that Chinese merchants would have brought a bowl of soup what is now similar to today’s Ramen (Brickman). The first introduction of the Ramen can be assumed to be in the 1880s. In the busy port city of Yokohama, Japan, Chinese immigrants from Guangdong province worked as cooks at restaurants (Solt). The primary purpose of this restaurant was to serve students and foreign workers from their own country who is currently staying in Japan. However, in the 1910s, the Chinese chefs in the restaurant started to use the ingredients that are not formerly used such as “roasted pork, soy sauce, and pickled bamboo shoots” in the Chinese food (Solt). Japanese workers, student, and soldiers also started to consume the food, and the noodle soup served in the Chinese restaurants now became popular among Japanese.

 

Moreover, after the World War II, Ramen gained more popularity. Since Japan defeated from the war, food was scarce, and wheat flour, which is the main ingredient for making Ramen started to import from the United States. Those who returned from the Japanese occupied territory in China began Chinese restaurant and sold the noodles that now is called Ramen since they are familiar with the noodle-eating culture in China (“Correlation of Ramen…”). Though the root of the Ramen is China, later, Japanese had developed Ramen in different ways in a different region (Salt). With efforts of Japanese put on the development of Ramen, it became a national symbolic food of Japan and became one of the world favorites.

 

After the introduction of Ramen from China to Japan, Japanese Ramen became popular around the world, especially in Korea.  On the streets of different cities around the globe, Japanese Ramen restaurant is easily found.  Korea is one of them. There are two types of Ramen in Korea. One is called Ramen, which is a Japanese style Ramen, the other is called Ramyun, which refers to the Korean style instant noodles.  We will first discuss the Ramen in Korea.  Ramen is known as Japanese dish in Korea and influenced a significant part of Korea’s food industry. For instance, the restaurant called Aori Raman demonstrates the popularity of Ramen in Korea.  Aori Raman is a Japanese style Ramen.  They only sell one menu called Aori Ramen with customized toppings. The Aori Ramen is a type of Tonkotsu ramen, which is originated in Fukuoka, Japan. The soup is pork, and customers can add five different toppings: boiled pork, seaweed, boiled eggs, scallion, and fermented bamboo shoot (Kim Si Hwa). The Aori Raman restaurant first opened in 2016 in Seoul, Korea. In just two years, now, one Aori Raman in Seoul increased to 35 stores located not only in Seoul but also other parts of Korea. Their annual sales are approximately 25 billion (Lee Byeol Nim). This is just one example of Japanese Ramen’s cultural influence on Korea, but there are countless successful other Ramen restaurants in Korea. As shown in the sample, Ramen from Japan became a significant part of Korean culture as well.

 

Though Japanese style Ramen restaurant is a popular and thriving industry in Korea, Korean style Ramen, Ramyun is more familiar to most of the Koreans.  It is more affordable and acquainted than Ramen with Koreans. Some Koreans may believe that Ramyun is distinctively different from Ramen and is Korean food but some may argue otherwise. Ramyun is different from what Korean define Ramen as. It refers to instant noodles or cup noodles. In a package of instant noodles, they typically have a chunk of pre-cooked dried noodle, powder, and solid ingredients. The instant noodles are cheap and easy to cook. For packaged instant noodles, you need put dried noodle, powder, and solid ingredients after water are boiled and put vegetables or eggs according to one’s taste. It is even easier for the cup noodles: you need to put hot water into the cup and wait for 5 minutes (“About Instant Noodles”). Such convenience and tastiness allowed Ramyun to be one of Korean’s favorite dish to eat.

 

The origin of Instant Noodles also started in Japan and brought to Korea. In 1958, the time when the people’s consumption patterns have significantly altered due to development of new media: television, the world’s first instant noodles were invented by Momofuku Ando. The first instant Ramen is called “Chicken Ramen,” which was sensational and gained sudden popularity. For Ramen to become a ready-to-eat meal, Momofuku Ando has used a method called epoch-making system, which is a technique of “dehydrating the steamed and seasoned noodles in oil heat” (“About Instant Noodles”). This simple method allowed the mass production of the instant noodles.  This “Chicken Ramen” is cooked in just two minutes simply by boiling with the water, so it was called “a magic ramen” (“About Instant Noodles”). Later, due to people’s demand for better quality and taste, separately packaged flavoring powder was added. Furthermore, in 1962, healthier version of noodles was invented. The noodles no longer needed to be fried but were dried with heat (“History of Ramen…”). Then many types and flavors of instant noodles were launched, enhancing the taste of the products.

 

Moreover, the cup noodles were invented in Japan as well. The cup noodles are instant noodles in cups.  The most significant advantage of the cup noodle is the convenience. In contrast to the packaged instant noodles, you do not need to cook cup noodles. With the product and hot water, ramen is prepared anytime and everywhere.  In 1971, CUP NOODLES® was introduced to the world. It was another revolutionary discovery of Ramen and one of the sensational inventions in the food industry. Inside the Styrofoam container, flavored noodles, dried shrimp, dehydrated pork, dehydrated vegetables, and dried eggs were included (“About Instant Noodles”). Such developments of Ramen had stimulated Koreans to create their version of Ramyun.

 

The first Ramen in Korea was instant noodle developed by Samyang Ramyun. In 1963, Jung Yun Jeon, a founder of Samyang Food Company, introduced the technology of making Ramen from Japan to Korea. The reason why he imported the skill from Japan is similar to that of Japanese noodle got popularity. Due to the poverty after Korean War, Jeon decided to sell Ramyun as a solution to the problem (Kim Timothy). It was sold for 10 won, which can be converted to approximately 1 cent in U.S. dollars today.  Though the primary purpose of the Ramyun was to solve the poverty, Ramyun soon became one of Korean’s favorite dish. Interestingly, Korea leads per capita consumption of instant noodles. In 2017, Korea had 73.4 million servings per capita, which is exceptionally high compared to Vietnam (53.5 servings million per capita), the second highest and Nepal (51.1 million servings per capita), the third highest (“About Instant Noodles”).  This data shows how Ramyun became crucial to Korean culture, people, and daily life.

Since the 1960s, as Korea interact more internationally, Koreans rapidly expanded their presence all over the world. While Koreans are abroad they homesick and look for authentic but convenient Korean food (Lee, Joel). Ramyun was the perfect fit for the demand because it has Korea’s traditional spicy flavor and easy to cook. The rapid increase of Ramyun demand mainly from Koreans and other Asians made Ramyun market grew internationally. As a result, Ramyun manufactures exported their product to other countries, and it started to roll out of Korean and Asian groceries to some of the big local players. In recent years, as Korean culture (food especially) become more mainstream than before, more and more people started to consume Ramyun fascinated by its convenience, low price and stimulating taste. According to Food Focus a Korean newspaper reporting mainly on food and beverage issues in Korea, international sales of Korean Ramyun in 2016 was 290,366 thousand U.S. dollars, and this is 60.8% increase from 5 years before (Lee Jae Hyeon). To be more specific, China, The United States, Japan, and Taiwan are countries are the top consumers of Korean Ramyun and sales is keep increasing except for Japan. In the case of Japan, the consumption is not necessarily decreasing, but because of Abenomics policy, an Abe administration’s economic strategy to reduce the value of the yen to take advantage in international trading. It was only the sales amount that was decreased (“Abenomics”), which implies that Korean Ramyun demand and market all over the world had been getting more prominent, and the precedent shows that the trend will continue in the future as well.

As the Ramyun grew bigger on Koreans, new Ramyun reflecting people’s altering palate is launched. The Ramyun released in the past such as Shin Ramyun, Samyang Ramyun, and Neoguri Ramyun usually emphasizes on its spicy taste, so the red soup with red papers was a typical look of the instant noodle (“Timeline of History…”). However, Ramyun companies started to react to altering consumers’ tastes.  The different type of instant noodles such as Black noodle Ramyun with black sauce and Kkokkomyeon with white broth was released. Moreover, the companies tried to break the stereotypical appearance of Korean instant noodles. Ramyun only with the sauce dried vegetables, seafood, or meats and without the soup was launched in Korea and gained popularity. For example, Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen started in April 2012. When it was first released, this noodle did not gain much attention. The Ramyun liquid type sauce and the absence of the soup even made it spicier than typical Ramyun. Soon, the consumers were attracted to its spicy but addictive taste. In 2015, the annual sales of Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen were 66.2 billion won, and in 2016, the sales increase approximately 50% to 138 billion won, which is a drastic increase (Lee Yu Jeong). As society change, Ramyun also reflects the trend and taste of consumers, which shows the correlation between the Korean society and Ramyun.

 

Even though Ramyun has a lot of benefits such as its affordable price and convenience in cooking, there always has been a critical problem which it affects health negatively. Ramyun’s noodle is mostly fried and made out of flour. Too much of food that is fried and made out of flour causes obesity which leads to heart disease, diabetes depression and more. Ramyun’s soup powder also causes problems. The primary cause is its sodium content. According to USDA, Shin Ramyun contains 2000mg of sodium a bowl (“Food Composition Databases…”). This is over 80% of daily value in sodium. Considering most people eat three meals per day, Ramyun eaters will easily consume more sodium than what USDA suggested. Too much sodium consumption results in various cancers, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other crucial diseases.

 

Knowing that many consumers nowadays care about what they eat and try to eat healthily, Ramyun manufacturers are making their product healthier than before. Pulmuone’s “Real Noodle Texture” is a new product which uses a dried noodle to avoid frying (“Pulmuone’s” New Ramen…”), and Paldo launched “Paldo Bibim Myun” which its noodle contains kudzu root to reduce flour content. With these efforts, they could decrease the calories so that consumers can avoid obesity. There are also several products which reduced sodium content. Nongshim’s “Nuguri” rolled out mild taste which contains 1480mg of sodium. This is 280mg less than the regular version, and it was a massive hit in the market (Lee Seung Hyun). Ramyun companies’ effort to make the healthier product and to reflect the current trend of the society stimulates the expansion of consumers who enjoy Ramyun.

 

Moreover, since Korean society and the instant noodles are highly intertwined, Ramyun is often used as a symbol even in literary works.  When an object is used as a symbol in a poem, it must be representative enough for the audience to understand. Most of the times, Ramyun is used as a symbol of loneliness because a person can effortlessly cook the instant noodle without any experience with cooking.  Therefore, in contrast to other food made by the one’s mom or wife, the instant noodle is often compared with agony or hardship of life. For example, in the poem, While Boiling the Ramyun, by Gu Chan Jeong, a leading poet in Korea, the speaker describes his loneliness and the situation of absence of his wife using Ramyun (Jeong).

 

Ramen became a detachable culture to Koreans and the culture. Though both Ramen and Ramyun in Korea originated from a foreign country, Koreans embraces and values the noodles. As proved through Ramen, noodles, and food has unique and strong ability influence individual’s culture on a small scale and even the world in a larger size.  Though some people are unconscious of the impact of food on the society, the food and culture is deeply intertwined and is inseparable.

 

 

Works Cited

“ABENOMICS.” JapanGov, www.japan.go.jp/abenomics/index.html.

“About Instant Noodles.” History | World Instant Noodles Association., World Instant Noodles Association, instantnoodles.org/en/noodles/index.html.

“Correlation of Ramen and the History of Korea, China, and Japan[라면’에 얽힌 한·중·일

3국의 역사, 기원이 ‘중국’이라고?].” Chosun,Com Food, 10 May 2012,

food.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2012/05/10/2012051000851.html.

“Food Composition Databases Show Foods — SHIN BOWL NOODLE SOUP, UPC: 031146262441.” Edited by USDA.gov, Food Composition Databases Show Foods — Oil, Soybean, Salad or Cooking, ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/501181?manu=%2CSHIN%2BBOWL%2BNOODLE%2BSOUP%2C%2BUPC%3A%2B031146262441.

“History of Ramen [라면의 역사].” Nongshim, www.nongshim.co.kr/ramyun/history1.

 

Jeong, Gu Chan. The House Where Letters Live [글씨가 사는 ]. Ppuli [뿌리], 2015.

Kim Si Hwa[김시화]. “Aori Ramen[아오리라멘].” Time Out Seoul,1 May 2017, www.timeoutkorea.kr/seoul/ko/restaurants/%EC%95%84%EC%98%A4%EB%A6%AC%EB%9D%BC%EB%A9%98.

Kim Timothy [ 김디모데]. “50years Of History of Ramen, Why Did Samyang Failed[50년

라면의 ‘역사’ 삼양은 왜 추락했나].” Business Post, 4 Apr. 2014, admin.businesspost.co.kr/BP?command=article_view&num=1193.

Lee Byeol Nim[이별님]. “‘Annual Sales of 25million’…Seungli’s 5 Successful Business [‘연 매출 250억’…’승츠비’ 빅뱅 승리의 사업 성공 사례 5가지].” Insight [인사이트], 16 Mar. 2018, www.insight.co.kr/news/144949.

Lee Jae Hyeon [이재현]. “The Largest Ramen Export Ever…32% Increase[라면, 수출

역대 최고치…작년 32% 급증].” Food Focus Newspaper [식품음료신문], 19 Dec. 2017, www.thinkfood.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=78346.

 

Lee Seung – Hyun[이승현]. “The Reason of Neoguli and Yuggaejang’s Long-Run [너구리·육개장사발면 30년간 장수 비결].” E Daily News, 14 Feb. 2012, www.edaily.co.kr/news/news_detail.asp?newsId=02276326599430520.

Lee, Joel. “Korean Miners, Nurses Recall Their Arduous Days in Germany.” The Korea

Herald, 9 Oct. 2017, www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171009000324.

 

Lee Yu Jeong[이유정]. “Hot Chicken Noodles’s Annual Sales over 250 Million Became

Samyang’s Representative Ramen [불닭볶음면 2500억 ‘화끈한 매출’… 삼양식품 간판라면 꿰찼다].” Hankyung.com, 4 Dec. 2017, news.hankyung.com/article/2017120485741.

“Pulmuone’s New Ramen with Raw Noodle Texture[풀무원 라면 브랜드 ‘생면식감’으로 새로 론칭… ‘비유탕 라면’ 확대].” Pulmuone News Room[풀무원 뉴스룸], 8 June 2017, news.pulmuone.kr/pulmuone/newsroom/viewNewsroom.do?id=842.

Roach , John. “ 4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 12 Oct. 2005, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/1012_051012_chinese_noodles.html.

Solt, George. The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze. University of California Press, 2014.

“Timeline of History of Korea’s Ramen[우리나라 라면의 역사 비교연표].” Webmona, The

Matrix Timeline, ko.webmona.org/view.php?s_page=4&s_topic_ids=100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Student Work

Noodles in Contemporary China: Social Aspects underlying the Noodle Evolution (Qiulun Li)

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The earliest Chinese noodles can be traced to 4,000 years ago and was found in Lajia Site along Yellow River. Over time, in a country of the magnitude of China, the world’s second largest in area and with 56 ethnic groups, noodles evolved into various categories. Noodles can be divided into different types “according to the classification of the shape of noodles, seasoning gravy, cooking craft and so on” (Zhang). Today, there are more than 1,200 types of noodles people normally consume. In this paper, I will mainly discuss the evolution of noodles in contemporary China through the lens of social aspects.

The number of categories of noodles mainly increased in ancient China, especially in Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties. From my perspective, the evolution of noodles in pre-modern era is resulted from the cultural and natural factors in China.

In the pre-modern era, the formation of different varieties of noodles and their evolution can be influenced by ethnical, geographical and climatic differences across China. There are 56 ethnic groups in China and each ethnic group has its own customs and taboos for eating. For example, Hui people are Muslims and they are not allowed to eat pork. As a result, the only meat can be cooked in Lanzhou pulled noodles, which is a type of noodle invented by Hui people, is beef. Geographical variations also play a significant role in the evolution of noodles. In China, wheat is mainly cultivated in the North of Qinling Mountains – Huaihe River Line, which is the line separating North China and South China in the eastern part of China. Thus, noodles in North China are made from wheat. Paddy is cultivated in South China and therefore a large number of noodles originating in South China are made of rice, such as Yunnan rice noodles and Guilin rice noodles. Besides, climatic differences are significant factors underlying the noodle evolution. The climate could influence the local cuisine and then influence the way of cooking noodles. Provinces in the South-western part of China are very humid and people living in these areas would feel moist inside their bodies in the winter. In order to eliminate dampness and keep bodies warm, they eat a lot of pepper which becomes an indispensable ingredient of their cuisine. When they cook noodles, they will also add pepper and noodles in these areas such as Chongqing street noodles and Sichuan noodles are conspicuous examples of spicy noodles. In all, during the evolution of noodles in pre-modern era, ethical, geographical and climatic differences across China significantly contribute to the formation of different types of noodles.

The advancement of technology and the application of scientific methods mark the transition from the pre-modern era to the modern era. In my following passage, I will examine how social factors influence the evolution of noodles in contemporary China. In my opinion, social aspects, conspicuously the modern technology and social values, influence the evolution of noodles and endow them new forms in contemporary China.

Modern Technology as a Social Factor in Noodle Evolution

            The Industrial Revolution, which took place from 18thto 19th century in Europe and America, replaced hand tools or basic machines with “powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production” (Industrial Revolution). Under the Industrial Revolution, societies transform with the advancement of technology, which frees people from laborious work and makes life more convenient.

Although the Chinese industrialization did not begin until the 1950s, far later than the original Industrial Revolution in the Western world, it brought the same end to the Chinese society. Factories and machines replaced many jobs and increased productivity. In the absence of machines, noodles as a staple food in China was hand-made and it took a great amount time to grill the wheat into powder, mix the dough, knead the dough and shape noodles. With the modern technology, automatic noodle making machine was invented and marked a revolution in noodle making in China.

Today, most noodles on the market or in noodle restaurants are made by noodle making machines. Compared to hand making, the noodle making machine has several strengths. First, it takes less time and is easier to use the machine to make noodles than to make noodles by hand. Under the technological progress, noodle making machines have been upgraded since its initial appearance and makes the noodle making process much easier. In the traditional process of making noodles by hand, people have to grill the wheat into powder, mix the flour with water, knead the dough and shape noodles. It normally takes people at least one hour to make noodles by hand. However, with the noodle making machine, people only need to pour the flour and water in the proper amount into the machine and wait at most ten minutes to get noodles. The machine does all the laborious work and save time for people. People do not need to learn the complex process of making noodles and they can use the saved time to work on other things. What is more, the noodle making machine will produce noodles more uniform in texture and shape. When people mix and knead the dough by hands, it is extremely hard to make the water and flour completely mixed and evenly distributed. Therefore, it is not surprising that noodles made by hand sometimes are not uniform in their texture and this difference then will affect the taste. It is also hard to pull or cut all noodles in the same shape by hand since people cannot measure the size when they shape noodles. However, the noodle making machine could completely mix the dough and cut noodles all in the same shape with extra pressure by power. Besides, the machine makes noodles more accessible to people and allows people to fresh noodles whenever they like. Noodles is the staple food in North China and thus most people there are able to make noodles by hand. Although noodles are still a significant part of the food system in South China, rice is more consumed as the staple food. Therefore, many people in South China such as my family are not able to make noodles and every time we want to eat noodles we go to a noodle restaurant or buy dried noodles from the store. In this situation, the noodle making machine allows people who cannot make noodles by hand to have fresh noodles at home whenever they want. In a conclusion, the use of machine, as a product of social changes, brings a revolution in the noodle making process and contribute to the evolution of noodle, from hand making to machine making. As a result, it is easier to make noodles more uniform in both texture and shape and noodles become more accessible to people who cannot make them by hand.

Despite the revolution in noodle making process, social changes and modern technology also endow new forms of noodles, most notably the instant noodles. As the pace of life gets faster in the contemporary society and under the influence of the economic factor, instant noodles become an incomparable choice for meal. A pack of instant noodles includes a dried noodle block, sauce and dehydrated vegetable bags. With the proper amount of boiling water, people are able to get a bowl of delicious instant noodles in three minutes. The invention of instant noodles is resulted from the modern technology and scientific knowledge. Without drying machines, a bunch of noodles would not be packed into a small block and the volume of the noodles and vegetable bags would be much larger. The modern technology makes instant noodles portable. What is more, due to the preservatives added to the dried noodle block and sauce bags, instant noodles can be stored for a long time and ready to eat after immersed in hot water. Instant noodles quickly become popular around the world since the easy and quick preparation is perfectly compatible with the pace of life in the contemporary society. Also, Instant noodles are much affordable than traditional noodles and thus decrease the economic pressure for a meal. In all, the technology and scientific knowledge bring a new form of noodle – instant noodles, which change the way people eat noodles and bring more convenience. Instant noodles define a new way of eating noodles, in which people do not need to get fresh noodles and cook any more. Under the fast pace of life and economic pressure, instant noodles become a perfect choice for many people, especially the white-collar class.

Besides, the modern technology increased the population mobility in China and resulted in the fusion of different local cuisine. Under the unavoidable trend of mobilization and globalization, noodles evolved in that some traditional ways of cooking noodles are altered by the cuisine from a different area. Noodle dishes which embrace different cooking styles are common in contemporary China. One noodle restaurant in my hometown, which is a city in the South-eastern part of China, serve a very special noodle dish called noodles in pickled cabbage and fish pot. This noodles dish uses the same noodle as traditional noodle restaurants in my hometown do. However, it is cooked in a very different way and has a special side dish – the pickled cabbage and fish pot, which is a typical dish in Chongqing. Chongqing is a city 1500 miles away from my hometown and it is really surprising to combine traditional noodles in my hometown with a typical dish from such a city. The spread of food over such a long distance is the result of modern technology. Due to the advanced public transportation in China such as the high-speed railway, people are able to move around and there is an increase in the immigration population. As a consequence of the increasing population mobilization, food, as a carrier of local culture, spread to other areas over time. In a conclusion, the modern technology lead to increasing mobilization and noodles evolved when different styles of cooking are merged.

Social Values as a Social Factor in Noodle Evolution

            Since the Chinese Economic Reform implemented in 1978, China experienced rapid economic and social development and showed remarkable development potential. Under this situation, social values changed greatly with respect to the changing living conditions. When people’s basic capital and mental needs are fulfilled, the role of food is expanded from merely sustaining life and different social values bestow food new roles. Noodles, as a significant part of the food system, have functions other than nourishment. Various social values contribute to the evolution of noodles during which new forms of noodles appear and the preparation processes of noodles are altered. There are two very common social values in contemporary China – more valued if rare and the increasing attention on health  – shaping the evolution of noodles.

The concept, that an object is valuable if it is rare, has existed since ancient China. This concept also applies to food in that very rare ingredients, such as cubilose and sharks’ fin, are highly valuable. However, without the economic foundation and before the basic needs of living are sustained, the primary function of food is still nourishment. After the economic and social development in China, more people enter the middle class and have more spare money. With the increasing fortune, a large number of people intend to show their wealth through eating highly valuable dishes, which becomes ac trend in contemporary China. Traditionally, noodles are the staple food people can afford for meals. As a result of this emerging social value, some new forms of noodles appear, which are cooked with precious ingredients. In recent years, seafood noodle restaurants become very popular, spreading from cities by sea to inland cities. Noodle dishes served in these restaurants are much expensive than traditional noodle dishes due to the use of expensive seafood such as abalone and crab as side dishes. The increasing popularity of seafood noodle restaurants shows the social value that some people want to eat expensive food to show their wealth and this social value brings new way of cooking noodles.

Another social value contributing to the evolution of noodles is the increasing attention on health. When people get wealthier, they would have extremely good meals and in take nutrients in amounts far exceeding the standard needs. Many maladies, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, are resulted from unhealthy eating habits. Therefore, an increasing number of people realize the importance of a balanced meal and pay a great deal of attention to what they eat. Bearing this social value and the goal of staying healthy in mind, people alters the way of making noodles and cooking noodles. Today, noodles which are made from the mixture of vegetable juice and flour are very popular since people believe that vegetables are salutary to health and noodles made in this way would be healthier than normal noodles. What is more, it has been proved that some chemical seasonings such as chicken extract and monosodium glutamate are detrimental to health. People change the original ways of cooking noodles by decreasing the amount of seasonings added in noodles. In this way, the taste of the traditional noodle dish changes. To sum up, the focus on health as a popular social value changes the preparation of noodles and influence the noodle evolution.

In a conclusion, there are various social factors behind the evolution of noodles in contemporary China. The modern technology and different social values endow noodles new forms and change the way of making as well as cooking noodles.

Works Cited

“Industrial Revolution.” History,https://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution. Accessed 27 June 2018.

Zhang, Na and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, 2016, pp. 209-212.

 

 

 

 

Category: Student Work