Category Archives: Noodle Narrative Summer 2016

Noodle Narrative

Interview Project

Ital 376W Noodle Narrative Video

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For my noodle narrative project, I interviewed my brother, Thomas. Thomas Kervin (full name Thomas Jose Medina-Morel Kervin) was born in Honduras and spent his early childhood in the city of San Pedro Sula. He was 9 years old when he immigrated to the United States (Tampa, Florida), and previously had little exposure to noodles. Thomas discussed how his cultured lacked a significant connection to noodles, and how his experiences in the United States have affected his perspectives towards noodles. His observations are from the viewpoint of an outsider, thus allowing for an interesting analysis of how American culture influences individuals’ attitudes towards Chinese and Italian noodles.

Watch the full interview here.


Interview Project

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Noodle Narrative

1) What is your name and age? Where do you live?

My name is Grace Seongmee Kweon and I am 51 years old. I am currently living in Connecticut.

2) When did you come to the United States?

I came to the United States in 1991, about 25 years ago and settled in New Orleans, Louisiana.

3) What was your first American cuisine experience like?

My first American cuisine experience was eating a whopper at Burger King. There weren’t such things as hamburgers in Korea, so it was a very different experience, but it was really delicious. But, I was really shocked by the size of it and how many calories there were. Everything in America was so much bigger in terms of size. The same small size in Korea is a lot smaller. I remember ordering a small coke, but I couldn’t finish it in one meal because there was too much.

The most memorable food was clam chowder. We came to America through San Francisco and it was a really interesting taste. To this day, I still love clam chowder and have it every now and then.

4) Did the culture change affect your diet?

When I lived in Korea, I ate rice for three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a main meal, I would eat small side dishes with it. In Korea, meat is very expensive and wasn’t affordable so my family and I ate a lot of fish and vegetables. It was a very healthy diet.

Having lived in America for a while now, I find myself eating a lot more carbs, like bread, anything made with flour. Everything is cheaper and in bigger portions; my diet has become very unhealthy and am pre-diabetic right now. I am working to eating healthier and exercising more.

5) What difficulties do you come across in making Korean dishes?

In the beginning, it was hard to get ingredients, difficult to find Korean or Asian markets. However the Asian community has been expanding these days, and now you can find Asian markets almost anywhere, making it a lot more convenient to go grocery shopping.

6) What role does the noodle play in your cooking?

In Korean cuisine, we eat noodles as main dishes, side dishes, and appetizers. Similar to pasta dishes as main dishes, there are many main noodle dishes that I make for my family. There are cold noodles and hot noodles as well. There are also noodle dishes that I make as side dishes that are eaten with rice. On some occasions, noodles can also be eaten as appetizers, kind of like noodle salads. I don’t just prepare the same noodles in the same manner; sometimes it’s the main dish and other days it might be a minor dish.

a) Can Korean cuisine “exist” without noodles?

Yes, because for us, rice is the main meal and many other side dishes that aren’t noodles can be paired with it.

b) Are there any noodles made specifically for holidays? Any traditions?

During weddings, noodles are typically eaten to celebrate one’s marriage. There’s a saying, translated, “When will you eat noodles?” which means “When will you get married?” Because noodles are long, they symbolize a long life and happy marriage.

Also, when a baby turns a year old, families and friends are invited to a big celebration. The first birthday is the most important celebrated special day. During the celebration, the baby is placed in front of different items: microphone, soccer ball, noodle, money, etc. Each item symbolizes their future; if a baby grabs the noodle, it means he or she will live a long life.

7) What is your favorite noodle dish? How do you make it?Japchae_4271

My favorite noodle dish is japchae. You first boil the noodle and wash it with cold water. Then you dice up vegetables such as carrots, onions, mushrooms, beef, eggs, and spinach. The sauce is made with soy sauce, pepper, salt, and sesame oil. You mix it all together and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.

a) What is your favorite noodle dish to make?

REW17_13605My favorite dish that I like to make is called bibingmyeon. It’s like the noodle version of bibimbap where instead of mixing rice with stir-fried vegetables, you mix cold noodles with “raw vegetables. It’s a spicy dish mixed with hot pepper paste that Koreans really like. And I love making it because it is my husband’s favorite dish and whenever we have family/friend gatherings, it’s always a crowd pleaser. The dish gives you kicks of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and spiciness all in one bite.

I also love making a dish called kongguksu, which is named for the bean that is used to make the soup base. It is a hard process where I have to grind the bean콩국수s together with sesame seeds and then strain all of the excess paste to get the soup base as smooth and clear as possible. Even though it’s a hard process, I put all of my muscle and love into it and just enjoy my husband and daughters smiling and eating the noodles so deliciously.

8) In your opinion, where did noodles originate from?

From history, I learned it as the Chinese first cultivating wheat and following the Silk Road, distributing and buying goods, spreading out to Europe and other parts of Asia. On the west of China, flour was used more for making bread, while on the east side, flour was used to make noodles.

9) Do you think Korean restaurants in America are pretty authentic or more Americanized?

Many restaurants are managed by Korean owners, so I feel that they are pretty authentic. There are however, a lot of Americanized fusion Korean restaurants that have been rising in communities. The most popular fusion cuisine is Korean/Mexican where you get tacos and burritos stuffed with Korean-style meat and stuffing.

a)What do you think of these fusion cuisines?

I think it’s great that they’re changing it up to match the tastes for American people. It may not be authentic Korean food, but it helps get Korean cuisine known better little by little.

10) Has Korean food had any foreign influences affecting the cuisine?

Japanese cuisine has had some influence on Korean foods that are popular today. During the war days, rice was pretty scarce and all people could afford were Japanese ramen. Today there are so many flavors of ramen and once in a while, it’s delicious to eat. A really well-known noodle dish in Korea is called maxresdefaultjjajangmyun. The original black bean paste originated from China and the Koreans adopted a similar bean paste and mixed it with noodles.

11) Have you ever wanted to open a restaurant?

No, the business aspect of managing a restaurant seemed difficult for me and I really just enjoy cooking for my family and making them happy and that’s all that matters.






I interviewed Nini Wu, a Taiwanese-born physician who immigrated to Canada and later the United States, about her personal history with noodles and experience with food culture growing up. She talks about what her food experience was like growing up in a Taiwanese household, how that changed as time has gone on, and one of her favorite dishes, Niu Rou Mian, or beef noodle soup.

Watch the full interview here:

Interview video

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Zhiru’s Noodle Narrative

Noodle Narratives Interview

Below is a brief interview of Chatchai Sawaengsuk, owner of Siamesese Basil, a Thai restaurant. He began his career working as a cook in a restaurant in Thailand. Interestingly, his craft for making noodles was acquired by observing one of the neighboring street carts serving noodle dishes. After immigrating to the US, Chatchai decided to open his own restaurant to share his interpretation of various Thai dishes including many that use noodles as the main theme.


Noodle Narrative Interview

Click HERE to watch the interview between me and Mrs. Albanese Marianna Albanese (neé Maffucci) was born in Italy and spent her life in Calitri, a province of Avellino in the region of Campania, Italy. Most Americans might know of Campania because this region is also home to the city of Naples. Marianna was 12 years old when she immigrated to the United States, and thus has a very strong and fond memory of her experience with authentic Italian cuisine prior to her emigration. The responses I received from Mrs. Albanese emphasize the importance of the regional identity, which we discussed in class and in our assigned readings.


2008167283-300x0×0.jpg @1:50 describing breakfast/lunch dinner In terms of a typical meal, Mrs. Albanese recalls breakfast being fairly light. She said that a cup of latte caffé (mostly hot milk with a drop of coffee) would be enjoyed with some homemade biscuits. Lunch, or pranzo, meaning the most important or biggest meal of the day, was typically enjoyed around 1 or 1:15. School would end at this time in order to cater to this very important meal. Pranzo normally involved pasta, soup, or greens. Though they would often eat proteins like sausage or prosciutto, most meats were reserved for special occasions. Dinner was typically a lighter meal which involved salad and a latticini, or soft cheese, known to Americans as either ricotta or mozzarella. The latticini mozzarella in Calitri was very specific, as it was only produced from Buffalo milk, whereas most of the mozzarella consumed in the United States is a byproduct of cow milk. @5:00-6:00 minutes: describing meals on special occasions For big holiday meals or family reunions, a special pasta was cooked which was similar to penne in shape; it was tubular, but it was much longer—maybe even 18 inches. These dry tubes were broken into smaller pieces (the desired size) prior to cooking. This pasta was typically accompanied with a ragú (meat sauce). Mrs. Albanese fondly discussed Cinguli, a local Calitrano specialty. Other Italians might compare this pasta to cavatelli, but in fact it is one of Calitri’s specialties. Homemade ravioli was also a popular dish. Sometimes lasagna was prepared, but Mrs. Albanese made it a point to say that lasagna in Calitri was different then many other regional types of lasagna because of the cheese and the contents that composed it. This is consistent with what we learned in class—each region has its own set of common ingredients that dictate the typical meals. She also mentioned that on special occasions a lamb might be cooked, and sweets would conclude the festivity. In a casual family meal, however, there wouldn’t be sweets except for fruit at the end. Never would there be soda at the table, which seems to be more of an American phenomenon. Sometimes kids would have a wine spritzer (mostly water with a little bit of wine) and digestivos were mostly for adults. In terms of the ingredients and cooking supplies, Mrs. Albanese stated that everything was usually shopped for the day of. Her mother would go to the market and get fresh food. Usually she would have flour (for homemade pasta) and sausage and proscuitto in stock, but a lot of greens and meats would be purchased at the market that day and cooked fresh. @13 minutes: Changes in cuisine between Italy and the United States In terms of dietary changes after immigrating, Mrs. Albanese joked that she discovered peanut butter and donuts in the United States. In general foods aren’t as fresh. In the United States you might go shopping once a week and then refrigerate something, rather than acquiring your food fresh each day. Everyone ate pranzo, or lunch – the most important/biggest meal –at 1:30 or 2pm. Now if you’re in an office until 5pm or later, you skip this and aren’t going to cook things from scratch so late at night. Fresh food is something she tries to hold on to. And on Sundays she will go to her mothers to eat pasta with a homemade ragú. They get together around food on weekends, and it almost always involves pasta. @16:50: discussion on a national Italian cuisine Mrs. Albanese agrees with Fabio Parasecoli’s assessment that Italy doesn’t necessarily have a national cuisine. She thinks it’s becoming more ‘national’ now because of globalization and because schedules have become so standardized. If she had to define a national Italian cuisine, she described it as: “fresh ingredients, simply prepared. Nothing too elaborate. Most Italian families keep it simple, pasta, olive oil, garlic, some heat. Nothing elaborate.”