The world can’t get enough of ramen. Like pho and pad thai, the Japanese street food has become well-known around the world. Chinese noodle dishes such as dandan mian, zhajiang mian or Shaanxi liangpi, however, don’t quite enjoy the same recognition. The Chinese should feel embarrassed and ashamed that their lamian (“pulled noodles”) remains relatively unknown globally while the Japanese corruption of the word is on everybody’s lips, so to speak.
In 2005, a 4,000-year-old millet noodle measuring 50cm long and 0.3cm wide was uncovered in an archaeological dig in Qinghai province. However, whether it could actually be considered Chinese, given that the region was not part of the nation four millennia ago, is debatable.
The first verifiable record of noodles in China was an entry in a dictionary compiled during the Eastern Han dynasty (AD25-220) that listed types of bing, or foods made from flour, one of which was “bing in the form of strings” (suo bing). Around the seventh century, mention was made of “bing pulled in water” (shui yin bing), which were long and narrow like the leaves of Chinese chives. Like China’s more famous export – tea – its noodles spread to East and Southeast Asian peoples, who incorporated them into their own culinary traditions.