One of my staples in the local cha chaan teng is yifu noodles with Chinese chives and mushrooms. The egg noodles, made from wheat flour, are deep fried and dried into large round cakes. They are then boiled until soft before being fried or served in a broth.

Yifu noodles were invented in the household of Yi Bingshou (1754-1815), hence the name, Yifu, which means “Yi’s residence”.

Yi was a scholarofficial who served both in the central government in Beijing and in local government. Besides enjoying a sterling reputation as an administrator, Yi was also celebrated for his calligraphy. As a result, he always had many visitors.

To feed his constant stream of guests, he had his cook prepare cakes of fried and dried noodles, which could be stored for a relatively long time. When Yi’s guests were hungry, his cook would just whip up a meal from one or several cakes of dried noodles.

More than a century later, another Chinese person had the same idea: to fry and dry noodles for longer storage and convenient preparation. Wu Baifu, from Taiwan, invented the precooked instant noodle in Japan, in 1958, a type of food that went on to become a global phenomenon. Wu, better known by his Japanese name, Momofuku Ando, was the founder of Nissin, of Cup Noodles fame.