In her latest book, On the Noodle Road, author Jen Lin-Liu chronicles a six-month journey along the historic Silk Road from eastern China, through central Asia, Turkey, Iran and eventually arriving in Italy, in search of the true origin of the noodle.
As Lin-Liu tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, the myth of pasta traveling from West to East was first popularized by Macaroni Journal, the official trade journal of the pasta manufacturers of the U.S. In 1929, the journal had a story “about how Marco Polo arrived at a destination that seemed more South Pacific than Chinese and came across natives drying strands of dough.”
But this couldn’t possibly be correct. “As it turns out, the Chinese don’t dry their pasta the way that Italians do,” she says.
So what are the historical origins of noodles in China?