Noodles of China

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
To understand the history of noodles in China, it is necessary to know something of the history of the various cereals from which noodles can be made, and to realize that, originally and now, Chinese noodles have fallen into two distinct categories.

The earliest cereals used by the Chinese were millet and rice, and the pair were known as mi. They were eaten primarily in the form of grains. However, either flour or starch could be produced from them; these, known as fen, were originally used mainly for cosmetic purposes, but from the 6th century onwards for food preparation, including the making of noodles. When this development occurred, the noodles so made were also called fen, and the term subsequently acquired an even wider meaning, embracing for example mung bean flour and soya bean flour (which provide two of the numerous non-cereal noodles which are popular in China).