Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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tutmaç a Turkish word meaning noodles which in one form or another is found in the remotest corners of the Turkish-speaking world, from the Tatars on the middle Volga to the Salars in Gansu province, China, and the isolated pagan Turkish nationalities of the Altai mountains.

In his 11th-century dictionary of Turkish dialects, Mahmud al-Kashghari recorded a pleasant and quite unbelievable folk-tale about how tutmach was invented at the behest of Alexander the Great, whom he refers to by his Koranic name, Dhu al-Qarnain:

When Dhu al-Qarnain emerged from Zulumat [the Land of Darkness where the sun disappears when it sets, and the Fountain of Youth is to be found], his people had little food and complained to him of hunger, and said to him, ‘Bizni tutma ach’, that is ‘Do not keep us here hungry, let us go so that we can return to our homes.’ He consulted the wise men on that subject so that this food might be produced, tutmach. It strengthens the body, reddens the cheeks and is quickly digested, and after the tutmach is eaten, the broth is drunk several-fold. When the Turks saw that, tutmach was named, its root being tutma ach, that is ‘Do not cause hunger.’