The Noodle Project

The Noodle Project

What: Learn about and make 12-16 types of noodles.

Who: Interested friends, family, and colleagues who want to learn something new.

When: Twice a month for the year 2017.

Why: Keep reading!

I care a lot about food. I’m the person that tries to make a quick weeknight dinner but ends up spending two hours in the kitchen because I feel too inspired to make anything simple. I get cravings for specific foods and my Saturday afternoon turns into researching how to make them. I recently  listened to an Alton Brown interview in which he talked about fixating on certain foods, spending 13 days in a row trying to perfect French onion soup. Smiling to myself, I thought about how many times I’ve gone to the store multiple days in a row because I want to make something specific.

After discovering my love for East Asian food in college (Seattle has quite the selection of affordable and delicious restaurants to choose from) and spending 6 weeks in Southeast Asia, I found myself living in Bozeman, MT without a pho restaurant or Asian grocery store in sight. The spicy, salty, and savory noodle and curry dishes to which I had become so accustomed would now have to come from my kitchen, or I would need to find something else to crave. I started satiating this hunger for foreign food by exploring my own cooking. I would host Tuesday night dinners reminiscent of a ritual from college, but instead of just showing up with the wine I would be the one planning the menu and cooking most of the meal. The Tuesday night dinner crowd ebbed and flowed, and the food I cooked changed with the seasons. Eventually the consistent dinners stopped, but my habit of cooking only grew.

My first kimchi-jjigae. Here’s the recipe

Although I was cooking a lot, I had largely written off East Asian food – save the occasional curry – as something that would be a treat during my visits to Seattle. Gradually, however, I began experimenting. I found a great Korean cooking website that got me hooked on kimchi-jjigae and soon most of my dinners would incorporate elements of the East. I began making my own kimchi and would spend hours preparing Korean feasts with a multitude of side dishes. After obsessing over Japanese ramen noodles this fall and learning that the dish originated in China, I became very intrigued about the cross-cultural connections that certain foods make, whether from colonial trade routes or independent cultures coincidentally creating similar dishes. Take the noodle, for example. How could something with such humble ingredients take so many different forms, and did it come from China or Italy, anyway? Luckily, Jen Lin-Liu shares my curiosity and in her book On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta, she travels along the Silk Road, searching for the evolution of the noodle from east to west. Salivating at the turn of every page but without the means or time to embark on such a journey at the moment, I had an idea.

Making Korean wheat noodles

Since graduating college in 2012, I have become familiar with the classic predicament of learning how to continue learning outside of an academic environment, and cooking has played a huge role in the process. I have been habitually bringing East Asian food into my kitchen to my friends for months, gaining a reputation for it. Although I won’t claim total authenticity, I am very intentional about trying to find the right ingredients, often searching online for Korean chili pepper flakes or Japanese dashi granules, as well as making a semi-annual trip to the Asian market in Seattle for other staples. My friends have been learning a lot, too, and they are fans of my delicious habit. One of the things I love most about cooking – especially cooking foreign food – is that it is a great way for me to connect and share new things with others. And so, in 2017, I am embarking on a journey, let’s call it The Noodle Project. Roughly twice a month I will arm myself with a new noodle recipe, invite a friend over, and we will make it together. All told, I aim to create and learn about 12-16 noodle dishes with as many guests. Together we will learn about the noodle that week, make it together, and discuss our experience. Each noodle (and friend) will get their own blog post and podcast episode. Throughout the year I hope not only to explore my own love of noodles and the links they have with different ethnic groups, but to continue to share my love of food with my friends and family. I am a strong believer in the power of food as a great connector, and I hope that through delving into the connection of noodles around the world we can look introspectively into our own connections with each other and the world around us.

Learning how to make ramen

This year I am challenging myself to be creative with my food, writing, and learning new skills. In order to reveal my strengths and opportunities for growth, I must allow myself to create and make mistakes, and this project aims at doing just that. I hope you join me on this journey. I hope over this year I can provide moments of connection, entertainment, and learning. And noodles. There will be many, many noodles. Let’s begin!