Some of the great achievements of human history are anonymous: the invention of the wheel, the alloying of copper and tin to create bronze; whoever tweeted that “Davey Cameron is a pie” from the official Jeremy Corbyn account. To this duo, add a third: the person — almost certainly in China — who first put noodles into broth, and gave a nation its most potent form of soft power.
As Japan opened up, la mian from China became ramen, and from there it took over the world, becoming a canny vehicle for transmitting flavour and culture in the same way the sandwich and pizza would for the West. At its heart the noodle soup contains three infinitely variable components — broth, noodles, and toppings — consider the distant affinity between the textural complexity of a laksa, with its rich broth and layers of flavour, and the maternal simplicity of a chicken noodle soup with matzo balls.
There is another aonymous hero in this story: The inventor of chilli oil. It’s a brave person who adds chilli oil to a soup. Irreversibly diffusing into the liquid, it draws out mucus and all ailments, to be wielded like a spell to ward off pestilence, hunger and quite possibly death. As the days get colder, it is a duty of care to tell Londoners exactly where they can get their medicine.Read More