Fresh from reading all about Chinese cuisine and the exploration of its culinary world, Jen Lin-Liu once again takes me on a culinary adventure. This time not in China but across entire Asia, from its desert plains, mountains regions, and nomadic lands, I join her in exploring the history behind the noodle. Her journey will take her from the cosmopolitan streets of Beijing to the rugged roads of the -stan countries of Central Asia and finally the historic streets of Turkey and Italy all while sampling different iterations of noodles long the historic Silk Road.
The Silk Road is known for a lot of things, first it’s the route traders took to bring spices and silk to and from Asia and Europe. Secondly it is significant because it’s the route Marco Polo took to reach China coming from Europe, and as pop history would tell us, it is because of this road/route that the noodle was brought to the shores of Europe. A fact that many know of but history would point out that there was no account of Marco Polo actually bringing the noodle to Europe. In fact there were pieces of evidence that would point out early civilizations did. Historical argument aside Jen Lin-Liu, motivated by the story sets out on a journey to find out where the noodle began and at one point in the whole Silk Route transformed it into the ubiquitous meal we all love.
While reading, I couldn’t help but feel envious of Jen, here she is writing about her experiences in different Asian countries, sampling mountains of plov, mian pian, manti, and skewers of lamb from some of the world’s most intriguing countries: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iran. Her descriptions of each meal never fail to make my mouth water, the way she enumerates each ingredient only excites brings me down to my knees and crave for food. More than the food she samples from each country, her tours of ancient civilizations, barren deserts, perilous mountain hikes, and grand bazaars are exciting to read about. The locales she visits add flavor to the dishes she eats and pulled at my heart strings to really want to explore Central Asia.
If Serve the People was all about having fun in Beijing, On the Noodle Road was the author getting serious. In her first book she was young, carefree, and adventurous, her life echoed what any normal single person living abroad would do. On her second book, I felt that she somewhat lost her flare, and decided to go google and starry eyed over her husband Craig. At certain points in her story it sounds all fun, but as the book progresses I felt awkward reading her own thoughts, apprehensions and even conflicts with her husband.
Clearly Jen Lin-Liu’s second outing is ambitious and grand, however it doesn’t feel like she had fun as opposed to her first book. Her journey was grand but there were just too many details, I felt bombarded by the names of dishes I kept reading, it was just to much! Nevertheless, her journey helped me learn new things about places I only see in a map. Her comments are bold, simple and honest enough to be appreciated, I just hope she finds another culinary mystery to explore in her next book.
On the Noodle Road is written by Jennifer Lin-Liu, it is published by Riverhead Books
To buy a copy, visit Amazon.com
To buy a copy, visit Amazon.com