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On the Noodle Road

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3.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  842 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
A food writer travels the Silk Road, immersing herself in a moveable feast of foods and cultures and discovering some surprising truths about commitment, independence, and love.

Feasting her way through an Italian honeymoon, Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cooked back in China, where she’d lived for more than a decade. Who really inv
...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published December 1st 2013 by Allen & Unwin (first published July 14th 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,924)
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Larissa
Jul 27, 2014 Larissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish, china
I really wanted to like this. It combines two things I love: food writing and travel writing. Unfortunately it also including a fair amount of navel gazing on the author's part. - oh, marriage, what are you and what do you mean to me and to my career? oh, what is a wife? How can I be a wife and have a fabulous career as an author who gets to travel the world and eat? Maybe that last one is not fair, but it is the one that finally made me put the book down. Perhaps if I had finished I would find ...more
Colleen
Aug 27, 2013 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to say whether I liked this book. I found Jen Lin-Liu, the memoirist, incredibly annoying, what with her constant angst about whether being married was going to crimp her style, require something of her (like basic consideration for her husband), or affect her independence. Anyone who is married is going to tell you that marriage does do all that, but that is kind of the point of it. I was also relatively unclear about what caused her to undertake the trip she records in the first plac ...more
Danielle
Jun 16, 2014 Danielle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to give this book a higher rating because it combined my love of history and love of food but I couldn't get past the author. She came across as a "woe is me" writer who spent a good portion of the book questioning her relationship with her husband and complaining about how she was suppose to balance her life as a traveling food author, food school owner with her marriage.
Larry Hoffer
Jul 31, 2013 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Warning: Don't read this book on an empty stomach, or if you're on Atkins, because you'll be craving carbohydrates and your stomach will probably be growling throughout the entire book.

Jen Lin-Liu was a journalist, food writer, and owner of a cooking school in Beijing. While on her honeymoon in Italy, as she marveled over the culinary delights she and her husband enjoyed, she started wondering about pasta. (And who wouldn't?) More specifically, she started wondering about pasta's provenance, giv
...more
John
Aug 21, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 3.5 stars I suppose, but three would feel a bit ... unfair.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to get into the book at first, but the Chinese section proved interesting enough that I decided to plunge ahead to the end; the strength of that part lay in Jen's depiction of several various regions of the wheat-based northern part of the country, rather than concentrating on the Han northeast, each seeming a bit more "western" as she heads west. I didn't feel she really enjoyed Central Asia, or Iran for
...more
Bob Schnell
"On the Noodle Road" is a travelogue of the Silk Road with a little too much personal introspection and not quite enough noodles. To be sure, there are sufficient recipes and descriptions of meals I will never experience. However there is too much repetition and not enough depth to the food cultures Jen Lin-Liu is trying to describe. Perhaps I am spoiled by Bourdain and Zimmerman, but how often does the author have to describe the ubiquity of yogurt or the pounding and rolling of pasta dough? He ...more
Jaylia3
Jul 01, 2013 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Combining travelogue, history, cultural investigation, food diary, recipes, and memoir, On the Noodle Road is a layered treat of a book. Journalist and cooking school founder Jen Lin-Liu was inspired to travel the ancient Silk Road route from Beijing to Rome after being struck by similarities between Chinese and Italian pasta dishes. Common wisdom holds that Marco Polo brought the noodle from China back to Italy, but the evidence is shaky. Lin-Liu decided to investigate cooking styles along the ...more
Pamela
Sep 19, 2013 Pamela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Like an undercooked noodle, this book lacks substance. The author tried to write a book about food and cooking as well as a travelogue, and succeeded at neither. Had she met either goal well, we would have a very different reading experience. Unfortunately, my experience with this book is diluted by the failure of the author to achieve her goals.

Almost immediately, I knew I was in trouble when I read the third sentence in the book, "'That's like making me choose my favorite family member!' she
...more
Michael
Jun 25, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is a Chinese-American, raised in California and who now owns a cooking school in Beijing. While at a dinner in Italy, she began to wonder about the "age-old question" on the origin of noodles. Did Marco Polo really introduce the noodle from China to Italy?

This work is a little cultural anthropology, a little cooking skills, a little travel guide, a little meditation on the role of women and feminism. It is a delightful, eclectic mix of all of the above. At the time of her trip, she ha
...more
Jodi
While there were wonderful descriptions of food and ultimately a follow-through on the author's inner journey, which was not just to follow the Silk Road to discover the origin of noodles but rather to travel through these unknown spaces to discover the origin of herself, I was bored. Coleen Marlo didn't make me want to continue to listen. She didn't enliven the food or make it sound yummy. She read it. She didn't bring Jen alive even though a lot of Jen's insecurities were there. Nor did she gi ...more
Ron
Oct 14, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost 400 pages about noodles got to be a bit much, but this book is still an enjoyable trip across a large part of the world. The author's strident feminism is somewhat blatant at times but can be forgiven, but I am glad I am not married to her and I am sure the feeling is returned! I no longer eat wheat/other grain products but enjoyed the read nevertheless. From Amazon: Feasting her way through an Italian honeymoon, Jen Lin-Liu was struck by culinary echoes of the delicacies she ate and cook ...more
Lisa
Dec 30, 2013 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'd expected to learn about noodles as they relate to agriculture, climate, and culture from China through the Silk Road to Italy. Instead it is part travel log and part memoir and doesn't work as either. The author sets aside what she says experts have written and uses her own anecdotes to determine how certain foods are linked among different regions. It isn't much about noodles since she didn't mention them in the Iran part until the last quarter of the section. She even said that noodles are ...more
Cindy
Mar 02, 2016 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and richly descriptive. Would have given this four stars but for Lin-Liu's interwoven whining about her charmed marriage and international career. Made for jarring "first world problems" contrast between the lives of most of the women she interviewed and her own.
Joyce
Dec 13, 2013 Joyce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, memoir, nonfiction
I really wanted to like this book, and honestly, what's not to like? It traces noodle cuisine along the Silk Road. How fun! I think it's the narrator who did me in. Weirdly artificial voice at times, generally annoying all the time. I didn't want to listen, but...I wanted to learn about the origin of noodles--from west to east or east to west. I could have listened to the first and last chapters and skipped the interminable middle. As I've confessed before, I don't much like memoirs, so I might ...more
Kimberly
I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure if it answered the questions it set out to answer, but it offered a peek into a lot of places with which I have no familiarity and that made it worth reading. But If I ever get the chance to travel as extensively as this author, I promise not to sound as jaded and world weary as she does at times.
Cyndi
Jan 01, 2016 Cyndi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While I love cooking and food, I guess I am not a foodie. I could not get into all of the food Jen described on her journey to discover the origins of the noodle. I got a little bored in those places but was fascinated by her descriptions of the cultures and the individual people she met along the way. Her writing is not boring and I enjoyed the personal pieces she inserted as she was discovering herself and how to reconcile her feelings of being a wife, but being very independent. She was also ...more
Sarah
Jul 23, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grownup
I wasn't totally crazy about the book as I was reading it, but it did take me to lots of countries I knew exactly nothing about, and I've referenced it in tons of conversations since I finished. I loved this approach of meeting women where they cook, since it took us from upscale restaurants to tiny kitchens. And while most of the food descriptions didn't do much for me as I was reading, I did repeatedly find myself cooking dishes from whatever region of the book I was in at the moment.

I didn't
...more
Bookworm
Nov 13, 2014 Bookworm rated it liked it
Not just about noodles Not quite what I thought it would be. Author Jen Lin-Liu sets across the Silk Road to see how food has changed and evolved. Originally her interest had been piqued by noodles and I thought the book was going to be about the noodle. But ti was a lot more than that: dumplings and bread, meat and spices, what is used and what is not and why. It's also a bit of a history book, explaining issues like the dietary requirements for Muslims and how issues like laws and geography af ...more
Kayce
Oct 09, 2014 Kayce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
it was not enough one thing or the other. neither a proper food anthology nor an exhilarating travelogue, it just ends up sort of ... ok. not bad, not great. three stars mainly for iran and turkey. i had this on my wishlist for ages, and had high expectations, but was massively let down. i also feel the book sort of just ... ends. there's not a lot of wrap up, it's as if jen said "oh i've met my page limit, let me tie all this in a bow." unlike other reviewers, i like the "navel-gazing" bit (fun ...more
Charcoal
Apr 18, 2014 Charcoal rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is supposed to be about food, and the origin of the noodle. However, it was really about the author "finding herself". I found it annoying that she keeps having issues with the term "wife". If you don't want to be called a wife, why did you get married?

She didn't have a problem cooking for her husband before they were married, yet now after she is married, she doesn't want to cook for him, simply because it's expected of so many wives. She balks at so many actions/activities, not becau
...more
Jennifer
Jan 03, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and well-written book about the search for the origin of the noodle by a trip along the Silk Road. Ms. Lin-Liu has a knack for meeting a wide variety of people and describing their personalities and food equally well. After reading some other reviews that thought she spent too much time moaning and groaning about her status as a wife vs. independent person, I almost considered returning it to the library unread, but I'm glad I didn't as I didn't think her pondering those things ...more
Marianne Morris
I may not be enough of a food lover to really appreciate this book. But while I found the descriptions of food sort of boring since I don't cook, I was interested in the cultural aspects of the book. The author - sometimes accompanied by her husband, sometimes not - traveled along the Silk Road through many exotic and often dangerous countries and regions. And along the way she learned that no matter what, human beings just enjoy a good meal. Which I can relate to.
Douglas Lord
Nov 29, 2015 Douglas Lord rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intelligent, well-crafted travelogue of a thoughtful woman and excellent writer who I wish would make me some noodles. It reads as though Michael Paterniti’s The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese and Paul Theroux’s Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China are on a date holding hands. At a really good noodle joint.

Find reviews of books for men at Books for Dudes, Books for Dudes, the online reader's advisory column for men from Lib
...more
Jane
Nov 07, 2013 Jane rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not one to read travelogues or food books, but I was given this after I returned from a trip from Iran to China.

I enjoyed my trip a lot more than the author did.
The author alternates between pompous and anxious.

It reads like a hastily assembled magazine article, interminably stretched to boring point.

I didn't finish this book. I usually finish books but this hadn't improved by half way through and it was annoying me so I gave up.

Crystal
Feb 01, 2015 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love culinary history and the silk road so this was an ideal combo for me. Lin-Liu isn't always the most fluent writer but I enjoyed her attempt to weave together her three loves - cooking, writing and her husband. They aren't always an obedient troika but somehow they get her across Asia, all in pursuit of the Ur-Noodle, something she never finds. But, as someone pointed out long ago, the journey is the destination. Along the silk road from China all the way to Italy, Lin-Liu has many opportu ...more
Jesse Field
My husband liked to make fun of this bedside reading, finally finished after a train ride out to Guangxi province. "And then, she ate all the noodles in the world. Tra-la-la," he'd say, meaning that it's all rather meaningless. What he doesn't say is that food writing is not meaningless if you are interested either in food or in writing. Jen is at her best with layered little portraits: dishes, their cooks, and the families and communities of those who cook. There's often a strange form of (in)h ...more
Cheryl
Nov 17, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quest, adultlit
This book is a treasure, a culinary quest that spans across Asia to Europe. Jen Lin-Liu's unique background as a female Chinese-American cooking school owner allows her to traverse places that seem to be just blank "other" spaces on the map of Asia and reveal how food is interwoven with everyday life in an amazing array of cultures. And I think she achieved her quest: to contribute new understanding about the old folklore of Marco Polo and the history of noodles from China (with a side of plov f ...more
Juanita
Jun 20, 2013 Juanita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The actual story was quite dull, but the recipes included are simply worth the purchase of the book. It is a story about a trip of a newlywed through China, Iran, Turkey, and eventually Italy examining the similarities and differences of each areas noodles. That part of the story is pretty intact, but I feel that there is much more. It was a glorified travel novel that was not that interesting.
Bam
Jen Lin-Liu, a Chinese-American journalist, took a cooking class in Rome, and began wondering how noodles had originated. It has been disproven that Marco Polo brought them along the Silk Road from China but how had they ended up in Italy? She decides to make the journey herself to try to find out. She tastes and cooks her way westward through China, Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and finally Italy, meeting many fascinating people and cultures.
Along the way she also wrestles with being newly-married
...more
Suzanne Auckerman
I heard an interview with the author on NPR and thought it would be a good book. I even gave a copy to Colin as I thought he would be interested in it because of the pasta. It is okay. It is a travelogue with food and does have a lot of recipes. She is Chinese and her husband is American and they had been married about two years. There was a lot of angst about being married, losing her identity, becoming just a spouse, etc. that I was not particularly interested in as I got over that years ago. ...more
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Jen Lin-Liu is the author of Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China and the founder of the cooking school Black Sesame Kitchen in Beijing. She was raised in southern California, graduated from Columbia University, and went to China in 2000 on a Fulbright fellowship. A food critic for Time Out Beijing and the coauthor of Frommer’s Beijing, she has also written for Newsweek, the New Yo ...more
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“Italy was the only place I'd visited where people described kitchen implements as having souls of their own.” 3 likes
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