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On the Noodle Road

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3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  595 ratings  ·  134 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,395)
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Colleen
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
Larissa
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
Danielle
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
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
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
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Jaylia3
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
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
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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
Michael
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
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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
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
Leah
The tale of the author's culinary and cultural journey from China to Italy, On the Noodle Road had its fascinating moments, but, for some reason I can't fully pinpoint, it kind of fell flat for me. I love food (especially pasta). I like memoirs. I like books that examine gender roles. I'm interested in international culture and travel. I'm probably the perfect audience for this book, and yet it just didn't grab me. Maybe it's because I'm not an advanced cook, and the idea of making fresh noodles ...more
Lisa
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
Joyce
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
BooksAndTea
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
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
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
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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.
Jane
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.

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
Juanita
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
LAPL Reads
When humanity moved past being hunter-gatherers and began to cultivate and harvest crops, one of the basic products of these efforts was bread which became a primary food source. Noodles and dumplings are several steps up on the culinary register, but are based on a similar food product, dough, basically made of flour and water, and enriched with other ingredients if available. Add sauces, fillings made from grains, vegetables, bits of meat, poultry or fish, seasonings, and these foods have move ...more
Alana
Meh. A little initial background into the history (and pre-history) of the noodle and then non-existent afterwards. In fact, very little discussion or focus on the actual "noodle road" and noodle-y examples per se.

She comes across (both in her writing, lack of research, and general attitude) as lazy and spoiled. I kept asking "Who cares?" If i pick up a book about noodles and relationships, I want to read about noodles and relationships. Not just what an author decides to jot down to fill in th
...more
Ann Costello
An interesting idea, interesting travels, lots of interesting food. But in to end, it dragged on too long. And she never could figure out how noodles ended up in China and Italy. And not, it was not Marco Polo.
Samantha Kirk
Interesting premise but a lot of silly, spurious conclusions. This would have made a great feature piece in a magazine. There's just wasn't enough material for a book.
Jenny
I'm surprised to see so many negative reviews about this on GR. I always enjoy travelogues, and this one features food...what's not to like???
Bonnye Reed
I started this book because I love pasta, and the idea of trailing it from China to Italy along the Silk Route used by ancient traders was fascinating and fun. I loved this book because it tied together the struggle of women around the world to attain respect and independence without forfeiting the important life goals that we would also like to enjoy - a life mate, and children. Is it possible to have it all? Is this a war between the sexes fought by every generation of women? Is this a battle ...more
Heidi
Fascinating look at the cultures and linked histories behind noodles - Chines, Italian, middle eastern, etc. The author, a food and travel journalist, spent 6 months traversing the Silk Road, through places like Beijing, Turkmenistan, Iran, Greece and Italy. Along the way, she gives you a great sense of the culture, the food, the traditions, and the way so many of them are linked along the way. She spends more time than I cared to read on her own newly married status, trying to figure out how to ...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
More about Jen Lin-Liu...
Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China Frommer's China Frommer's Beijing Day by Day Frommer's Beijing Frommer's Bali & Lombok

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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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