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August 21, 2017 | by  | in Food |
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The Conception of Instant Noodles as an Allegory of Asian Development

As one ambles through the instant noodle aisle of a supermarket, what can we make of industrial food’s best effort yet? Attempting to form distinctions between glossy laminated packagings of processed food can be an abstract and frustrating exercise, especially when it is in languages we don’t understand and flavours we aren’t accustomed to. In our globalised world of nation states, how do these noodles reflect their place of origin?

IndoMie Goreng reminds me of my childhood nanny from Central Java. It is the end result of a hard day’s slog, rejecting all other forms of cooked food in favour of a private bowl of instant noodles, the closest thing to intimacy many domestic helpers like her receive. This was her form of internalised patriotism, weary of being ridiculed but easily evoked, comfort food from the warungs.

A small packet of immense artificial flavour; this must be the ultimate inversion of the Indonesian nation state. Or is it? IndoMie, as it is usually served, fills you as an appetiser but never more, leaving so much to be desired, a limp and stuttering beleaguered new order. IndoMie, when prepared well, is like sharing grapefruits in bed with a lover. Red stained white sheets, wrong but right. The bitter aftertaste, truly umami.

Heading north as modernisation permits, there are the South Korean noodles, larger in size, allowing me to cook something from nothing, getting me ready for a day’s work, almost healthy (applesauce and everything). Jjamppong, BibiMen, Jajangmyeon, Shin noodles, take your pick. Fiercely democratic and functional now, like a winter sonata, a pretty boy, or other cultural exports that unnerve the Chinese Communist Party. Sharing common aspiration with plastic surgical beauty, competition driving us to our apparent best, chaebols running amok, capitalism raw, unabashed, take it or leave it.

So here is Asian development savoured; does it nourish you?

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