Marco! Polo!

Thursday, May 10th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

At Marco Polo Noodle Shop at 94 Baxter Street, the house specialty is, as one would expect: noodles. Here, the Lanchou style beef stew noodle soup , which are “fresh made” in house daily. It was very good – and for $4.75 for this generous bowl, great value! — but I miss the spectacle of the hand-pulled variety at the other noodle shops, farther east.

Marco Polo

beef stew noodle soup

So why a Chinese noodle shop named for an Italian? As any fifth grader can tell you, Marco Polo’s 13th century wanderings along the Silk Road served as the basis for his travel account, which became an important document of East-West exchanges. His writings (the veracity of which has been disputed through the years) formed the basis of the popular idea that the explorer introduced Chinese noodles to the Italians, where they were reborn as spaghetti. (“We [Italians] take credit for it, but we just added oregano,” as the Estelle Getty character quips to a Chinese doctor in one episode of The Golden Girls.) It’s a version perpetuated by the Chinese, where the schools promote national pride for the Four Great Inventions: the compass, gunpowder, paper and movable type.

More accurately, it appears that macaroni/noodles evolved independently in the two countries, though the origins trace far earlier in China — further even than was believed until a couple of years ago. In 2005, Chinese researchers unearthed a 4,000-year-old container of noodles in northwestern China, predating the first written mention of noodles by at least 2,000 years. (Insert old Chinese leftovers joke here.)

In one of those cross-cultural idiosyncrasies, “Italian noodle” is actually quite popular in Hong Kong, where the Spaghetti House restaurant chain has 25 outlets throughout the region.

There's 1 comment so far ... Marco! Polo!

June 27, 2007

I really like their noodles.

Go for it ...