By MATTHEW WEAVER
The Wheat Marketing Center will offer its annual Asian noodle short course in March.
The course is designed for noodle manufacturers, flour millers, ingredient suppliers and researchers and scientists and runs March 26-29 at the center in Portland, Ore.
The course director is Gary Hou, technical director and wheat foods specialist for the center and the author of "Asian Noodles: Science, Technology and Processing," published in 2010.
Since it began in 1997, the course evolved from teaching the basics to differing types of noodle products based on regional differences and eating habits.
Content expands to keep current with trends of the food industry and provide the latest information to participants, Hou said.
Hou said the course has helped to develop and expand Asian noodle production around the world. Participants have come from North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe, New Zealand, India and the Middle East.
"In Nigeria, there was only one noodle manufacturer about seven years ago, now it has more than 16 noodle companies," Hou said. "About 15 percent of all flour consumed in Nigeria is for noodle production and this is expanding rapidly."
The center believes the course has convinced overseas wheat buyers to buy more U.S. wheat. Participants are taught how to make the highest quality noodle products using U.S. wheat flour, which is especially important in countries where Asian noodles are not traditional foods. Manufacturers need guidance and knowledge to set the quality standard, Hou said.
"As the consumers there (get) used to this new food, they tend to keep their eating habit -- noodle color and texture -- for the rest of their lives," he said. "The flour millers tend to buy U.S. wheat to provide consistent flour to noodle manufacturers."
Hou said the global noodle industry will continue to grow, particularly in Africa, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Europe and the Middle East. Certain types will grow more rapidly in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, he added. For example, non-fried instant noodles are gaining in popularity much faster than fried instant noodles. Frozen noodles, fresh wet noodles and dry noodles are also gaining in popularity.
Since his book was published, Hou receives e-mails and phone calls with technical questions or troubleshooting. He visited Lithuania last September to help a noodle manufacturer develop new formulations to improve product quality.
The center has also received more industry research projects. Ingredient companies have asked for application studies in Asian noodles and noodle companies have asked the center to develop new products.
"This book has promoted our expertise and given us credibility in Asian noodles worldwide," Hou said.