Happy Birthday to Instant Ramen!
August 25, 1958 is the official birthday of Chicken Ramen, the instant food sensation that takes only 3 minutes to prepare by adding boiled water. Mr. Momofuku Ando invented the Japanese instant noodles as a solution to provide tasty, inexpensive and easy-to-prepare food for the working people. He would go on to invent Cup Noodles and see instant ramen go to space in the space shuttle.
Momofuku Ando was born in Taiwan to Taiwanese parents during Japan colonization, and immigrated to Japan after WWII. His birth name was Wu Baifu, and Momofuku is the Japanese reading of Baifu for "a hundred fortunes." Ando is a surname he took from his wife.
After WWII, domestic agriculture in Japan was slow in recovering. The United States gave aid and supplied flour to Japan, and there were classes teaching people how to make western food using flour, such as bread or spaghetti. Ando wanted to see Japanese food developed from flour. He also witnessed many poor workers lining up for a bowl of hot noodles, and he wanted to develop something that was "easy, cheap and clean" for the working class. His wish would take a decade to realize.
The first instant ramen was called "Chicken Ramen" because it was made with noodles and chicken soup. Chicken is also the prime ingredient in instant ramen's global success. In Ando's autobiography, "The Story of the Invention of Instant Ramen," he wrote, “By using chicken soup, instant ramen managed to circumvent religious taboos when it was introduced in different countries. Hindus may not eat beef and Muslims may not eat pork, but there is not a single culture, religion or country that forbids the eating of chicken.”
In 1966, he visited the US and saw Americans break up ramen noodles, put them into a cup and add hot water. He got the idea to make Cup Noodles. Then In 2005, his ramen company, Nissin Food Products, packaged vacuum-packed instant noodles for Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, to eat in the space shuttle Discovery. Mr. Ando said at the time, “I’ve realized my dream that noodles can go into space.”
He passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. Ando claimed that the secret of his long life was playing golf and eating Chicken Ramen almost every day. He was said to have eaten instant ramen until the day before he died.
For more on Nissin Noodles and the history of instant ramen, enjoy the documentary below from Japan's NHK World.
(Photo credit: Chinatimes)