Instant noodles are regarded as one of the most influential inventions of Japan. The global demand for instant noodles was approximately 100.1 billion servings in 2017, according to Statista.com. Nissin Foods, the company that introduced instant noodles, had a net sales of approximately 496 billion Japanese yen in 2017. Although it is now known for its affordability, instant noodles was once a luxury item that was far more expensive than fresh noodles, which was sold at one-sixth its price in Japan. Despite this, it didn’t take long for it to gain popularity amongst people who like it due to it being tasty and convenient.
The idea for instant noodles came to Taiwanese-Japanese Momofuku Ando when Japan was still in its post-war days. In his autobiography, The Story of the Invention of Instant Ramen, Ando recounts the day when he saw people waiting in the cold for a bowl of ramen. “I realised that people were willing to wait patiently just for a bowl of ramen”, says Ando.
The impression remained etched in his mind, which became the seed of his invention ten years later. In 1957, when Ando went bankrupt after losing his company, he began experimenting preparing noodles with just hot water. What Ando wanted to perfect wasn’t just a bowl of unflavoured noodles, but one that was tasty, inexpensive, and convenient.
He flavoured the noodles first by wetting it with a soup that was cooked separately. When it was partly dry, he kneaded the noodles before allowing them to be completely dry. This way, it allowed “the noodles to soak up the soup on the outer layer”, says Ando.
Ando also wanted noodles that can be stored for a long period of time. One day, Ando walked into the kitchen when his wife was preparing tempura. As she fried the flour-coated tempura in hot cooking oil, he noticed how the tempura was giving out moisture in its hot temperature. It was a eureka moment, Ando realised the same method could be applied to his noodles. He began frying his noodles, which forced out the moisture in it. They became completely dehydrated and did not decompose even after a long period of time.
In 1958, Ando launched the world’s first instant noodles, Chikin Ramen. It was dubbed as “magic ramen”, noodles that can be eaten in two minutes just by adding hot water.
Instant noodles gained its reputation as a practical emergency food when policemen were seen “eating cupped ramen in sub-zero temperatures as they waited for the hostage to be released” from the Asamo-Sanso hostage incident, which lasted from 19 February 1972 to 28 February 1972. It was a live broadcast seen by almost ninety percent of television viewers in Japan.
Nissin Foods might be the largest instant noodles producer in the world, but companies from other countries such as Taiwan has been gaining popularity amongst consumers. In The Ramen Rater’s Top Ten Instant Noodle Bowls Of All Time 2018 Edition, five out of ten brands from Taiwan have made it to the list.
A dried noodle block that could be eaten immediately after being cooked or soaked in boiling water. Its flavouring usually comes in a separate packet. Though usually eaten at home and known as an economical food, it is also known for its versatility when it comes to how you want your instant noodles to be eaten and what to be eaten with. Chef-owner Petrina Loh’s recipe of instant noodles includes Ikura and Natto, turning it into a luxurious bowl of instant noodles.
Wheat flour, palm oil, and salt. Common ingredients for flavouring includes salt, monosodium glutamate, seasoning, and sugar.