Ramen noodles were once named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century. Made from wheat noodles in the Chinese style, there are a number of fish or meat broths that are used in combination with miso and small toppings that can be rehydrated with boiling water. Although these noodles were sold as early as 1900 in street stalls and restaurants, the instant noodles that are associated with modern ramen were invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando.
Ando was born into a wealth family, but his parents both died when he was quite young. Raised by his grandparents, the entrepreneurial spirit was strong with him thanks to the textile store that his grandparents owned. He once served two years for tax evasion, though he once said that he had been donating scholarships for students. Here are some of his other inventions.
1. The Instant Food Industry Association
Ramen noodles were born out of the years after World War II when food was scarce in Japan. Americans were shipping in wheat flour and telling the Japanese to eat bread, but Ando didn’t think that this made sense. Noodles were more familiar. In creating instant foods, he also realized that there needed to be a set of standards in place so that people could be healthy and not have to worry about the quality of the food they were eating. That’s the inspiration behind the creation of the IFIA.
2. Cup of Noodles
At first, the ramen noodles that were being sold were considered to be a bit of a luxury item. Their prices was nearly 6 times the amount of other noodles that were being sold at the time. As prices dropped, however, people flocked to his invention. Nearly 100 billion servings are sold every year today. It all began in 1971 when Ando created the very first Cup of Noodles. It may have just been a polystyrene cup, but because it was water tight, people could eat noodles in a portable fashion. It became one of the cheapest meals available.
3. Other Ramen Products
The first ramen noodles were made with a chicken broth and were so successful that nearly a dozen other competitors came forward with products of their own ramen. That didn’t hold back Ando, who began developing other instant products from his company kitchens. His company, Nissin, is still one of the top providers of instant food products today thanks to other variations of instant noodles, including chow mein. Just about every store in the world that sells food will sell at least one food inventions from Ando, which is a testament to the lasting legacy he created in feeding billions.
4. Spoonable Ramen
One of the most recent innovations that has come from Nissin foods is the spoonable ramen noodle. These noodles are essentially just pre-cut versions of the original noodle, but they are designed to fit into a spoon instead of being eaten with a fork or chopsticks. It’s a lot like a soup, with larger pieces of vegetables and protein inside them, and the soup can be easily poured into a pot and simmered to add some extra flavor to the meal.