Ramen noodles have not always been trendy like they are today; up until recently, ramen noodles were seen only as “poverty food” because of how cheap they were (are) in the grocery stores. With that being said, today, I’ll share at least 20 facts about the history of ramen noodles.
Ramen noodles were invented in China, not Japan, as most people think. Black market food vendors brought ramen from China into Japan, and its popularity took off in WWII. With no food, the US brought wheat to help feed the Japanese people; and that wheat found its way into noodles.
Are you looking for the history of your favorite food? Well, keep reading to discover the history of ramen noodles and so much more.
These are 20+ facts about ramen noodles.
1. Ramen Came From China; Not Japan.
The origin of ramen noodles was always thought to have come from Japan. But scholars dismiss that idea, saying that before the 1950s, ramen was referred to as “shina soba,” meaning Chinese soba. Chinese immigrants brought their noodles with them and introduced them to Japanese culture.
2. Black Market Food Vendors Brought Ramen Into Japan.
After WWII was over, the Japanese people were starving. Wheat-based noodles replaced rice as the base of meals after they had their worst rice harvest in 1945, as well as its subsequent agricultural losses in both China and Taiwan.
Black market vendors smuggled wheat and other foods essential to Japanese survival while food rations were limited. Ramen noodles made up most of the meals vendors sold.
3. Americans Helped Popularize Ramen in Japan.
During their post-war occupation of Japan, the Americans had wheat flown in to help feed people. While most of the wheat went into bread-making, some of it went into ramen noodles. The Americans insisted that wheat and animal foods were superior, which helped popularize ramen noodles in Japan.
4. The Chairman of Nissin Foods Invented Instant Noodles.
In 1958, Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen noodles after several tries. Because of the popularity of his invention, he started Nissin Foods to sell the noodles. Their first flavor was the “Chikin Ramen.”
5. A Ramen Amusement Park Opened in 1994 in Yokohama.
In 1994, Yokohama, Japan, residents found a ramen amusement park in their backyard. The museum/amusement park commemorated the year that instant ramen noodles were invented. A bar, souvenir shop, and several ramen restaurants with their unique ramen flavors complete the time travel tour.
6. Instant Noodles Were Luxury Items at One Time.
Ramen noodles were once a luxury food in Japanese grocery stores when they were first introduced. They cost more than fresh noodles at the time, but now they are one of the cheapest items in American grocery stores.
7. Top Ramen Came to the US in 1970.
Nissin chairman Momofuku Ando imported his instant noodles to the US under the flag of Top Ramen in 1970.
8. Cup Noodles Appeared in Stores in 1971.
After Momofuku Ando brought instant noodles to America in 1970, he started noticing the lack of Japanese noodle bowls in America. With that information, he set out to design a styrofoam cup that mimicked the dishes. Cup noodles were the result and came to the market in 1971.
9. Ramen Noodles Went to Space in 2005.
In July of 2005, Nissin created the first space-viable instant noodles for Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi.
10. Before It Became Famous, Ramen Was a Popular Blue-Collar Dish in Asia.
Before the rise of instant ramen noodles, fresh ramen was a blue-collar dish in Asia. It was the perfect grab and go food that people could take with them when going to work.
11. Japan Restaurants Started Cooking Ramen in 1910.
Chinese chefs in a Tokyo restaurant started serving ramen noodles (shina soba) in 1910, which is believed to have started the Japanese love affair with ramen.
12. Instant Ramen Was Voted Japan’s Top 20th Century Invention.
In 2000, a survey was conducted that asked Japanese what the greatest import of the 20th century was. Surprisingly, the number one answer was instant ramen noodles.
13. Trendy Noodle Shops Are Now Popping Up Everywhere.
In the last couple of decades, ramen noodles have experienced a revival. They are becoming trendy again, thanks, in part, to chefs adding herbs, spices, and other foods that elevate the humble ramen into a fine dining entree.
14. Organic Fresh Ramen Is Now the Go-To Dish for Trend-Setters.
Not only have ramen restaurants elevated the dry instant noodles, but organic food manufacturers have also jumped on the trend of offering organic fresh noodle kits. These kits come with fresh noodles or rice, homemade bone broth, and fresh herbs to finish off the dish.
15. Vancouver B.C. Restaurant Sells “Beer” Ramen.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, restaurant co-owner, Julia Kubotani, came up with a cold dish for summer months that resembles a large mug of beer, with noodles in it. The “beer” is bonito broth, while the “foam” is made from gelatin and broth and piped on top once the noodles are placed in the mug. They serve it with either deep-fried boneless chicken or vegetables.
16. A Broken Sink Was Once Fixed With a Ramen Packet.
Ramen isn’t just good for eating. One DIYer decided to fix a broken sink with dried instant ramen temporarily. The block of ramen was placed in the hole of the sink, and some water was added to make it easier to spread to cover the entire hole. They then scraped and sanded the whole piece down to be even with the sink.
Once they had the correct shape, they spray painted it to match the rest of the sink.
17. Ramen Is the Go-To Prison Currency.
Cigarettes used to be prison currency, but today, it is ramen noodles. Prisoners use it to have other inmates do things for them, such as making their beds or doing laundry.
18. “Western Superiority” Popularized Ramen in Japan After WWII.
When American soldiers occupied Japan after the war, they bragged about how superior a wheat and meat diet was compared to the Japanese diet of rice, tofu, and vegetables. The attitude continued once Americans left Japan, and nutritionists jumped on this idea, stating that “parents who feed their children solely on white rice doom them to a life of idiocy.” Japanese parents started feeding their children wheat-based ramen noodles as a result of this.
19. Ramen Was Once Seen Only as Poverty Food.
Before the 1970s, buying ramen was seen as a last-ditch effort to remain afloat in severe poverty. Then ramen pushcarts turned into moderately priced restaurants serving more popular ramen dishes.
20. Ramen Is Part of Japan’s Cultural Identity.
Eager to throw off the cultural stigma of what ramen noodles represented. Japan re-made ramen noodles for younger customers and turned that image into comfort food with a hint of nostalgia.
21. The World Eats Over 100 billion Servings of Instant Noodles Each Year.
Instant noodles are perhaps one of the most popular food in the world. With over 103 billion servings eaten across the globe per year, it’s easy to see that this food isn’t going out of style anytime soon.
22. The Convenience of Instant Noodles Comes With a Hefty Price.
But all those ramen noodles may be taking a toll on the health of people who eat a lot of it. Two or more servings per week have been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and diabetes. Due to the high sodium content, it can increase blood pressure.
With such a unique and rich history, ramen noodles are bound to get even more exciting as the years go by. Itadakimasu!