Possibly considered its own food group to those strapped for cash, Ramen noodles have prominently established themselves in our culture's lexicon of favorite food. But where did they come from? And more importantly, what kind of fascinating facts have we uncovered about this popularly priced pasta?
"¢ In Japan, Ramen is "more than a cheap cup of noodles. It is the national dish, cheaper than sushi, available everywhere and perpetually fashionable. With its rich, meaty broth, ramen is very different from other Japanese soups; in fact the dish is a relatively recent import from China."
"¢ Nissin Foods first introduced an instant form of Ramen in 1958. Weirdly, it was considered a "luxury" item at the time, since most grocers sold fresh noodles (udon) at a fraction of the cost. Still, noodles are no passing fad—in 2005, a 4,000-year-old bowl was unearthed in China.
"¢ Nissin Foods founder Momofuku Ando died in 2007. The previous year, his company sold 46.3 billion packs and cups of noodles around the world, earning $131 million in profits. He penned an autobiography in 2002 called The Story of the Invention of Instant Ramen, and said in 2005 that he had "realized his dream that noodles can go into space" when a vacuum-packed version traveled with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the space shuttle Discovery.
"¢ The award for Largest Packet of Instant Noodles goes to Indofood, who created a packet of their instant-noodles, "Indomie," that weighed over half a ton (and STILL no doubt costing less than your average organic snack bar).
"¢ Is Ramen worth more than gold? To some, yes. According to the Houston Chronicle, inmates from the Harris County jail bought over 3 million packets of Ramen from the jail commissary (which made it the #1 seller, followed by envelopes), after which they were used primarily for bartering and gambling.
"¢ For those who just can't get enough Ramen, there's the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, which boasts a Ramen-only food court as well as a theme park (the "Ramusement Park"). If that doesn't seem relaxing enough for you, try out the Ramen Spa in Hakone, Japan. Or just try having your noodle-fortune read.
"¢ Forget "spaghetti westerns," here's a film dedicated to Ramen. Tampopo is a comedy revolving around, well, noodles. The trailer is in Japanese, but you get the idea. I can assure that you that I just added it to my movie queue.
OK flossers, what are some of your experiences with Ramen? Also, any recipes for knocking down that killer sodium content? For those relying on Ramen to get them through tough times, don't worry—plenty of people have done it and gone on to bigger things.