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For years after the end of World War II, there was a constant shortage of food in Japan, and Momofuku Andō, then a bank president, concluded that hunger was the most pressing global issue of his time. In 1957, his bank failed and Andō began to develop a mass-produced dehydrated noodle soup (ramen) to solve it. Prof. Ashoka tells us the story of the invention of instant noodles. A Different Truths exclusive.

Taiwanese-Japanese businessman Momofuku Andō invented instant noodles. In 1958, he founded Nissin Foods, based in Osaka, Japan. For years after the end of World War II, there was a constant shortage of food in Japan, and Andō, then a bank president, concluded that hunger was the most pressing global issue of his time. In 1957, his bank failed and Andō began to develop a mass-produced dehydrated noodle soup (ramen) to solve it.

In his first year, Andō had no success at all. Most times the texture of the noodles after cooking was not right. One day, however, Andō threw some of the noodles into tempura oil that his wife had heated to cook dinner. He then discovered that flash frying dehydrated the noodles and gave them a longer shelf life. Not only that, it also created tiny holes that made them cook more quickly. Instant noodles were born and, at the age of forty-eight,

Andō embarked on his career as Mr. Noodle. Instant noodles were first marketed in Japan on August 25, 1958 under the brand nameChikin Ramen, meaning Chicken Ramen. Consumers quickly embraced the convenience of making instant ramen at home. It became a staple food in Japan and other brands, like Nestlé’s Maggi, entered the market. Andō in turn looked for international customers.

Andō had his next great idea on a business trip to the US in 1966. He observed supermarket executives in Los Angeles using their Styrofoam coffee cups as ramen bowls. Intrigued, Andō replicated these makeshift containers for a new product. In 1971, Nissin introduced Cup Noodles – instant noodles in a waterproof heat-resistant polystyrene cup that only needed boiling water to cook. Cup Noodles was very successful, especially overseas, where bowls or chopsticks were usually not available.

Instant noodles have even been to space! Andō developed Space Ram, a vacuum-packed instant ramen made especially for Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi’s 2005 trip on the Discovery space shuttle.

According to a Japanese poll conducted in the year 2000, ‘the Japanese believe that their best invention of the twentieth century was instant noodles.’ As of 2010, approximately 95 billion servings of instant noodles are eaten worldwide every year. That’s an average of 14 bowls per person! As Momofuku Andō, who later became a Japanese national hero, said, ‘Mankind is Noodlekind.’

(From the book, Popular Triumphs of Human Innovation in Everyday Life, by Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad)

©Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Photos from the Internet

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