Instant noodles, isntant ramen, pot noodle. Whatever you want to call them. As an aspiring ramen chef, I should hate them, right?
Of course not! I don’t quite understand why people believe that chefs will always eat freshly prepared, best-of-the-best food. We may prefer it, but to cook a full meal everyday sometimes just isn’t practical.
However, Japan’s instant noodle game is much, much stronger. Here in the UK, our most famous variety is Pot Noodle, coming in flavours such as chicken curry, chicken and mushroom, or barbecue. Pretty safe flavours. You can sometimes find shin or nissin ramen, but they’re quite rare.
Out in Japan, however, it’s a whole different level, with multiple companies competing with many different varieties, be it the original Cup Noodle (from Momofuku Ando’s original instant ramen), to Ichiran or Ippudo, two ramen restaurant chains that now produce their own instant versions.
There are definitely some… odd… combinations, such as the Nissin Cheese Curry flavour, a cup noodle containing dried noodles (duh), curry flavouring, and a block of freeze dried cheese. Something I would not try again, thank you very much!
But then there are some completely unheard of in the west, such as the UFO Yakisoba instant noodle (my favourite), featuring a specially designed container to drain your noodles, dried yakisoba seasoning, and mayonnaise! I’ve barely come close to finding something like this anywhere in the world, and would always be a welcome snack for me!
So deep does Japan’s love affair with instant ramen go, that there is even an instant ramen museum in Osaka, The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, where you can learn the history of instant ramen, how it is made, and also the chance to create your very own instant masterpiece!
But finally, I want to talk about why instant ramen is such a hit with myself, the Japanese, and college students across the world. There are two main reasons: it’s cheap and it’s easy. When I lived in Japan, I lived in a typical (read tiny) apartment, with barely any room to cook proper food. So foods such as ramen, that require only hot water to make, are perfect for those who don’t have the facilities to cook properly. It’s also cheap, so it’s affordable for those who can’t afford luxuries in life, ie. college students. It is worth mentioning that fresh food in Japan is farily expensive, so cooking isn’t accessible for everyone! This practically ensured that instant ramen will be here to stay, and any of you that have gripes about it, might as well embrace it.
Oh, and David Chang, founder of Momofuku, loves instant ramen too!
Featured Image: Instant Ramen by klara on flickr
Further Images: 08 Nissin UFO Yakisoba cooked by Jason Lam on flickr