Text Version The History of Ramen Noodles

Ramen noodles originated in China, where all noodles seem to have come from, and are called "Lo-Mein" in Chinese, which means boiled noodles.

"Ra-men" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese Characters for Lo-Mein.

Lau Ra

Me
Mein N

This Chinese-style noodle became such a great favorite in Sapporo, the capital of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, that it is now considered to be their regional dish. Ramen is to Sapporo what baked beans are to Boston. In other countries, the word for Ramen may be different, too. For example, they are called “Maggi Mee” in Singapore.

The process for turning the traditional Ramen noodles into the now familiar instant, packaged noodles was pioneered by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Foods in Japan. In 1970, Nissin Foods introduced “Top Ramen” to the United States and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Many other companies introduced Top Ramen clones and even such industry giants such as Lipton and Campbell's began to experiment with Ramen-like products. Fierce competition notwithstanding, Nissin still controls slightly less than half of the U.S. Ramen market and fifteen percent of the world Ramen market of about ten billion dollars annually. At this writing, the average wholesale price for a package of Ramen in the U.S. is only twelve and a half cents.

Because of their enthusiastic acceptance in the market place, it wasn't long before instant Ramen skipped over national boundaries and became an international phenomena. Factories that make Ramen noodles can now be found not only in Japan and the U.S., but in Europe, Korea, China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Each country's Ramen noodles reflect their own particular flavor preferences. Korean Ramen is highly spiced and often contains packets of black bean sauce. China makes Ramen in Szechuan flavors. Thailand makes very thin, delicate noodles with very hotly spiced packets. Japan prefers the flavor of seafood and mild spices. In the U.S. they are usually available with meat flavors, mushroom flavors or mild spices often referred to as “Oriental flavor”.


From The Book of Ramen Copyright © 1995 by Ron Konzak -- All Rights Reserved

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