College on Ramen

College on ramen is a match made in heaven. When I was a freshman at college, I found myself in a dorm room that had a mini fridge and a microwave. Ramen quickly became a supplement to my cafeteria meal plan.

College on ramen is a common theme around the country. The reason? Most students lack a kitchen to cook in, or they need a quick, cheap and easy option to quickly fill their tummy. On today’s episode we are going to do a deep dive into the history of ramen!

History of Ramen

There are many theories behind how ramen became a Japanese staple. The recognized theory is that ramen was brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants in 1859. The first distinctly Japanese ramen stand opened in 1910. However, it didn’t fully take off until after WWII.

December 1945 brought a severe rice shortage to Japan. They had cut production of rice because of the war. The US pumped a bunch of cheap wheat flour into the country to help avoid starvation. During the war, Japan banned street vendors. The US continued that ban when the war concluded. That pushed a lot of food vendors underground. Many people turned to these vendors to stave off starvation. However, thousands of these vendors were caught and arrested. It was risky business.

In the early 1950s these bans ended. Without the threat of arrest, ramen stands boomed. Today there are over 4,000 ramen shops in Tokyo. There are 25,000 ramen shops in Japan as a whole.

College on Ramen: The History of Instant Noodles

Instant ramen was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando in Japan. In 1971 he rolled out the cup of noodles. The cup of noodles came to the United States in 1972. It became the office and college meal of choice. College on ramen had officially begun!

Ramen Quick Facts

  1. China is the largest consumer of instant noodles with demand reaching 40.25 billion servings of instant noodles. Indonesia is the second largest consumer of instant noodles with demand reaching 12.54 billion servings of noodles. 
  2. We covered 5 different varieties of ramen today. However, Japan has 22 distinct varieties of ramen.
  3. If you were to live off of ramen for one year, it would cost you around $150. That is the price for three meals a day consisting of one pack of ramen, seven days a week.
  4. Ramen noodles were the first type of noodle eaten in space. Momofuku Ando developed a version in 2005 for Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi’s trip into space on the Discovery space shuttle. The broth was thicker and the noodles were shorter. However, the end result was one happy astronaut!
  5. Slurping your noodles has a dual effect. It is considered respectful to slurp and is a sign you enjoyed your meal. It also cools the noodles as you eat them. 
  6. Nissin today has 29 plants in 11 countries. They have net sales of over $3.2 billion a year and employ 21,900 people. Not bad for a product that wholesales for $.12.5 cents.
  7. In Japan, ramen is called “gakusei ryori,” which translates to “student cuisine.” So it was evidently destined to become a college student’s favorite food.
  8. In 2011, 95 billion servings of ramen were eaten worldwide. That’s enough to feed 260 million people every day for a whole year.
  9. Think of all the tremendous technology that has come out of Japan. They have revolutionized televisions, speakers, kitchen appliances and cars. Regardless of these other brilliant contributions to mankind, Japanese people voted instant noodles as the best invention of the 20th century. Karaoke was second place. 

Did You Like Learning About College on Ramen? Subscribe!

The history of ramen is fascinating and complex. If you liked learning about food history, make sure you subscribe! 

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College on Ramen: The History of Japan’s Greatest Invention
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