Stacey loves her ramen. I on the other hand, do not. During week long hiking trips of my youth I feasted on little more than instant porridge in the morning and instant ramen for lunch and dinner. By the seventh day I had instant ramen coming out my ears and I had developed a strong loathing for the stuff.
Can you imagine my excitement when Stacey suggested we visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka?
The History of Instant Ramen
If there’s a food in the world that brings the youth of East and West together, it’s instant ramen. College and University students throughout the world have survived on little more than the hot water, soupy mix that is instant ramen. As a quick and cheap meal it hits the spot nicely.
In fact, the very beginnings of instant ramen were around those very principles – food that was cheap and filling.
In post-war Japan, food was in short supply. The United States had been supplying plenty of bread, but bread just didn’t appeal to the Japanese people. What the people really wanted was noodles. And noodles was something that Momofuku Ando thought he could provide.
Ando was an entrepreneur and inventor. Born in Taiwan in 1910, when Taiwan was part of the Empire of Japan, he moved to Osaka after World War II and founded a small merchandising firm. Seeing that the Ministry of Health wasn’t going to be able to satisfy the noodle needs of the Japanese people, he started work of a way of developing and selling noodles to the masses.
Through much trial and error, Ando developed a flash-frying method of precooking and packaging bricks of noodles. Instant ramen was born.
The first ramen was called Chikin Ramen and was a luxury item that sold for about six times more that other traditional noodles dishes at the time. But as production went up the price went down, and instant ramen became a household item. As time went on Momofuku Ando began to be known as Mr. Noodle – a nickname I’m sure he cherished :P
September 18, 1971 with the masterstroke of providing a waterproof polystyrene container. As prices dropped, ramen soon became a booming business. Worldwide demand reached 98 billion servings in 2007. As of 2007, Chikin Ramen is still sold in Japan and now retails for around ¥60, or approximately one third the price of the cheapest bowl of noodles in a Japanese restaurant. – Wikipedia
The Instant Ramen Museum
At the museum you will see the history of ramen from it’s early days in Ando’s workshop to its mass production of today. The history is presented using video, plastic displays and interactive games.
One of the more interesting areas in the full wall display of instant ramen through the ages. Here you’ll find all the different packaging and styles of instant ramen that have been on sale throughout the years. It’s fun to go with a local to have them point out all the brands that they remember and loved. Some of the flavors are really interesting and bizarre.
Make your own Cup Noodle
Probably the number one draw at the Instant Ramen Museum in the make-your-own Cup Noodle station. Here you’ll be able to pick out your own ingredients and spices and put together the perfect ramen cup!
For only 300 Yen (approx $4.00), you can take your own Cup Noodle from design to shrink-wrap. Friendly staff will take you through all the steps that starts with you buying an empty Cup Noodle cup and ends up with an awesome gift ready to take home with you and enjoy. Stacey recommends buying more than one cup :)
If you book ahead, you can sign up for a hands-on workshop where you reproduce the original Chiken Ramen from scratch for 500 Yen for adults and 300 Yen for children. The class was full when we went but we looked in on the group doing it and it looked super fun. We’ll try and do it next time we visit Osaka.
The admission to the Museum is free and you have the option of purchasing an English audio guide for 2000 Yen (it’s refunded completely when you return it). It’s well worth a visit if you’re in Osaka and you’re a big ramen fan. I actually got hooked on ramen again after my visit and I now eat it more than Stacey. Oops!
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