Tokyo Cup Noodles
Tokyo Cup Noodles by svenfischer.fr (CC BY-SA)

Fun and Delicious Facts About Instant Ramen

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Tokyo Cup Noodles
Tokyo Cup Noodles by svenfischer.fr (CC BY-SA)

Fast and Filling

Instant ramen is not just a dorm-room staple but has long been a thrifty meal for budget watchers around the world. There’s much more to this comforting dish than just saving pennies, though. Read on for some fun facts, figures and even a recipe or two.


Related: 15 Hacks to Make Instant Ramen More Delicious Under $1

Cup Noodle
Walmart

It Had An American-Style Start

The Japanese dish was first marketed in that country in 1971 with an American name (“Cup Noodle” with the "s" left off due to a translation mistake), an expansion of Ando Momofuku’s instant ramen that he invented decades earlier and a nod to international fare. In 1973, the instant noodles made their way to the United States where it was rebranded as "Cup O'Noodles" and later renamed "Cup Noodles" (though it may change back

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/cup-noodles-changing-name-back-to-cup-o-noodles

).


Related: I Tried 13 Kinds of Instant Ramen and These Were the Best (and Worst)

Misty sunrise over wheat field in Kansas
ricardoreitmeyer/istockphoto

Its Creation Was Sparked by American Wheat

An early version of ramen noodles was made from wheat flour that had been donated by the United States to help Japan as the country struggled to make bread in the years following World War II. It was thought that bread would be more filling, but was less common in the Japanese diet — and so, wheat was used to make noodles instead.


Related: This Is the Best Ramen in Your State, According to Experts

Instant Noodles
Pxhere

It Has Its Own Organization

The World Instant Noodles Organization is real, and its website is a treasure trove of noodle facts and figures, from how many millions of noodles are served by country (China/Hong Kong topped the list in 2021 with 43,990 million units served) to featuring a movie on the history of noodles, as well as trivia (such as the fact that Mexican-style instant noodles include lime and hot sauce).

Top Ramen Beef Flavor instant ramen
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

It’s Still a Hit

The World Instant Noodles Organization tracks the popularity of instant ramen, noting that more than one billion servings of instant ramen are consumed each year throughout the world.

Cup Noodle Museum
Flickr

It Has Its Own Museum

Yes, you can visit a museum dedicated to ramen, the CupNoodles Museum in Yokohama, Japan. This interactive museum, which adjusts its operations to reflect current COVID-19 conditions, includes a factory, theater, shop, and more.

Instant Noodles
Instant Noodles by kattebelletje (CC BY-NC)

It Helps Fight Global Hunger

The low cost, ease of preparation, and the filling nature of instant ramen have led to it being used around the world to combat hunger. As reported by NPR, the fat content of ramen (manufacturing includes it being fried in oil) keeps people feeling full longer, which makes the noodles ideal for humanitarian food-supply efforts.

Glue
PxHere

It Inspires Urban Legends

As with so much these days, if you want to find something wacky online, you can — and that includes a viral video of a man in China using ramen to repair broken objects. That led to many trying to recreate those efforts, with varying success. Guess glue will remain popular for a while …


Related: The Truth Behind 29 Urban Food Legends

Prison
Prison by Bob Jagendorf (CC BY)

It Serves As Prison Currency

There was a time when those incarcerated used to trade cigarettes for goods, but it seems, as NPR’s food blog, “The Salt,” and others have reported, that instant ramen (aka “soups) have become the new currency of choice since smoking in prison has essentially been banned. The practice even led to the creation of a book, “Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars.”

Rapid Ramen Cooker
Amazon

It Can Always Be Made Faster

If the thought of getting out a pot, boiling water, and cooking instant ramen is overwhelming — yes, people are very busy these days — there’s a customized product that speeds things up, a Rapid Ramen Cooker, sold for $11 on Amazon.

Ramen
Ramen by Alpha (CC BY-NC-SA)

Its Cup Has Expanded to Other Foods

The iconic cup that’s often used to prepare ramen, as “cup noodles,” created a bit of a product evolution. As The Korea Herald has reported, preparing ramen noodles in cups has expanded to countless other products in many countries. These include rice, pasta, stews, instant potatoes and more.

Nissin Cup Noodles Tote
Amazon

Its Cup Adorns Hoodies and More

There’s a whole industry of sorts built around the popularity of instant ramen, with products available to promote one’s love of the ultimate “fast food.” These include a Maruchan Ramen Noodles Instant Lunch Mug ($17 from Spencer’s), a Nissin Cup Noodles Tote Bag ($25 from Amazon), and a Ramen Chicken Noodle Soup Hoodie ($26 on Amazon).

Tokyo Cup Noodles
Tokyo Cup Noodles by svenfischer.fr (CC BY-SA)

Its Range Remains Huge in Japan

Your local grocery might offer beef, chicken or shrimp when it comes to instant ramen flavors, sometimes a few more. In Japan, though, the country is, well, obsessed with ramen. It’s sold in countless shops and restaurants (more than 30,000) with an endless array of noodle styles, flavors, toppings, and ingredients.

Cup Noodles
Cup Noodles by theimpulsivebuy (CC BY-SA)

Options Continue to Grow in the U.S.

As reported by Food Network Dish, instant ramen options online and in specialty shops can bring a wide range of ramen variations to the home kitchen. This allows a sampling of various types of noodles and, often, more intricate and exotic flavors.

Ramen
Ramen by Alpha (CC BY-NC-SA)

Instant Ramen Noodles Have Become an Elevated Ingredient

Instant ramen isn’t bought simply to save time or money, but the noodles have become an ingredient found in many recipes. For example, The Pioneer Woman blogger Ree Drummond offers up a recipe for “Gussied-Up Ramen” that features rotisserie chicken, baby spinach, hoisin sauce, and more, while there are even recipes for ramen-filled desserts such as Chocolate Haystacks, found on Spoon University.

Breakfast Ramen
Breakfast Ramen by jeffreyw (CC BY)

It’s Good for Breakfast, Too

The endless array of ramen recipes doesn’t just focus on quick lunches, dinners or desserts. Ramen for breakfast is apparently a thing, as well, with ramen enhanced with bacon, eggs, cheese, and more.

Inflation
Inflation by Th78blue (CC BY-SA)

It May Cost More Soon

Not to sound the alarm, but The Korea Herald reported in late summer that the price of ramen was expected, as with seemingly everything else, to be impacted by inflation. It seems the rising price of wheat has led to an increase in cost.

Ramen Cookbook
Amazon

Its Cookbooks Are Many

Someone new to ramen might ask, “How hard can it be to cook?” And yes, that is true. Preparing traditional packets of ramen is a very straightforward proposition. An endless array of ramen cookbooks prove that this inexpensive staple can be turned into dishes that are quite sophisticated. An Amazon search for “ramen cookbooks,” for example, yields more than 3,000 results.

Ramen in Supermarket
Ramen in Supermarket by Fei0316 (CC BY-SA)

It Was a Pandemic Staple

The ramen craze shows no sign of stopping. As reported in August by industry publication FoodDive, sales of ramen spiked during the pandemic as consumers stocked up. The sales growth is expected to continue with the Nissin company reporting that innovations in flavors continue to attract younger consumers. In 2021, for example, it released a pumpkin spice option.

Whiskey in a glass with orange peel
SERHEI Nesterenko/istockphoto

It Pairs Well With Premium Drinks

Champagne with your chicken ramen? Maybe one day. As reported by Tastewise, the fastest rising ramen noodle pairings are actually whiskey and green tea.

Books on shelf
Pexels

It’s a Poetry Topic

There are poems devoted to ramen, with the site Ten Thousand Haiku featuring a number of odes to the beloved noodle. Among the creative homages are words glorifying the different preparations and ingredients, as well as the decorations on the packages. Who knew?