How ramen noodles conquered the world

Every year, tens of billions of instant ramen noodles are enjoyed - a simple meal that only needs the addition of boiling water. Veronique Greenwood looks at the invention of a food revolution.

There was a time in my life when I ate a bowl of instant ramen every single day.

When you're a moody 13-year-old, sources of reliable satisfaction are in short supply, and when I wrote about it, I learned that I was not alone in relying on ramen to keep me afloat.

Many readers wrote that it's a comfort food for them too - easy to make, consistent, and surprisingly delicious.

At the International Museum of Ramen in Osaka, hordes of people come each year to pay homage.

A free-to-enter chamber of commerce for Nissin Foods, the makers of Cup Noodles and Top Ramen, the museum features a timeline of hundreds of Nissin products, from Chikin Ramen to Spagheny to Cheese Curry Cup Noodles.

Ramen-related ephemera and tributes are also placed around the exhibit space on the way to the main attraction, an enormous hall where you can design and purchase your own Cup Noodles.

My favourite oddity is a sculpture depicting-embedded in stone so as to suggest future archaeology-fossils, a cell phone, and a brilliantly coloured Cup Noodles open and ready to eat, its noodles already held aloft by a plastic fork.

A placard gives the sculpture's title: "Eternal."

Instant ramen can seem so elemental that it's almost surprising to learn that it required inventing. But coming up with a shelf-stable, quick-cooking noodle soup was far from simple, or intuitive.

The oft-told story of Momofuku Ando suggests it was difficult: the struggling Osaka businessman experimented for months in his backyard shed before launching Nissin in 1958.

The catalysing insight was flash-frying the noodles after they had been boiled, seasoned, and dried.

Frying them zaps away any remaining water, increasing their shelf life.

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