The Rise of Nissin’s Noodles – A Humble Dish that Changed the World

Julian Ryall wrote . . . . . . . . .

When Momofuku Ando died in January 2007, The New York Times devoted a large part of its editorials page to a man who had earned “an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress”.

This was not an inventor who had helped create the bullet train, founded one of Japan’s world-beating car companies or an electronics firm that had grown to become the envy of every developed economy. Ando perfected the humble dish of instant noodles and the company that he founded, Nissin Food Products, had grown to bestride the instant food sector like a colossus.

His creation – 60 years ago this August – remains unmistakable from his native Osaka to Ontario and Cape Town to Cologne, with few products better epitomising Japan’s recovery from the ravages of the second world war.

But like most success stories, Ando’s moment of inspiration had more than a hint of good fortune about it – and that story is best told in the museum dedicated to his invention in Yokohama.

On the day of my visit, it is mayhem. At least three school parties are visiting, and the children are busy trying out the interactive exhibits and racing from one display to the next.

The noise and chaos are arguably even more intense on the third floor, where children have a choice of soups and toppings to create their very own Cup Noodle – and, apparently, 5,460 potential flavour combinations.

Next door, another group is busy kneading and spreading wheat flour that is then dried and flash-fried – Ando’s breakthrough discovery – before the children take their creations home to sample.

It is likely that Ando would have approved, as he famously got the idea for instant noodles after witnessing ordinary people in Osaka queuing up for a bowl of the steaming staple at an outdoor stand.

Born in March 1910 to a Taiwanese family, Ando was raised by his grandparents in the city of Tainan after both his parents died, and demonstrated an entrepreneurial streak from a young age. He opened a textile company in Taipei at the age of 22 and later operated a clothing company in Osaka, also enrolling in the city’s Ritsumeikan University.

In the precarious years immediately after Japan’s defeat in the war, Ando was convicted of tax evasion and served two years in prison. In his autobiography, he claims he had provided scholarships to students at a time when it was considered to be tax evasion. By 1957, he had lost his business and almost everything else except his home.

Ando always credited his breakthrough to walking past a ramshackle noodle stand. Inspired, and short of cash, he immediately built a shed in his garden equipped with a stove and a workbench – an exact replica is in the museum – and set about perfecting the recipe and his idea. Initially, it did not go well, and every attempt to create a product that could be stored for a long time, yet ready in an instant, failed.

That changed one evening as he watched his wife fry “tempura” and he realised that flash-frying the noodles would eliminate the water they contained. By simply adding boiling water, the noodles could be rehydrated and ready to eat.

On August 25, 1958, Nissin released the first packet of pre-cooked instant noodles in a garish red and yellow package, with the product name – Chikin Ramen – interestingly in both English and Japanese.

The price of this new innovation was set at 35 yen, which was daring considering that “udon” noodles would commonly cost just 6 yen. But it paid off.

“They were a huge hit straight away because they were quick and convenient, but also because the late ’50s was the time when televisions were becoming more commonplace in Japanese homes and mass-marketing was evolving, while supermarkets were also appearing,” says Kahara Suzuki, a spokeswoman for the company.

“Nissin was also one of the first companies to sponsor a television programme, so the company was proactive in getting its name out there,” she says.

That policy continues to this day, with Nissin sponsoring tennis players Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka, recent winner of the US Open.

Chicken Ramen (Nissin has since fixed the name) is still available in Japan and sells for about 105 yen (94 US cents)– a third of the price of the cheapest bowl of noodles in a restaurant in the country.

Refusing to rest on his laurels, Ando sought out new markets and travelled to the US in 1966 to assess the chance of success for instant noodles in the booming post-war economy.

The American businessmen he spoke to, however, were not sure that eating noodles from a bowl with chopsticks would catch on. That prompted Ando’s second brainwave – selling the dehydrated noodles in a styrofoam cup that was easy for anyone with a fork to use.

The following year, the first Cup Noodle choices appeared on supermarket shelves – and the problem went from being how to crack the US market to how to keep up with demand.

Today, 100 billion portions of instant noodles are eaten around the world every year. By 2016, Cup Noodles had sold a total of more than 40 billion packs since its launch.

Statistics from the World Instant Noodles Association show that nearly 40 billion packs of instant noodles are consumed in China and Hong Kong each year.

“Cup Noodles are far more than just a snack; they’re a meal in their own right and ideal because they are cheap to buy, they’re warm and filling on a cold day, and very quick to prepare,” says Hiroko McCormack, who is married to a Canadian and lives in Toronto – but all too often hankers after a taste of home.

“I have to get them sent to me or buy mine directly from Japan, even if that is more expensive, because the ones we can buy in Canada taste different,” she tells the Post. “Instant noodles are very popular in Canada, although we do have a lot of Korean copies, but I have to say that I prefer the original, authentic taste.”

According to Suzuki, Nissin releases an astonishing 300-plus new products a year in Japan as it tries to keep up with the changing desires – and dietary requirements – of consumers. The vast majority of those are discontinued, leaving the most popular products in place.

“Since 2000, there has been a sharp increase in the number of 24-hour convenience stores in Japan, but each of them has limited space so we need to devise ways to show a broad range of products to customers, who are increasingly fickle,” she says.

“At the same time, there is a lot of very stiff competition in this sector, so we need to be constantly innovating and evolving.”

One of the newer products on the shelves, both in Japan and internationally, is the “Nice” range of Cup Noodles, which has the same rich flavour but fewer calories than its standard counterpart. Similarly, some products are being released in smaller portions for older people who tend to eat less, while the company has found that certain ranges – such as the Thai Tomyam Kung Noodle – have found a firm following with female consumers.

“We have found that often Japanese people will go to an izakaya after work, have a few drinks and then they decide they want a big bowl of ramen,” Suzuki says. “We feel the Nice range satisfies the needs of such consumers with none of the guilt.

“Ramen really is comfort food for Japanese people and Mr Ando’s ‘magic noodles’ are just that, plus they can be a low-calorie alternative.”

Ando remained an innovator throughout his life and in 2005, at the ripe old age of 95, perfected his final contribution to the instant noodle menu, Space Ram. Designed to be eaten by astronauts – as it has been – Space Ram uses his original flash-frying method, although the noodles come as bite-sized nuggets in a plastic pouch.

“It’s funny, but a few years ago I was on a business trip in Europe and I’d been gone for several weeks when I went into a supermarket in a town in Wales to get something to eat after a meeting,” says Chris Dunn, an export trade consultant who has lived in Japan since 1990.

“Among the biscuits and other different snacks on the shelves were these immediately recognisable Cup Noodles,” he says. “All of a sudden, as I’m standing in this supermarket, I get a lump in my throat. And I want to go ‘home’. Home for me is really Canberra, but I just want to get back to Japan and – for me – there is apparently nothing more Japanese than a Cup Noodle.”

Source: SCMP

Advertisements

Japanese Ramen Soup with Scallops

Ingredients

1 pack Japanese instant ramen
4 frozen Japanese scallops (帆立貝)
75 g enoki mushrooms, with root cluster cut off
Japanese fish sausage, sliced
carrot, sliced
1/2 tbsp instant kelp
Japanese parsley (三葉芹) to garnish (optional)

Marinade

pinch of pepper
1/2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce

Soup

1 tbsp dashi granules
2 cups water

Method

  1. Mix dashi with water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Defrost scallops. Wash and wipe dry. Add marinade and mix well. Coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. Saute with oil until done.
  3. Blanch ramen in boiling water until al dente. Remove and drain. Transfer to a large soup bowl.
  4. Add enoki mushrooms, carrot, instant kelp, and Japanese fish sausage to the soup. Bring to a boil.
  5. Arrange scallops on top of the ramen. Pour the soup mixture over and garnish with Japanese parsley, if using before serving.

Source: Asian Noodles

In Pictures: Edible Miniature Food

A Fracture Anywhere Reduces Bone Density Everywhere

Breaking a bone causes bone density losses throughout the body, not just close to the site of the fracture, and primarily around the time of the fracture, two new studies from UC Davis Health show.

The studies are among the first to associate fractures with systemic bone loss. They also begin the path to finding treatments that preserve long-term skeletal health and reduce susceptibility to additional fractures and, potentially, osteoporosis, which is diagnosed when bone-density losses are severe.

Both investigations were led by Blaine Christiansen, whose research focuses on identifying changes in musculoskeletal tissue due to injury, aging or disease.

“We know one fracture seems to lead to others, but we haven’t known why,” said Christiansen, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at UC Davis. “Our work is the first step on the path to identifying the cellular mechanisms of systemic bone loss.”

The first study, published in Osteoporosis International, was based on about 4,000 participants in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, an observational study of older women that included hip bone mineral density (BMD) measures and fracture history gathered regularly over 20 years.

Outcomes showed that hip BMD decreased over time for all women in the study, but was greatest for those who had fractured a bone ― even if the fracture was not near the hip. BMD reductions averaged between .89 and .77 percent per year for those with fractures, and .66 percent per year for those with no fractures. Those losses were greatest within the first two years of a break.

Published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the second study was conducted using mice with femur fractures and BMD tests in various bones. Once again, bone loss occurred throughout the body, most notably in the spine, and was greatest within the first two weeks of fracture. It also was accompanied by higher levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.

Outcomes of the second study showed interesting age-related recovery differences as well. Younger mice eventually recovered their pre-fracture BMD levels, while older mice did not.

Christiansen next hopes to further characterize the post-fracture inflammatory factors that may contribute to bone loss following fracture.

“It’s possible that these factors are key to initiating BMD loss once a bone is broken,” Christiansen said. “Ultimately, we hope to develop therapeutic strategies that interrupt those processes and prevent bone loss.”

Source: University of California Davis

Exercise May Delay Rare Form of Alzheimer’s

Regular exercise might delay a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that 2.5 hours of walking or other physical activity a week thwarted mental decline tied to autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD). This is an inherited form of disease that leads to dementia at an early age.

“The results of this study are encouraging, and not only for individuals with rare genetically caused Alzheimer’s disease,” said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“If further research confirms this relationship between physical activity and later onset of dementia symptoms in ADAD, then we need to expand the scope of this work to see if it also is true in the millions of people with more common, late-onset Alzheimer’s,” Carrillo said in an association news release. She wasn’t involved in the study.

A team led by Dr. Christoph Laske at the University Hospital of Tubingen in Germany examined data on 275 people who carry a genetic mutation for ADAD. The participants’ average age was 38.

The investigators wanted to see if at least 150 minutes per week of walking, running, swimming or other exercise could help delay or slow disease progression.

It may. Those participants who got more physical activity scored higher on brain function assessments, the study found.

They also had lower levels of key biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease in their cerebrospinal fluid, including tau — a protein that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

“A physically active lifestyle is achievable and may play an important role in delaying the development and progression of ADAD,” Laske and his team wrote. “Individuals at genetic risk for dementia should therefore be counseled to pursue a physically active lifestyle.”

The World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend the exercise target of 150 minutes a week.

The study was published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic