5 things you never knew about instant ramen

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Without a doubt, ramen is a worldwide phenomenon. You can find ramen at almost every major grocery store in the U.S., and it’s the same in many countries throughout the world. From the typical ramen noodles consumed by busy college students to the $16 gourmet bowls of celebrity chef David Chang, ramen has grown from a simple dish to an entire culture. Here are some surprising facts that, despite your experiences with instant ramen, you probably didn’t know.

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1. Although instant ramen is a Japanese invention, it originated in China.

Ramen is now globally often recognized as a Japanese dish, but the word “ramen” actually comes from the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese “lamian,” often called “lo mein.” This distinctly Chinese noodle soup first arrived in Japan through tradesmen in the 19th century. It wasn’t until much later, however, that the instant ramen we all know was invented by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin and Top Ramen, in 1958.

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2. Ramen was considered to be a luxury food when it was first released to the public.

When Ando put out the first batch of original Chicken Flavor Ramen in 1958, a packet cost around 35 yen. This price was about six times that of fresh udon and soba noodles, making it a luxury item for most consumers. But in 1971, a breakthrough in technology created the wildly popular Cup Noodle, and prices have been slowly falling since then.

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3. On average, a packet of ramen contains 51 meters of noodles. 

If you were to take a packet of ramen and stretch out all of the noodles into one line, the approximate length would be 51 meters. This makes one packet of ramen longer than two tennis courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool!

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4. The Japanese consider ramen to be their best invention.

In a 2000 survey by the Fuji Research Institute, the Japanese proudly voted instant ramen as their greatest creation of the 20th century. Ironically, when it first came out, many Japanese believed it had no future in the food industry. As we all know, however, this prediction could not have been more wrong — Japanese people apparently now see it as their best invention, and it has grown from a national food to a global one.

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5. Eating ramen every meal for a year would cost about only $140.

Although it began as a luxury food, instant ramen has taken quite a turn since then. With the average packet costing a consumer only 13 cents, you could eat three square meals a day for an entire year for just $142.65. To put that into perspective, an average American spends $6,372 a year on food — eating ramen would reduce that to about 3 percent of the average cost. Due to its affordability, ramen is often called “gakusei ryori,” or “student food,” in Japan, and start-ups earning just enough for the founders to survive are known to be “ramen profitable.” 

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Contact Jenny Yoon at [email protected].