[FOUNTAIN]Ramen pioneer dead at 96In Chinese characters, ramen is written as “folded noodle.” In China, ramen refers only to noodles made by hand through pulling and folding dough. It is distinguished from “cut noodle,” which is made by spreading dough thinly and cutting. In Japan, any kind of noodle made from flour dough mixed with salt water is considered ramen, whether it is cut with a knife or made by a machine. The noodle is seasoned with soy sauce, salt and soybean paste, and soup made from pork or chicken bones is added to complete a bowl of ramen. Mixing salt water in the dough originated in China.
Ramen established itself as a popular Japanese dish during the 1940s and 1950s. Many Japanese people moved to China with the invasion of the Japanese army, and when they returned to Japan, Chinese-style noodle shops sprang up. For a while, ramen was called Chinese noodle. Today, ramen has become the most beloved Japanese dish. Ask Japanese expatriates living abroad what they would like to eat the most, and most would say they miss ramen the most. The addictive nature of ramen can be compared to the Koreans’ addiction to kimchi.
In 1958, ramen became a favorite of people around the world as the instant noodle was invented. Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Foods, developed a method of frying cooked noodles to remove moisture, making shelf-life longer and preparation easier. In 1971, the cup noodle was invented, providing instant noodles in a styrofoam bowl. Today, 85 billion units of instant ramen are sold around the world annually, and ramen became one of the staples of mankind, along with rice and bread.
Among the 85 billion packs, 3.7 billion of them are consumed by Koreans. Koreans are the biggest consumers of ramen in the world, eating 80 packs per person.
At times, the impact of ramen on health is discussed. However, even the health-conscious “well-being” generation is gracious toward ramen. After all, a sprinter who claimed to have only eaten ramen while training for a competition won a gold medal, beating well-fed foreign athletes.
Mr. Ando must have felt heartbroken by the criticism on ramen. He was a hale and hearty old man, who went golfing just before he passed away at age 96 on Friday. He always had ramen for lunch. In his lifetime, he had said, “I keep myself healthy with ramen.”
However, his true secret of longevity might have been his passion for his work and his invention.
He loved ramen so much that he did not get tired of eating it everyday for 50 years.
*The writer is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yeh Young-june