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A Brief History of Ramen Noodles

In this article, we explore how ramen made its way from a favorite side dish of the Japanese working class to virtually every supermarket in the United States.

Mike's Mighty Good
13 January 2021
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Mike’s Might Good Craft Ramen, available here

The history of ramen noodles, despite being a well-loved and enormously popular food, is widely unknown in American pop culture. At this very moment, people on-the-go, parents, and college students alike across the world watch as their microwaves finish heating bowls of the seemingly endless ramen noodle supply.

However, aside from the leading scholar on the history of ramen, George Solt, most ramen-lovers today don’t know about the rich origins of their favorite late-night study snack. The ramen literature is filled with differing views, ripe with detailed arguments contesting topics like the first Japanese restaurant to serve ramen. The history of ramen has always been about one’s own experimentation, innovation, and having fun! 

In this article, we explore how ramen made its way from a favorite side dish of the Japanese working class to virtually every supermarket in the United States. 

Then you’ll see how Mike’s Mighty Good’s products changed the history of ramen for good, taking the high-class noodles and broth experience from the ramen bar to the comfort of your home. With minimal preparation, our product selection allows you to sit back and enjoy your favorite as soon as possible. 

The History of Ramen in Japan

In her 2014 New Yorker article on the history of ramen, Sophia Brickman followed George Solt as he held an event for his book on the history of ramen noodles–a decade-long research effort for him. He mentions that, despite ramen’s connection to Japanese culture, experts suspect the dish began in China centuries before the influential Rai-Rai Ken famously introduced it to Tokyo.

There are some interesting theories of the Japanese population’s introduction to ramen, but most people agree that Chinese immigrants are largely responsible for the cultural exchange. In his book “The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze,” Holt adds that increased trade between mainland China and Japan in the 1800s helped bring the soup to Japanese shores. 

Despite the insanely expensive ramen bars around the world today, the history of ramen in Japan has humble origins. Ramen’s popularity rose during the early 1900s with the industrializing Japanese working class because of its affordability, and the fact that it filled your stomach after a long day spent laboring. 

Soon after, the second world war broke out and brought food shortages; even famine at times. The government placed strict regulations on cooking ingredients like flour to keep everyone fed, and wheat-based meals like ramen could only be purchased behind closed doors. 

After the war, when the Allies materially supported the Japanese rebuilding effort, ramen roared back to the urban food scene.

Instant Ramen Noodles Saved the Lives of Millions

We see in the history of ramen this surge in the Japanese market following the post-war years when Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles as a way to address the world hunger epidemic.

Ando hoped the lightweight and durable stylophone packaging paired with the minimal preparation would help feed the world’s poor. Following the success of his invention, fried instant ramen noodles became an integral part of Japanese culture. Part of this merging with Japanese culture has to do with nostalgia for the post-war years spent building their nation into an economic power. 

What’s fascinating is that Japan’s local ramen industry has remained largely untouched by major corporations. To this very day, nearly 80 percent of ramen bars and restaurants in the country are still classified as small businesses. 

Ramen has always been about making NEW things and mixing it up. The beauty of this food is that it’s constantly changing and evolving, with a wide variety of flavors, both traditional and very non-traditional alike (think Ramen Pasta in NYC with an Italian spin!). Ramen has become a global phenomenon, and as the 1980s and 1990s saw worldwide demand for ramen surge, there are now two ramen museums in Japan: one for traditional ramen, with another museum dedicated solely to instant ramen. 

Japanese Ramen Today

During his interview, Professor Solt mentions that the first museum dedicated to the history of ramen, established in 1994, cost upwards of $38 million to construct. Based on the assumption that watching the sunset makes you hungry, the lights inside the museum are programmed to dim on a thirty-minute interval–just in time to finish up tours at the museum’s restaurant

And while it might be fun to joke about the cheap 10-cent packs of ramen college students swear by, Ando’s invention of instant noodles has provided necessary meals for countless people. Thanks to ramen that can be quickly cooked with only boiling water, Ando’s instant ramen has been a lifesaver for victims of food shortages, natural disasters, and more. 

How Mike’s Mighty Good Products Revolutionized the History of Ramen

With the hope that comfort food would never be the same, Mike launched a different kind of instant ramen: craft ramen. With an insanely delicious taste, made with simple ingredients, easy to make, and not too salty, Mike did things his own way.

The story of how Mike’s Mighty Good changed the history of ramen begins in 2014 when Mike first embarked on inventing craft ramen you could make at home. He decided to use his culinary background in spices to make a new twist on his favorite comfort food: instant ramen. 

At Mike’s, we are determined to fill the wide gap between store-bought instant ramen and the unbelievable meals served at ramen bars. We understand that most people’s schedules can’t fit ramen bar visits often and want to provide a quick, modern gourmet option for the world.

Restaurant Quality Ramen Wherever You Go

Through endless tinkering with ingredients, flavors, recipes, and more, Mike’s Mighty Good unveiled our ramen to the world in 2017. Everyone from busy young professionals to parents wanting delicious dinner options fall in love with our in-house steamed ramen. 

Our daily made-from-scratch steamed ramen creates one of the biggest differences between us and typical retail ramen because we refuse to flash fry our noodles in palm oil. Classic options like chicken ramen noodle soup cups produced a wave of nostalgia for those college nights spent in the library, but with a gourmet twist. Since we steam and don’t fy our organic noodles in-house with simple ingredients, you get the perfect bite and can enjoy the restaurant experience anywhere.

Our absurdly delicious broth is a great way to warm up as we approach the winter months, and our not-too-salty option (Mike’s has 40% less sodium than the leading brand!) won’t leave you bloated and uninspired. Meanwhile, aspiring and amateur chefs love to improvise and create their own unique meals. And if you need some inspiration, check out our recipes page for a long list of meals that customers love. 

Future Flavor

The history of ramen is filled with twists and turns, and without it, we wouldn’t have Mike’s Mighty Good ramen meals. Since our first product launch in 2017, customers have fallen in love with our diverse selection of modern ramen meals like the Fried Garlic Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup. 

Our meals are quick to make for those back-to-back Zoom meeting people that need a quick boost in between meetings. Mike’s Mighty Good ramen allows you to get nutritious meals in, giving you the top of the line ramen bar experience with just boiling water. 

For the foodies and parents out there, our blog is filled with different recipes to add even more creativity to your meals. For example, our Tonkotsu Ramen recipes allow for a thick and creamy dish with pork that’s been prepared. 

However, to get the pork marrow bone taste that you have to painstakingly simmer the meat for hours. Our Spicy Pork Tonkotsu Flavor ramen noodle packs cut these hours into minutes. For even more of our modern gourmet selections, check out our store here

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