Come lunchtime sophomore year of high school, all the cool kids were eating Cup Noodles. I wasn’t cool, unfortunately, but I loved them as well—with an instant ramen in my hands, I looked very much like that kid in the picture up there: excited, elated, and full of MSG-goodness.
Towards the end of the school year, though, the novelty of eating freeze-dried foodstuffs was wearing off, and that urban legend about the guy with the waxy stomach started going around, so Cup Noodles went the way of Twinkies and Spaghetti O’s—I just kind of stopped eating them, and eventually I forgot them all together. That is, of course, until I discovered the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, which has rekindled my love of all things Nissin.
Located in northern Osaka, the museum’s main galleries chronicle instant ramen’s rise to glory, from it’s creation in 1958* to its eventual space debut in 2005. Now, I’m sure that’s all very interesting stuff—but that’s not what I’d be going to Osaka for. Nope, I’d be going to get myself a spot in line at the museum’s “Cup Noodle Factory” for a customized cup or two of the good stuff.
Upon arriving at the attraction, you’d start the journey for the perfect ramen by transforming a humble styrofoam cup into a work of art. You’d then pass that off to a helpful factory employee who would stick the noodles into it upside-down (for some reason, this is very, very important). After that comes the most mouth-watering part: getting to choose the little freeze-dried extras.
First comes the soup; original, seafood, curry, or salt-based. Then comes the agonizing decision of which 4 of the 12 available toppings to add to your cup. You can choose from shrimp (エビ), egg (卵), green onion (ネギ), asparagus (アスパラ), corn (コーン), kimchi (キムチ), pork (豚肉), chicken cutlet (チキンカツ), cheese (チーズ), fish cake (ナルト), imitation crab (カニカマ), and garlic chips (がリックチップ). While some of those might seem a bit strange (ex: cheese) they’re all very popular add-ins—I’ve been told cheese and curry are great together, though I’ve never tested out this claim.
After everything has been added, your Cup Noodle is then sealed, shrink-wrapped, and packaged. All that’s left to do is find the closest available source of hot water and enjoy. If you’re curious, here are a few pictures of the process and results from Flickr, as well as a neat video:
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Address: 8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda, Osaka
Hours: 9:30am to 4pm
Holidays: Tuesdays and New Year’s Holidays
Admission: Free for the main museum, 300 円 to 500 円 for the ramen-making exhibits
* The museum’s namesake, having passed away earlier this year, is fondly remembered as “the King of Instant Ramen”. As the story goes, walking one night in post-WWII Japan (where food shortages were rampant), Ando came upon a line of people waiting to buy fresh ramen from a black-market stall. Peace will come to the world when people have enough to eat, he thought to himself. Soon after, Nissin Chicken Ramen, the predecessor of modern-day Cup Noodles, was born.
For this, Time Magazine called him a hero, saying:
His instant-noodle recipe included not only flour, palm oil and MSG, but—metaphorically, at least—a sprinkling of hope, too. After all, it is that midnight bowl of noodles that so many count on to keep going a little longer, a little later, in pursuit of the Asian dream.