With three indicating beeps, you hear a microwave in the dorms of Arcadia University. With a sudden sigh, you hear from the room, you can tell that someone has had a very long day. After all of the rustling, you hear something getting ripped off, and instantly you are hit with this familiar aroma that everyone has had before at some point in their lives. The very distinctive aroma of Instant Ramen. Probably one of the most comforting foods that college students love to divulge in.
“I grew up on instant ramen, mainly Maruchan. My views upon it has changed as I’ve had authentic ramen and homemade ramen. Ramen at a restaurant has allowed me feel so much closer to the Asian culture and lead me to trying more Asian cultural foods, sending me on what I’d say is a cultural journey that I enjoy as I am interested in learning about many different cultures as my brain will allow me to.” – Arcadia University Student
While instant ramen is the most well-known worldwide, there are other forms of ramen that may be more memorable than the more scientific words that you read in the nutrition facts section of the package.
The History of Instant Ramen
The delectable hot steaming noodles with a variety of different broths have been loved in the U.S for more than 50 years since its debut in 1970. The only problem was that in 1970, not many people owned the bowls and cutlery that were used for ramen. So in 1971, Nissin created the world-renowned ramen styrofoam cup. The first version of the styrofoam cup was actually made with paper and instantly saw the flaw in the paper design. And since then instant ramen has been very popular, with an average of 4 billion servings in the U.S.
Now while instant ramen is a shelf seller, it wasn’t created in the U.S. Momofuku Ando, the original creator of instant ramen. It was actually created due to the insufficient economy after WWII in Japan, so Ando created instant ramen to feed families. The original “Chikin Ramen” was invented in 1958. The inspiration for instant ramen came from Ando’s wife who was frying tempura and realized that oil removed moisture. Therefore, he fried the noodles, just like his wife, added seasoning packets, and dehydrated vegetables, that way once you add hot water you get a delicious cup of ramen on the go.
In the U.S instant ramen, while popular in general, is highly popular for the college student population. As many students would say, this item is comfort food for them. From a small poll, all of the students have had instant ramen and have heard of multiple different ramen companies, such as Top Ramen, Shin ramen, Maruchan, and Nissin (Cup of Noodles). All of which have ramen once a month, and agree with the fact that it is fast and comforting food.
“That boi is immaculate. Nah, but really it’s amazing. I mean I can’t tell you much other than I have it once every blue moon and due to instant noodles often lacking of health benefits but when I do, it’s really a comforting thing. I really enjoy soup and every time I eat it, it brings a little warmness inside so it goes the same for ramen as well.” – Arcadia University Student
What other way is there to enjoy another country’s food than from a restaurant that has made that food for you? With restaurants, you could “travel” to a different country without actually leaving the country itself. Sure, there is an extent to that, but a restaurant is where you can learn more about a country’s culture and food from a restaurant. When you go to a ramen restaurant in Philadelphia there are a wide variety of aesthetics that ramen shops partake. From Terrakawa’s single/couple seatings are like that of a street ramen shop in Japan to Rayaki’s modern anime-filled restaurant that is popular in the U.S. And different restaurants will serve different types of ramen as well. Such as tonkotsu, shoyu, and dipping ramen. While on the East Coast there are not many places that have Ramen shops, some places do like Philadelphia and New York. Asian foods and restaurants are more popular and “authentic” on the West Coast because there is a huge Asian population there.
Homemade ramen is very different compared to the other forms of ramen. It has been one of my own favorite dishes to eat. When I was younger my father, once in a blue moon, would cook the family ramen. Now I wouldn’t say that it is traditional ramen, but rather it was made for the palate of our family’s taste. Made with different ingredients and different broths that aren’t traditional to Japan’s ramen. Such as Shin ramen was made for the palate of the Korean population, its spiciness and tangy flavors changed instant ramen. But, with homemade ramen, you can change anything that you want, unlike instant ramen. You can change the flavor profile, there is no limit to what you can do to change it. And yes obviously the things that you change aren’t going to be traditional but, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t tasty. It’s just not what many people think is ramen. As a chef that cooks ramen, Ivan Orkin says “Ramen is interesting because it has so many layers to it. And I like layering of flavors, I love taking one ingredient and then breaking it out into lots of different layers and then putting them all back together again. Ramen is just the perfect vehicle in which to do that.” Ivan Orkin is a chef from New York, but has traveled to Japan in order to learn more about ramen and how it’s made. He has been a renowned chef and has been cooking in Japan until 2015 and moved back to the states.
With that being said, ramen just has a way to connect different people from different backgrounds, just like how any other form of food does. For me, ramen has a way for me to connect with not just my family and friends, but others who also like ramen. It connects people from all over the world and it can bring out stories that could be told through a bowl of ramen. The amazing thing about food is that it can trigger multiple things at one time. Whether that be a distant memory of family bonding or a spontaneous trip to get ramen with friends and try it for the first time or just being able to talk to others about food that you would’ve never talked to. It doesn’t just have to be ramen, it can be all different kinds of foods, such as sandwiches, pizza, pastas, and many more dishes. These are the important moments in life that we all cherish, holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are holidays that we all look forward to and it’s not only just for the food, but for the times that we are all together. That is what’s amazing about food, that’s what connects all of us together.