The Curious Case of Ramen Noodles

Regina Cerasuolo, Author

Ramen Noodles. We all know em’, but we don’t all love em’. Yet have you ever wondered about the history of this delicious dish, Ramen Noodles?

Ramen Noodles is a Japanese dish that translates to “pulled noodles.” Ramen consists of Chinese hand-pulled wheat noodles, and are cooked within a meat or occasionally fish broth. The packaged ramen that we struggling high school students eat mainly contains a chicken, beef, or soy broth, although you can find shrimp flavored noodles at your local grocer.

Earlier versions of ramen were wheat noodles with broth served with Chashu, a Chinese style roast beef. Other classic toppings consist of Welsh onion, menma, narutomaki, edible seaweed (or more commonly known in the ASMR community as sea-grapes) butter, and many  more.

Ramen Noodles were introduced to Japan by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century to the town of Yokohama Chinatown, according to Yokohama Ramen Museum.

Until the 1950s, ramen was called “shina soba,” and every region in Japan has its own version of ramen noodles (according to Wikipedia.) The first ever ramen shop opened in Tokyo, named Rairaiken. The owner, whom was Japanese, hired 12 Cantonese cooks from Yokohama’s Chinatown to serve and arrange ramen for Japanese customers. By the 1900s, restaurants serving Chinese cuisine from Canton and Shanghai offered a simple noodle dish: cut noodles rather than hand pulled, a few toppings, and a broth flavored with salt and pork bones.

Chinese living in Japan pulled portable food stalls, selling ramen and dumplings to workers. By the mid 1900s, these stalls used a musical horn called charumera to advertise their presence. Some vendors still use the sound of the horn through a speaker with a looped recording.

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, America’s military occupied Japan from 1945-1952. In December of 1945, Japan recorded it’s worst rice harvest in 42 years. This caused a decline in food from shifting rice production to China and Taiwan. Because of these food shortages, the US flooded the Japanese market with cheap wheat flour to deal with them. From 1948-1951, Japan’s consumption of bread went from 262,121 tons to 611,784 tons. Wheat also found its way into ramen.

I recently polled 51 random students and 9 random staff members from our very own Oakmont Regional High School. The poll – titled Ramen Rater – consisted of questions about these delicious noodles, such as, “do you enjoy Ramen Noodles?” and, “how often do you eat Ramen Noodles?” The answers were quite interesting.

28 out of 51 students polled that they absolutely love Ramen noodles! But unfortunately, only 3 out of 9 staff members absolutely love Ramen… oh well, more for me – I mean us!

Did you know that packaged Ramen Noodles have a glue that binds the uncooked Noodles together? Well, you do now! For future purposes, always rinse your noodles before cooking them. If you seem to forget this step, don’t worry! You can always drain the starchy water once done boiling the noodles and replace it with clean water. 21 out of the 60 people polled did not know this information and will start the practice of rinsing the noodles, and 32 people did not know this information and still choose not to rinse the noodles. The remaining 9 people were all good noodles and answered “yes” or “sometimes.”

Everybody is different, so when I asked “how often do you eat Ramen Noodles,” almost everyone answered “once in a blue moon.” Although 2 people answered “monthly,” 8 people answered “weekly,” and 2 people answered “daily.”

I interviewed teacher Mr. Dewhurst and student William Thibaudeau about the “Ramen Rater” poll. The questions differ from the actual poll themselves. Questions such as, “did you have Ramen as a child? If so, what memories are associated with Ramen Noodles, if any?”

William recalls “a memory from my childhood with Ramen noodles; I dropped them right on top of my cat,” while Mr. Dewhurst “can remember fondly the days when my mom wasn’t home and my dad had to cook for us, so he cooked us Ramen Noodles.”

Another question that I was curious to hear about was a memory that they have associated with Ramen. I know, very similar to the first question, but instead of this being from their childhood, it could be from last week or last year. Mr. Dewhurst remembers the first time he ever put egg in his boiled noodles, while William answered how wherever he has a cold, he always eats Ramen for lunch and dinner.

I don’t know about you guys, but a warm, eggy bowl of Ramen Noodles while being sick at home, snuggled up in warm blankets, sounds absolutely amazing.