Chicken ramen

Tomorrow marks 51 years since the first instant ramen ever went on sale, produced by Andō Momofuku 安藤百福's company Nissin Foods. The cost to the consumer was 35 yen per serving, and you could have any flavor you wanted as long as it was chicken.

Note that cup noodles would not be invented for another decade or so. Chicken ramen was and is BYO bowl (and lid). This mild inconvenience was elevated to prime Showa nostalgia by Miyazaki Hayao in Ponyo, and indeed served as the plot for innumerable Nissin commercials, such as these examples from the 80s.

Dig that pseudo-Chinese music — one of the voices either is or is supposed to evoke a charumera, the double-reed instrument noodle-sellers play at night. In Japan, you see, ramen is a member of the set of Chinese cuisine (although things get confusing when the chicken ramen is curry-flavored). The Wikipedia article linked above even claims that the word "ramen" wasn't a nationwide thing until Nissin made it so — it seems that it displaced local variation that included multiple terms translating to "Chinese soba." All of these are now extremely shibui, and one (Shina soba) is actually offensive to many.

In closing, here's an earlier commercial from the mid-60s showing the role instant ramen plays in the busy pre-Bubble young male professional's life: something to snack on while drinking.

Popularity factor: 11

Leonardo Boiko:

So I was making kare-raisu yesterday and wondering that, for me, it is a Japanese dish, but the Japanese learned it from the English and thus it must be considered a Western dish there, and of course the English consider it Indian cuisine. To make things more interesting, we call curry in Brazil “curry” (mispronouncing the English with a Latin ‘r’), completely ignoring the European Portuguese “caril”, which is closer to the original “kari” and also (according to some) earlier than the English version.



Remember our (your?) idea of doing a series of articles on Japanese critics? We'll I thought I'd compile an entire encyclopedia instead? But I need people to help with the entries. Interested?


(Sorry for contacting you here rather than by email).

Sgt. Tanuki:

This post reminds me of one of my favorite places in Yokohama, the 新横浜ラーメン博物館.


Surely you've been there? Last time they went they had a bunch of these old commercials playing on loops, as well as exhibits enshrining チキンラーメン and other culinary delights. Not to mention, they serve the culinary delights themselves.

Sgt. Tanuki:

Sorry. I meant to write "last time I went."


The truth is that I don't actually like ramen that much. Not even the instant kind. My non-Japanese Japanese food of choice is, a le Leonardo, curry. (And the one time I tried to go to a curry museum, it had shut down.)


There are still two 中華そば joints in Hongo-dori, on the approach to Todai from the Komagome area. I was surprised to find people still called it that.


When I was living in Yokohama, some classmates went en masse to the curry museum, and had the curry (I think Hattori-sensei's curry was featured at the time). The verdict was ちょうまずい. (Which goes to show how out of date our slang was, but hey.)


I like ramen well enough if it has enough kimchee or garlic in it (esp. if the noodles are fresh). But I believe I remember from childhood when chuka soba was much more commonly advertised than ramen.


In celebration, you should go have chicken-skin gyoza at that local ramen shop. You only hurt yourself by not going.


Let's not forget that Ando Momofuku was Taiwanese/Formusan/本島人


We actually went to the other ramen shop the other night. Much better on the arteries.

JR: Indeed!

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