Noodles, soup, or other

When I was 12 years old, I had a great fear that they would stop making ramen noodles by the time I got to college. I considered stocking up on them, but my mom assured me that this would not happen. Ramen was one of my top after-school snacks in middle school and high school. I found that one package was good for two people and two packages were usually good for three people. One of my friends introduced me to the concept of adding vegetables and egg to the noodles, which I found greatly enhanced my meal.

I did of course bring a 20-pack of ramen with me when I came to college, but to my surprise I still have about half of the box left.

Ramen will always have its place in college life. As Chris Custer, a student at Georgia Perimeter College, writes, “It is a perplexing enigma how students ever managed to survive before the advent of these miraculous noodles, and their equally miraculous foil seasoning pouches. Whether the student is a young, insecure freshman right out of high school or a burly, beer-tested senior who is slogging his way through [his] last year of college, these divine packets are as essential to college life as a loud, ear-splitting stereo, an ice-cold, refreshing beer, or a weekly check from the student’s financially burdened parents. Ramen possesses several qualities that are extremely attractive to students: It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it doesn’t taste that bad. It’s also extremely versatile, and I’m not talking about the fact that you can eat it raw, cooked as noodles, or as a soup.”

The traditional ramen soup is a very popular way of eating noodles, but it can get a bit boring. Fortunately there are several websites, such as “The Official Ramen Homepage” (http://mattfischer.com/ramen/index.php?cat=13), and books, such as 101 Things to do with Ramen by Toni Patrick, which are filled with new ways to spice up those noodles. After looking up some recipes online, I found that eggs and vegetables were pretty basic compared to the inventive things that people have come up with. Recipes range from “Sweet and Spicy Coke Ramen” (yes, that is Coca-Cola) to “Sinful Breakfast Ramen” (with eggs and bacon) to “Hyperactive Candied Coco-Ramen” (with chocolate and whipped cream). Ramen has been combined with almost everything from Girl Scout cookies to chicken salad and jalapeños. It seems as though these noodles can find their way into any dish.

So where did ramen come from?

“Instant noodles” were invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, the founder and chairman of Nissin Foods. They were initially considered a luxury item sold for six times the price of other noodle in Japanese grocery stores. Momofuku’s ramen arrived on the east coast of the U.S. in 1972 as “Oodles of Noodles.” “Nissin Cup Noodles” came the next year in the convenient styrofoam cup, and soon hundreds of knock-offs arrived.

What is that block made of?

Some people think that each package of ramen contains one incredibly long noodle curled and coiled into a solid block. In his book, The Book of Ramen: Low Cost Gourmet Meals Using Instant Ramen Noodles, Ron Konzak took a package of ramen noodles, boiled it and carefully took it apart. He reports, “I found that the package contained 80 strands of curly noodles 5/64 inch (2 mm) diameter that, when straightened out, measured approximately 16 inches (40 cm) in length. This would indicate that the noodle dough was extruded through 80 nipples into continuous rows, and cut into uniform lengths. The 80 curly noodles, cut to length, were then folded over once before being dropped into a mold, lightly fried, dried, and packaged with a flavor packet insert. Each package, when boiled, stretched out and laid end to end contains about 100 linear feet of noodles.”

What else is in a package?

Well, there is a downside. Each flavor package contains about 1560 mg of sodium (which is approximately 60 percent over the daily recommended amount). To remove the water and form them into blocks, the noodles are deep fried in palm oil, which contains about the most saturated fat there is. Then again, the average Japanese person eats about 45 packages
of ramen a year, and the Japanese manage to stay quite petite.

With all cautions aside, if eaten responsibly, ramen probably won’t hurt anyone. It seems that as long as ramen stays so cheap, it will remain a staple in the lives of many college students — an old salty friend who just wants to make them happy.