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Noodle Pioneer Momofuko Ando Dies Aged 96

Saturday, January 13th, 2007 at 15:07 by Eliza E. Lanyard

You may not know the name Momofuko Ando but I bet you have eaten (more times than you care to admit) his greatest invention - harassed mum’s standby, student staple and hangover cure bar none -  The Pot Noodle. To be factually correct ‘pot noodle’ is a brand name but he did invent instant noodles,  the height of 70’s Space Age food. He came up with the idea of instant noodles in 1957 whilst watching long queues of workers waiting outside a noodle shop and within 15 years saw his foody invention take the world by storm.
 
Pot Noodle, Super Noodles and Vesta are the versions we are most familiar with in the UK. Derided by food snobs but beloved by those who have over indulged the night before as a quick easy to prepare noodley feast to help banish the hangover blues, mums looking to feed their brood and those in need of a quick food fix.
 
‘There must be a more convenient way to serve them’ he thought rather than the traditional long-winded method which involved big vats of boiling water and took ages. So he messed about with flour, mono-sodium glutamate, and palm oil til he came up with a noodle that could be dried, put in a pot with some flavourings, then re-hydrated with boiling water at a time and place convenient to the eater. A stir and 3 minutes later - hey presto noodley goodness. Whilst he turned his back on centuries held traditions of noodle preparation, he did at least keep the tradition of the dotty inventor alive by creating the instant noodle recipe in his shed.
 
But Mr Ando wasn’t just a savvy inventor but a clever businessman too - his company Nissin Foods grew into a $3 billion multinational with operations in 11 countries. He launched his first flavour brand ‘Chikin Ramen’ in 1958 and by the end of the year 10,000 portions were being sold daily in Osaka alone. He expanded the business in Japan and then hit the international big time when he started exporting to the United States in 1970. His instant noodles which could be eaten anywhere in their polystyrene container were a big smash. He even developed a special version which were used by astronauts on the 2005 Discovery Space Shuttle mission.
 
It has been calculated by those who are far better at maths than I am that there are approximately 85.7 billion servings of instant noodles sold every year. How many of these are sold to hungover students is not clear.
 
Some may loathe him for his reduction of ancient cooking techniques to merely boiling a kettle, adding to the consumer waste mountain and helping to foster the ‘now, no waiting , immediate’ culture of modern life, but to others he was a genius and a far more welcome helper in the kitchen than the faffy and precious Delia Smith.

Mr Ando: Myself, and countless ex students who have relied on your noodleyness to counter the effects of too much beer, salute you.
 
Mr Ando died of heart failure earlier this week in Tokyo. He leaves behind a business empire and a museum all about instant noodles in Osaka. I cannot help but wonder at what they sell in the gift shop and whether or not he will be cremated so some bright spark can add hot water to his remains and see what happens.

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2 Comments on “Noodle Pioneer Momofuko Ando Dies Aged 96”

  1. Sue Stewart Says:

    He launched his first flavour brand ??Chikin Ramen??

    Please tell me that this actually was chicken flavour. Please, please, please.

  2. Eliza E. Lanyard Says:

    I think it must have been, unless chikin is japanese for something else…
    The chicken and mushroom flavour pot noodle is suitable for vegetarians apparently as it is all soya and chemical flavourings and no ‘real life dead chicken’ has gone into the making of it.

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