Image of Ramen Noodles served in Phoenix Noodle Bar.

How Ramen Became Popular in the United States

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Ramen is a traditional Japanese noodle dish that consists of a meat broth and a variety of toppings depending on the variation. In telling the story of how ramen became a popular food trend in America, we must first start back at the beginning to do this culinary staple justice.

Today, ramen is a popular dish that can be found across the country and if you find yourself looking for ramen in Phoenix, head to the Noodle Bar.

The Beginning

Noodles are believed to have been invented during the Late Neolithic period around 2,000 BC in China. Scientists have found fossils near the Yellow River that suggest their point of origin and the scientists speculate that the first forms of noodles were made from foxtail and broomcorn millet. From that point in time, noodles became a mainstay in the Asian cuisine.

Now, that we have established the origin of the first component to ramen, we arrive somewhere between 300-400 BC when hishio was first invented. Without the creation of hishio, ramen as we know it today wouldn’t be the same. The fermented soybean product was had a strong salty and pungent flavor that accompanied its gravy-like consistency. From this early component, two popular categories of modern ramen, miso, and shôyu, would eventually be born.

It wasn’t until 1559 (first written record) that shôyu was created by manufacturers outside of Tokyo. They first variations had roasted wheat added to it, which darkened the sauce significantly and led to it being called koicuchi (“dark mouth”) shôyu. Usukuchi (“pale mouth”) shôyu wasn’t invented until 1666.

The name ramen is believed to be a Japanese adaptation of the Chinese term for hand-pulled noodles, la mein. Ramen first hit the streets of Japan in carts and stalls in 1923 in Tokyo and Yokohama. During the 1920s, Chinese food became extremely popular in Japan, which was essentially responsible for the Chinese-style soup of ramen to gain traction in the culinary world.

World War II took its toll on the Japanese food supply and as a result, ramen and many other food items became scarce. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the United States supplied Japan with large quantities of wheat to help with the post-war shortages. The large influx of wheat supply led the Japanese government to encourage the production of wheat noodles. This, in turn, led to the rise in popularity of ramen again.

1958 marked a landmark development in the history of ramen. Momofuku Ando created instant ramen in his shed. When he discovered that frying the noodles partially cooked and dehydrated them, founded Nissin Foods and introduced instant Chikin Ramen to Japanese consumers. Then in 1971, after five years of development, Nissin Foods introduces Cup Noodles that only requires hot water to prepare. Cup Noodles were an instant success, not only in Japan but around the world. The invention of instant ramen can be credited to the transplantation of the Japanese noodle dish to the United States.

Since instant ramen became a college student food staple, the ramen trend has exploded in popularity. The demand has only grown in the United States for ramen and restaurateurs across the country have been opening noodle shops and specializing in Asian noodle dishes in hopes of capitalizing on the demand. The Noodle Bar in Phoenix is one of the newest additions to the Valley’s diverse culinary landscape. Specializing in ramen variations and Italian classics, the Noodle Bar is the best spot to satisfy your noodle cravings. Check out their ramen dishes at the ramen restaurant menu.

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