A Brief History of Cup Noodles
Japan might be called the Land of the Rising Sun, but it’s also the land of endless culinary variety and novelty when it comes to things like instant noodles! Cup Noodle by Nissin Foods was invented by Momofuku Ando in 1971. Top Ramen, the American version, was launched around the same time. Some instant ramen brands other than Nissin’s Cup Noodle are Sugomen, Pokémon, Maggi, and Maruchan. There is such fandom around instant noodles that there are even museums such as “Cup Noodles Museum” in Yokohama, Japan which is dedicated to Momofuku Ando’s megahit creation.
There are more than 100 flavors of Cup Noodles alone made inside and outside of Japan, many of them limited editions. Each country develops its own unique versions to please its customer base. For example, there’s a popular one based on masala spices in India (Mazedaar Masala), one called Camarón Picante (spicy shrimp) in Mexico, and one from Germany that is an ode to mushrooms (Champignons). Other instant ramen brands such as Maruchan also diversified their line up of offerings with flavors such as Picante Chicken and Lime Chili Shrimp.
Best Instant Ramen (and Udon too!)
An instant noodle with a decidedly Japanese flavor is Sugomen: Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen. In comparison to the darker brown beef broth that usually goes with a shoyu (soy sauce) base, tonkotsu ramen has a whitish pork bone broth. This bowl of instant noodles has a rich and creamy flavor that is instantly filling. The additions of dehydrated pork, sesame, and green onion to the nicely textured ramen noodles create a perfect dish. Chūi shite kudasai (be careful)! It’s very addictive!
Another Japanese favorite is kitsune udon. According to legends, kitsune (fox) are said to like fried tofu (aburaage). Nissin Donbei: Kitsune Udon features perfectly cooked thick udon noodles with slightly sweet fried tofu in a savory umami broth. Unlike ramen, which is generally thinner and made with egg, udon is dairy free, lighter in taste, and thicker and spongier in texture. Udon ga daisuki desu! (We love udon!)
The Nissin: European Cheese Curry Cup Noodle has a nice blend of familiar and novel. The savory beef curry broth is thicker than the typical watery broth. Bits of mushroom, carrots, ground beef, and mozzarella and cheddar cheese elevate the meal into something fancier than expected. Enjoy the blend of salty, umami, cheesy, slightly sweet, and mild curry spice as you slurp your way to the bottom of the cup. Oishii desu yo! (It’s delicious!)
People who like to live on the edge might like the Nissin Raoh: Spicy Tantan Ramen. This instant ramen has a Chinese twist with its dandan style noodles and its flavorful but strong Sichuan spices. It is creamier than regular broths with its addition of peanut and sesame flavors. Dozo aji mite kudasai! Please try it!
Pokémon Noodle: Seafood Flavor is a smaller sized cup of instant noodles made for kodomo-tachi (children) who are Pokémon fans. This unique flavor of instant ramen has a basic soy sauce base and a very mild oceanic flair. It has little Pikachu kamaboko fish cake pieces to bring a smile to the child slurping away. Go-chisō sama deshita! (Thank you for the meal!)
Where to Buy Irresistible Japanese Snacks
There’s nothing wrong with a plain instant cup of noodles, but why not mix it up once in a while? Get all these ramen noodle flavors on Bokksu Boutique, your online portal to irresistible Japanese snacks and other products from the Land of Endless Culinary Variety!
Did you know there's a cup noodle museum in Japan? Watch our TikTok about it!
By Megan Taylor Stephens