Put the Kettle On For Momofuku Ando

The One, The Only, The Original ChikinMomofuku Ando, inventor of instant ramen, has died. A Japanese hybrid of Godzilla and Ray Kroc, Momofuku’s Nissin Foods burst on the scene in 1958 with “Chikin Ramen” – as a luxury item, no less. Yes, those Cups O’ Noodles that fueled exam cramming or unemployment were considered Space Age food for a world that was so on the cusp of providing you a flying car, jetpack AND DisneyMars that you could taste it. And it tasted like “Chikin”, apparently.

Born in Taiwan with the name 吴百福, or Wu Baifu, Momofuku went to Japan when he was orphaned as a small child. His dream of creating an instant meal in a disposable cup has often been credited to his life growing up in wartime, but it might just as equally have been driven by a hatred of Japanese prison food when he served two years for tax evasion. Momofuku’s product was laughed at by a food industry full of snobby, cigar-chomping, poisonous-blowfish-sushi-eating elites who called it a novelty. But as his company, Nissin Foods, so rightly points out on his bio page:

“They had never been so wrong.”

The competition responded quickly, however, and the bloody Instant Ramen Wars have continued to the present day. Momofuku Ando was always at the front line, even getting his noodles into space, and Japanese Prime Ministers for years have gone to pay their respects at the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry for years has demanded that, in the event that Momofuku wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, that it be rightfully identified as a Chinese Nobel Prize since he was born in Taiwan. While China produces half the worlds ramen, using 1/10 of its wheat, it still lags behind more developed nations in ramen consumption, an embarassing fourth after South Korea, Japan and Indonesia. This is partly blamed on Mao’s “Let One Hundred Kettles Whistle” Campaign, which ended up re-educating China’s ramen-enjoying population at Lanzhou Noodle Camps. Later, during the Great Leap Forward, ramen bricks were melted down having been mistaken for steel wool.

Chinese university students will be asked to put down their little plastic forks on Monday morning during a moment of silence for the man that has kept them from starving during their Gao Kao examinations, until the flag is lowered and the kettle whistles.

If you wish to take ramen in Ando’s honor, Ramenlovers.Blogspot.Com has been reviewing the noodle since late 2005.

The Discussion: 23 Comments


I’m tempted to ask if he was cremated or freeze-dried…but that would be in poor taste.

January 7, 2007 @ 2:02 am | Comment


January 7, 2007 @ 2:15 am | Comment

Boo is back!

OK, yes, this should be worthy of some award, now that I think of it. The working student’s survival pack! Possibly more significant than McDonald’s (though I did survive, besides Ramen Noodles, on $.19 fishburgers during college).

tracked back unofficially.

January 7, 2007 @ 4:00 am | Comment

These are the people who truly change history. Who says the ‘great man’ theory is dead.

Since he was born on Taiwan, is this another invention that should rightfully be credited to China?

January 7, 2007 @ 4:47 am | Comment

cremated of course…and sealed in a giant foil flavour packet.

January 7, 2007 @ 5:09 am | Comment

Mwah-hah-hah! Truly schticky!

January 7, 2007 @ 9:01 am | Comment

Since he was born in Taiwan, what I wanna know is what Taiwan sub-group he’s from. Hoklo? Hakka? Aborigine?

January 7, 2007 @ 9:24 am | Comment

Lisa! For that you shall be lashed with forty packs of soaking ramen.

What a great invention. Now that I’m doing the low-carb thing, I miss it terribly. A true benefactor of the world has left us.

Since he was born on Taiwan, is this another invention that should rightfully be credited to China?


January 7, 2007 @ 10:08 am | Comment

College students around the world owe him a moment of silence.

January 7, 2007 @ 11:46 am | Comment

Isn’t it because of him that there are all those behavioural advice signs in China saying “Don’t Slurp”?

January 7, 2007 @ 11:58 am | Comment

Am I the only one who would feel uncomfortable talking with my school age children about someone named Momofuku?

January 7, 2007 @ 2:11 pm | Comment

Okay, this thread is in serious competition for “Most Beverages Snorted Through My Nose While Reading.”

You know, snorting beverages through your nose is pretty painful.

January 7, 2007 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

Actually, the Cup Noodle itself wasn’t invented until 1971 when Ando combined his instant ramen with the styrofoam cup packaging. Pure bloody genius.

January 7, 2007 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

Why couldn’t this guy have died a few weeks ago. It would have given me a ready answer to a reader who challenged me to list examples of Japan innovation. All I could think of was Toyota.

January 8, 2007 @ 5:51 am | Comment

Ah yes, OtherLisa, but can you snort a ramen noodle through your nose? And if so, would you be so kind as to post a picture?

January 8, 2007 @ 7:24 am | Comment


It is to be sluuurrrppped , snorted does increase the enjoyment of this MSG and oiled noodle. How does one eat pipping hot noodles without slurping? can any one advised me? I have been criticised by my wife for being uncout whenever I do so.

January 8, 2007 @ 10:18 am | Comment

He was born in Chiayi County, this Wu Bai-fu which makes him a cousin of King of Rock WU BAI, also frm Chiayi County……

January 8, 2007 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

@China Law Blog:

“Why couldn’t this guy have died a few weeks ago. It would have given me a ready answer to a reader who challenged me to list examples of Japan innovation. All I could think of was Toyota.”

That’s Taiwanese innovation, thank you very much. lol

January 8, 2007 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

“That’s Taiwanese innovation, thank you very much”
He was born in Taiwan when it was a Japanese colony, had lived in Japan since 1933 and all his innovations were created in Japan, for the Japanese market and reflecting conditions in Japan. By the time he invented Chikin Ramen, he was already a naturalized Japanese citizen. Ando may have been more “Taiwanese” than Sadaharu Oh (LOL), but not by much.

January 8, 2007 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

@Kaminoge: I was joking.

For god sakes, who gives a flying f**k what was the nationality of the inventor of instant noodles? What on God’s green earth does being Japanese, Chinese or Pekingese have to do with stuffing some artificial flavoring in a vacuum pouch with dried noodles?

January 8, 2007 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

@davesgonechina —

This stuff does matter and here’s why. In the US, we don’t have discussions like this because we define an American as someone who is a US citizen, plain and simple. Kissinger (Henry, not Don), Einstein (Albert, not Baby), Kennedy (John, not Ted), Powell (Colin, not Boog), — all of these people are Americans despite their being of Jewish-German, Irish-Catholic, Black-Jamaican descent. But in most countries, debates like this matter because you are what you are and citizenship doesn’t really matter. A Korean who has never left Japan and whose parents and grandparents never left Japan is viewed as Korean. In Russia, you are a Jew or a Chechen, not a Russian, no matter how long your family has lived in Russia. The same is true in France (and don’t anyone try to tell me different on this one). That’s why it matters. In my view, it shouldn’t matter and I actually think the fact that it doesn’t matter in the US (for most anyway) is a huge (and usually neglected plus) for the US.

January 9, 2007 @ 11:46 pm | Comment


“That’s why it matters. In my view, it shouldn’t matter”

That was my point as well. And I agree, it’s a positive for the US – however, Americans should be conscious, as you are, about the difference. I’d point out, however, that when we go around asking who the quintessential Chinese is, we’re adding fuel to the fire in a way.

January 10, 2007 @ 12:57 am | Comment

I see your point, at least “in a way.”

January 10, 2007 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

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