Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Passing of the Ramen Master

Momofuku Ando has died.

He leaves behind a legacy of grateful college students. He was the creator of Nissin's Ramen Noodles.

A few years back, I spent my birthday at the Ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, Japan. A spectacular place which chronicles the glory days of the wartime noodle shop. A weird concept...like having a soup kitchen museum from the glory days of the depression. And I had a real scare there: I thought I'd accidentally eaten horse. That's right: horse. You see, you order your meals from vending machines -- they give out little tickets with conji characters on them and you hand that ticket to the noodle-master. It was only after rolling the dice and picking a button to push (i don't read or speak any japanese) that I found the english translation. What was in my bowl was described as "wheat noodles with pork, chicken, fish cake, egg, seaweed, horse, mackerel, and mushrooms". Only later did I figure out that it was probably 'horse mackerel' not 'horse' and 'mackerel.' This whole thing went down in the context of my brand-new return to carnivorism. Avoiding meat while traveling in Japan seemed too daunting and I finally had to give in to the fact: meat tastes good.

Anyhow, Momofuko Ando was the man to dehydrate those noodles and invent pre-packaged ramen. Genuis.

Ramen Shop Radio, of course, is my nom de radio. Named not so much for the pre-packaged kind as the shop where one can find the hearty bowl, variously populated with meats, veggies, and the aspirations of a chef and connosieur. My radio operation was to be my own Tampopo story, I thought.

Momofuko Ando, I believe, thought that a realiable stovetop version would be even better than the neighborhood noodle counter. I disagree. But I respect the dedication and productivity of such an industrious industrial mind.


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