Farewell, Mr. Noodle…

If long noodles bring long life, as the Chinese proverb insists, then Momofuku Ando has certainly proved that right. He was 96 when the Great Noodle Factory in the Sky called him home.

Mr Ando said the inspiration for his product came when he saw people lining up to buy bowls of hot ramen noodle soup at a black market stall during the food shortages after World War II.

He developed his first instant noodles, Chicken Ramen, in 1958.

The product came out as Japan recovered from the ravages of World War II and began a long period of economic expansion.

It was the masterstroke of providing a waterproof polystyrene container for the noodles that made his Cup Noodle an instant success in 1971.

Nissin has led the global instant noodle industry since then, selling 85.7 billion servings every year, according to Agence France Presse.

His firm also developed a version of Cup Noodle for Japanese astronauts to eat on the space shuttle Discovery in 2005.

In 1999, Mr Ando opened a museum in Osaka devoted to instant noodles.

He retired as Nissin’s chairman in 2005.

Japanese newspapers and business people have been paying tribute to Mr Ando.

“He was a self-made man who developed an epoch-making instant noodle product and spread it to all corners of the world,” Akio Nomura, chairman of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Kyodo news agency.

Mr Ando remained active until just days before his death, giving a New Year’s speech to Nissin employees and having a lunch of Chicken Ramen with company executives.

Like just about every hungry university student at some time since instant ramen was invented, I’ve eaten Mr. Ando’s quick, cheap and yummy invention many times. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can remember that rich, salty taste and the way the hot broth splatters all over everything when you slurp the noodles. It’s a great way for a busy brain to stay fueled, as I found out. And if you get the kind that you cook in a pot, you can vary it for a balanced diet, adding meat, eggs, tofu and veggies as you please. In any case, it’s ready in 15 minutes or less. I ate “Chinese noodles”, as we called them, almost every day. It cost maybe $3 a day (an ENTIRE day!) to eat if I had ramen. It was a favorite of mine and I could still scarf it down to this day.

Rest in peace, Mr. Ando. You gave the world a wonderful thing indeed.

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