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Instant noodles.
More than 100 billion servings were slurped up around the world last year.
That's more than 13 servings for every person on the planet.
So, you've almost certainly eaten them, but have you ever thought about why they seem to be everywhere?
Instant noodles are one of the world's most successful industrial foods.
They're cheap to make, and cheap to buy, making them a global phenomenon.
They've been eaten at the top of Everest.
Astronauts have carried them into space.
And they've even become the most traded legal item in U.S. prisons.
More about that later.
So how did this simple but revolutionary food come about?
Let's go back to Japan, just after the Second World War.
Large parts had been destroyed by bombing.
Much of the population was going hungry.
A feisty entrepreneur, Momofuku Ando, was penniless after a failed business venture.
He wanted to reinvent himself.
And he had an idea, when he spotted long lines of Japanese people shivering in the cold waiting for a hot bowl of traditional ramen noodles.
Ando knew the Japanese government was looking for ways to encourage its people to eat the food aid given to Japan by the US government—oil and wheat flour.
So he disappeared into a wooden hut in his back garden for a year.
And when he emerged, he'd created instant noodles.
They were instantly popular.
And they fueled Japan's modern economic rise, feeding students and also hungry workers.
They soon caught on elsewhere, maybe because they're the ultimate hot blank slate.
They can be adapted to fit anyone's taste buds.
In Thailand, green curry flavour's a hit.
In Mexico, they're eaten with limes and salsa.
In Japan, you can try chicken nugget-and-fries-flavoured noodles.
Or in Pakistan, pizza flavour.
Environmentalists aren't so happy about the noodles' seemingly endless spread.
They're made with palm oil, which contributes to deforestation in countries like Indonesia, and most noodles come with lots of plastic packaging.
But quick foods like instant noodles are lifesavers in emergency situations, like earthquakes, or for anyone who needs the comfort of a hot meal without access to a kitchen.
Shrinking prison food budgets in the U.S. mean that prisoners are turning to instant noodles, the cheapest item on sale in prison stores, to fill their stomachs.
They're also getting creative, grinding down noodles and water into a paste that can be shaped into makeshift pizza bases.
Using crushed ramen, prisoners make their own versions of burritos, sandwiches, even a dish called "Coke ramen," made with instant noodles and, you guessed it, Coca Cola.
And of course, cup noodles are responsible for powering millions and millions of late-night study sessions.
From a hut in Japan to grocery stores around the world, they may only take two minutes to spring into action, but next time you're cooking them, think about the eternal life of the instant noodle.
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How instant noodles went global | BBC Ideas

8693 Folder Collection
Seraya published on May 21, 2020    Seraya translated    adam reviewed
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