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Momofuku Ando, Instant Ramen Inventor, Dead at 96

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Jan 9, 2007 8:00PM

Chicago has been recently been celebrated for its achievements in haute cuisine. And while we love discussing the merits of molecular gastronomy vs. locally and organically grown, we know that eating out night after night isn't realistic for most Chicagoans. It certainly isn't realistic for us.

2007_1_ando.jpgAnd so it was with sadness this weekend that we read of the death of Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant noodles. Andu was born in Taiwan and founded his food company in Japan in 1948. After seeing people standing in line at a black-market food stall, he formed a strong conviction that "a life without enough food to eat is no life at all." He believed an instant noodle product would help feed people after World War II. Chicken Ramen was the first flavor produced by his company Nissin Food Products Co., but other flavors and products quickly followed, including the ever-ubiquitous Cup Noodle.

Instant ramen is consumed worldwide on a tremendous scale. Inexpensive, easy to prepare, delicious as can be — it might be the world's perfect pre-packaged food. According to the Nissin website, "aggregate worldwide sales of Cup Noodle brand reached 25 billion servings" in 2006. And lest you believe that ramen is solely the food of hungover college students, instant ramen has been served to victims of natural disasters, like Katrina in 2005 and the Asian Tsunami of 2004.

In a tribute to Ando in the NYT, Lawrence Downes perfectly sums up our sentiments: "Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything." Tonight, we will eat some instant noodles in tribute to Ando and all he accomplished in his lifetime.

Ando is survived by his wife, Masako, two sons and a daughter.