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Friday, January 12, 2007

Momofuku Ando Dead At Age 96

"Doo minute aur thayaar!" With these words Nestle introduced, sometime in the mid-80s, an international food, probably the first one in large-scale, into Indian households what was until then available in Chinese restaurants and high-end bars - Noodles. Maggie Noodles was, of course, instant noodles.

Smart Indian moms took to it right away; most eventually - never mind that it almost always took them more than two minutes (the time it takes most other cultures that just add hot water and spice mix that comes with noodles packet) - more like 20 minutes - because it was Indianized in the kitchens with vegetables, spices, and what not. And the kids loved it too - they love most junk food.

Nestle took what was until then poor man's and, more likely, poor college students, quick and cheap food in the west (and in Japan) into a middle class food in India. Regular noodles is now ubiquitous in India food scene - you can pretty much get it on any street. Well, all those middle-aged and young moms, and all of us who love noodles (may be not the instant kind), have this man to thank.

Momofuku Ando

Mr. Momofuku Ando died, last Friday, at age 96, in Osaka, Japan. He created the fast-cooking noodles, in 1958, because he couldn't find it anywhere. He created Nissin Foods to sell what is called ramen noodles and made it into a food giant by the time of his death.

The idea stemmed from an experience a decade earlier, when Japan was still ravaged by postwar poverty. In “The Story of the Invention of Instant Ramen,” an autobiography published in 2002, Mr. Ando told of walking through the rubble-strewn streets of Osaka.

“I happened to pass this area and saw a line 20, 30 meters long in front of a dimly lit stall from which clouds of steam were steadily rising,” he wrote. “People dressed in shabby clothes shivered in the cold while waiting for their turn. The person who was with me said they were lined up for a bowl of ramen.”

“I realized that people were willing to wait patiently just for a bowl of ramen,” he said....

According to the company’s Web site, instant ramen satisfies more than 100 million people a day. Aggregate servings of the company’s signature brand, Cup Noodles, reached 25 billion worldwide in 2006....

In July 2005, the company vacuum-packed portions of instant noodles so that a Japanese astronaut, Soichi Noguchi, could have them on the space shuttle Discovery. Mr. Ando said at the time, “I’ve realized my dream that noodles can go into space.” [Link]