#130 Lamen Noodles
Posted January 11th, 2010 by Peter · UPDATED NOW 10 Comments
“It’s fast, cheap, yummy, and everywhere,” says Masako Fukui of Kei’s Kitchen (speaking about Japan’s greatest innovation of the 20th century– no joke). Believe it or not, even though these wavy egg noodles in broth are now ubiquitous with Japan; it had origins in China long before that (over four thousand years to be exact).
How did this come about, though?
In 1665, the first ever account of “Lamian” consumption was made by Japanese Feudal Lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni. From the late 19th to 20th centuries, spurred by imperial aspirations, technological advances, and a post-WWII food shortage; Lamian became an instant (pun intended) hit in Japan.
Quick Japanese 101: Lamian, Lamen, and Ramen are the same thing. There is no distinction between the “L” and “R” sounds. Lamian is Japanese for “stretched, pulled, or elongated noodles.” Thus, we now call Lamian, Ramen by mistake. It should be called lamen.
Soldiers and lay people alike could have been found slurping lamen noodles (much like college students today) during the Meiji Period because they were a great source of calories, easily portable, and provided warmth (did I mention they were extremely cheap?). Thus, the Japanese transformed a Chinese peasant meal into a cultural symbol.
Only in the past 60 years has lamen become an international and (and Asian) sensation. Taiwanese man named ''Momofuku Ando'' of Nissin Foods is responsible for the globalization and westernization of lamen. In 1958, he invented our modern day “instant cup noodles.” In 1972, these noodles came across the Pacific Ocean (and all over the world) under the guise of “Top Ramen (Maruchan)” and “Oodles of Noodles.”
Today, Asians and people around the world consume over 85 billion lamen meals a year. That amounts to about $10 billion dollars worth of lamen purchases — more than the nominal GDPs of over 67 countries worldwide (Cambodia grosses 10.82 billion dollars a year and is ranked 123 in the world). Thus, lamen could very easily be the answer to both feeding and sustaining third-world countries for years to come (though we all know Asians are far too stingy with money to let that happen).
Instant Lamen flavors ranging from classic beef, chicken, and pork; to more bizarre flavors such as “salsa picante shrimp” are becoming available every day. If you want more authentic taste, we here at SAPL recommend a visit to Maru Ichi.