As a child, Ashley Richards found ramen noodles frustrating to eat. She had to wait for them to cook, wait longer for them to cool, and once they were ready, "it took so much effort to get the long noodles into my mouth without making a mess."
Eating them uncooked was much easier. So after stomping on the cellophane to break up the noodles, that’s how she enjoyed her ramen - straight from the package. She’s 25 years old now, and still prefers it her ramen raw.
"Crunch it up in the package, pour into a bowl, and sprinkle with oriental flavoring," Richards says. "Yum!"
Pre-flavored instant wheat-flour noodles have been winning over the hearts and stomachs of people around the world since their invention in 1958. And in Japan, ramen and its many variations are more than just a staple meal - they are a way of life. There are even museums dedicated to the dish.
Hans Lienesch has sampled more than 630 varieties for his blog, The Ramen Rater, ranging from the premium, to "bottom of the barrel, nasty," to wolves-in-sheep's-clothing affairs that "look cool but that's as far as it goes."
There was an excellent bacon variety that a reader mailed him from England, which he cooked up with a piece of toast and a couple of fried eggs for a delicious breakfast.
You might imagine he'd be running out of noodles to try. But every country has its own version of the inexpensive dish, and "on shelves in other countries, there’s so much competition; there are so many varieties," says Lienesch, a computer support technician in Edmonds, Washington. "We really don’t understand how big instant noodles are in places like Singapore and Vietnam. There’s thousands of varieties."
Another ramen reviewer, TonTanTin, is getting close to 5,000 entries in his YouTube Ramen Noodle Diary.
In Narrah Kansas Palmquist’s Minnesota home, ramen is a family affair. She and her three children like to watch "Ponyo" - a Japanese animated movie about a goldfish that longs to be human - while enjoying bowls of noodles with ham, edamame, baby corn, water chestnuts and a medium-boiled egg, "sliced in half and arranged just as the meal appears in the movie."
Her children love to squeal "Haaam!" just as the goldfish does in the movie when she sees her favorite human food.
How do you do ramen? Share your take in the comments below.