A nationwide food crisis caused by a myriad of issues coming straight out of the second world war coupled with a poor harvest season resulted in Japan's inability to feed its population. As a result, they were forced to adopt bread as a food staple, created from the wheat America provided. Though this helped ease some of the hunger of its citizens, a desire for something more still persisted.
This is when Momofuku Ando enters, a Taiwanese born Japanese entrepreneur seeking to alleviate the suffering caused by the food shortage. After seeing first-hand the overwhelming demand for traditional ramen, Momofuku proposed the idea of turning the wheat they were given into noodles instead of bread. 
After being told off multiple times and facing pushback from others, Momofuku set out to do it himself. After more than a year of trial and error, Momofuku, who previously had no experience in noodle making, found that by flash frying the noodles during production, he was able to create something that was tasty, quick to make, nonperishable, and relatively inexpensive to manufacture. These noodles were later launched as Chikin Ramen in 1958 and almost instantly became a fan favorite across Asia. 
Although “instant” noodles were a hit in the east, the same level of success was not replicated in the west. That was until 1971, when Momofuku came up with the idea of selling “instant” ramen in a cup, inspired by the time he spent in America where he observed that many would break up the noodles into a cup and eat them with a fork. 
Today, cup noodles and regular “instant” noodles are ubiquitous and come in a variety of options.
The key ingredients in chicken flavoured Cup Noodles and their functions:
- Enriched flour: Enriched flour is white flour that has nutrients added to compensate for nutrients that are removed during wheat milling.
- Palm oil: Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil and is commonly used in processed foods. This is because palm oil is easy to stabilize and maintains the quality of flavour and consistency.
- Salt: These noodles contain a lot of sodium which provides a large portion of the flavour. One serving of cup noodles consist of 51% of the daily value of sodium.
- Autolyzed yeast extract: Autolyzed yeast extract is yeast that has been broken down in its individual components, which include the flavour enhancer MSG.
- Citric acid: Citric acid is a sour flavouring agent and also acts as a mild preservative.
- Disodium guanylate: Disodium guanylate is used with MSG and disodium inosinate to flavour food. It has a savoury taste and allows manufacturers to flavour food without as much sodium.
- Disodium inosinate: Disodium inosinate is a savoury flavor enhancer typically used with MSG and disodium guanylate. It is usually derived from animal origins such as beef, pork, poultry, or fish.
- Disodium succinate: Disodium succinate is a scallop-taste flavour enhancer. Combined with disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate, a umami flavour is formed
- Egg white: Egg whites are used to help thicken the ramen.
- Hydrolyzed corn/soy protein: These are flavour enhancers produced by boiling sor or corn in hydrochloric acid and neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The resulting pure amino acids are used to give processed foods a fuller flavour.
- Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin is a sugar made from lactose and dextrose. Maltodextrin is often used as a thickener or filler ingredient to increase shelf life.
- Potassium carbonate: Potassium carbonate is an acidity regulator frequently used in ramen noodles and helps harden noodles.
- Potassium chloride: Potassium chloride is added to food as a salt substitute or to enhance the amount of potassium. It may be used to increase the amount of potassium because it is a widely under-consumed nutrient.
- Silicon dioxide: Silicone dioxide is used as an anti-caking agent to reduce clumping.
- Sodium alginate: Sodium alginate is a natural food additive that contributes to texture by optimizing moisture levels.
- Sodium carbonate: Sodium carbonate is similar to baking soda and is used to give noodles their distinctive chewy texture. The ratio of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate is what determines how soft or hard noodles are.
- Sodium tripolyphosphate: Sodium tripolyphosphate is an anti-caking agent that increases the water absorption of noodles, makes noodles white, and results in good elasticity.
- TBHQ: TBHQ is a preservative that acts like an antioxidant to prevent rancidity and discolouration. It extends shelf life and prevents spoilage of processed foods.
How is it Processed?
Instant noodle processing has remained consistent throughout the years. Steps include: mixing of ingredients, rolling out the dough, cutting into noodles, steamed, dried, fried (for 1-2 mins to dehydrate), cooled, and finally individually packed. Some variations dehydrate using hot air instead of frying.
Seasonings are often included in instant noodle packages in small sachets. They can be powder, liquid, or granulated powder, with the most common version being the powder type. Seasonings may be made of simple ingredients such as salt, sugar, soy sauce, or oil; they can also include more complex ingredients such as dehydrated meat, seafood, fungi, and spices.
The last component included in instant noodle packages is the garnish. Garnishes are more common in the “premium” varieties– they function as texture and nutrition enhancers. Their shelf life can be extended by using several drying methods:
- Hot air: Most commonly used. Similar to the technique used for dehydrating non-fried noodles.
- Vacuum freezing: Ingredients are frozen at -30°C while packed under vacuum. This method helps preserve their nutritional value.
- Microwave heat: Uses machines that heat and dry out garnishes from the inside while maintaining their integrity and texture.
- Retort: The garnishes are cooked, filled in pouches, and then sterilized using heat and pressure.
In general, there are the following requirements for the instant noodle packaging:
1. Moisture-proof, anti-fat souring.
2. To prevent the loss of flavor.
3. To prevent outside intrusion of odor, to avoid pressure.
4. Quantitative packaging, good sales appearance, no oil pollution.
5. Easy to open, good machinery operability.
6. Excellent oxygen barrier performance.
Failure to pick suitable packaging for instant noodles can lead to oxidation and decomposition after long term storage, which can result in toxic aldehyde peroxide formation. Consumption of such deteriorated instant noodles can lead to side effects such as dizziness, headache, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Aluminized laminated film is widely used in the packaging of instant noodles because of its high level of light barrier properties. The most used aluminized film structure is polypropylene and is used because the materials have a smooth surface, high transparency, good optical properties and excellent water vapor barrier ability.
The WINA (World Instant Noodle Association) was established in 1997 by manufacturers around the world). The association works together with the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish quality and safety standards for instant noodles. Additionally, an international Codex standard was implemented in 2006, which provides guidelines for manufacturing companies, such as the type and amount of permitted additives and which labeling requirements should be followed.
Instant Noodles Vs. Regular Noodles
Various types of noodles can be found in stores. In general noodle manufacturing processes, these different types noodles are basically made by mixing flour with water, saline solution, and alkaline salt aqueous solution. The dough is then stretched and cut or squeezed to form fresh noodle. Then there are additional steps and methods used to form each variety of noodles to be sold at retail stores.
The main differences can be categorized in three aspects.
In terms of texture, fresh noodles are superior. Fresh noodles, such as fresh ramen noodles, can bring us the original flavor what we eat at restaurants. In ramen restaurants, ramen typically has ingredients like hand-pulled wheat noodles with chicken or pork stock and toppings like scallions, bamboo shoot, and barbecue pork. People can buy fresh noodles or make fresh noodles, and prepare these ingredients to form a similar taste. By contrast, instant noodles are unsatisfactory in this respect.
In general, there is no substantial difference in the boiling time between fresh noodles and instant noodles. But the boiling time of fresh noodles is often shorter than dried noodles. To be more specific, fresh noodles and instant noodles only take about 1 to 3 minutes to boil while dried noodles take about 7 to 9 minutes. In this aspect, fresh noodles and instant noodles are still both convenient for people who do not have enough time cook. 
Dried noodles and instant noodles can be stored for a long time at room temperature. So people can store them and cook them at any time. However, fresh noodles can only store at specific refrigerated temperatures, usually for a week, and have stricter guidelines that need to be followed.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding the health consequences of “instant” noodle consumption and for good reason. Scientific evidence suggests that an excessive amount of consumption can be linked to an inferior quality diet and potentially adverse effects on health, such as heart disease. Sodium, or salt, is an essential mineral in the human body but, if taken excessively, increases the risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney failure. Disodium guanylate, known as MSG, does not impact health if a small amount is consumed, however the consumption of excessive amounts has been linked to unwanted side effects ranging from nausea and headaches to weakness. Furthermore, “instant” noodles are considered detrimental to a healthy diet because they are low in nutrition such as fiber and protein, and thus potentially impede digestive function and the stabilization of cholesterol levels. Scientific evidence suggests that although occasional consumption of “instant” noodles will not have much of an impact on health, excessive and regular consumption of "instant noodles” can and will lead to malnourishment, dangerous diseases, and other deficiencies.
Question: Which of the following is a common newer and healthier way to dry instant noodles?
- Deep fat frying
- Extrusion drying
- Hot air drying
- Drum drying
Many instant noodle brands are introducing varieties that have hot air dried noodles. Hot air drying is a healthier alternative to the regular deep fat fried instant noodles as noodles processed with this method are less oily and have less calories. However, hot air drying takes more time and results in poorer water reabsorption.  In considering what instant noodle products to purchase, consumers will have to decide what they priortize after considering the tradeoffs between taste, texture, price, and health implications.
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