Archive for January, 2007

RIP Mr. Creator of Nissin Cup Noodles

 My new favorite line:  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.


Mr. Noodle

Published: January 9, 2007

The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had never suspected that there was such an individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958. His product — fried, dried and sold in little plastic-wrapped bricks or foam cups — turned the company he founded, Nissin Foods, into a global giant. 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.

There are other versions of fast noodles. There is spaghetti in a can. It is sweetish and gloppy and a first cousin of dog food. Macaroni and cheese in a box is a convenience product requiring several inconvenient steps. You have to boil the macaroni, stir it to prevent sticking and determine through some previously obtained expertise when it is “done.” You must separate water from noodles using a specialized tool, a colander, and to complete the dish — such an insult — you have to measure and add the fatty deliciousness yourself, in the form of butter and milk that Kraft assumes you already have on hand. All that effort, plus the cleanup, is hardly worth it.

Ramen noodles, by contrast, are a dish of effortless purity. Like the egg, or tea, they attain a state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water. After three minutes in a yellow bath, the noodles soften. The pebbly peas and carrot chips turn practically lifelike. A near-weightless assemblage of plastic and foam is transformed into something any college student will recognize as food, for as little as 20 cents a serving.

There are some imperfections. The fragile cellophane around the ramen brick tends to open in a rush, spilling broken noodle bits around. The silver seasoning packet does not always tear open evenly, and bits of sodium essence can be trapped in the foil hollows, leaving you always to wonder whether the broth, rich and salty as it is, is as rich and salty as it could have been. The aggressively kinked noodles form an aesthetically pleasing nest in cup or bowl, but when slurped, their sharp bends spray droplets of broth that settle uncomfortably about the lips and leave dots on your computer screen.

But those are minor quibbles. 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.


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 Where do you go when you’re craving food before hitting up Pomme Frites for fries?  Paul’s Place

pauls outside  pauls inside

Paul’s is very cramped inside with a lot of cheesy neon lights and random random kitschy items hanging about.  With its red and white plastic checker board tablecloths, there’s nothing fancy about this place. 

Each table is supplied with a whole bowl of half-dill pickles to munch on while watching the game or waiting for their orders.  Iordered the texas burger with a turkey patty and a fried egg on top.  I added tomatoes.  The burger had a good chunk of meat- half a pound’s worth supposedly!  The burger was a little more well done than I expected even though.  It didn’t seem to be the medium that I ordered.  In retrospect, I actually would’ve liked the burger more if the eye wasn’t fried all the way through, but the yoke was left a bit gooey and it spilled into the burger and moistened the meat.  That sounds fun, no?  

texas burger

I also got a classic ice cream float- coke with vanilla aka a “burnt cow.”  I have friends who are all about the sprite and ice cream- but I like the classic better.  It’d be even more enticing if it was Pepsi instead of Coke, but I’m not complaining.

coke float

I say that this place is just a basic run-of-the-mill burger joint.  It’s just a small neighborhood-y place to grab a bite to eat or to get some take-out.  This place will definitely satisfy a burger craving, but it’s not one of those knock-your-socks-off hole-in-the-wall joints.

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