Introducing The Newest Superfood...Ramen?

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McDonald's loves to brag about having served over one billion individuals. But did you know that a single food item sold over 100 billion servings worldwide – yes, that's around 14 servings per person on Earth – in one calendar year? That would be instant ramen, which has experienced an amazingly precipitous rise since its birth in postwar Japan, as described yesterday by NPR.

So, what exactly is the mass appeal of these stiff, wavy blocks of noodles? This is the question that three anthropologists set out to answer in a new book, aptly titled The Noodle Naratives. They write that it comes down to three factors: cost, taste and flexibility: Essentially, instant ramen is extraordinarily cheap, exceedingly palatable and can easily be transformed to everyone's cultural taste. The researchers find that this "superfood" of sorts alleviates low-wage workers' hunger in both rich and poor countries in times of need. Additionally, instant ramen provides an extended period of satiety, has a long shelf life and doesn't (yet) carry the stigma of other mass-produced items, such as fast food.

And recent history has shown that these noodles are not enjoyed solely by this demographic. Our culture is most certainly "having a fling" (as NPR so eloquently puts it) with ramen bars and restaurants, which are popping up everywhere in our largest cities and even leading to the ongoing craze known as the ramen burger.

Ramen is leaving a global footprint that doesn't figure to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. The authors see these noodles – both instant and "fancy" – as a virtually unstoppable phenomenon that will continue to satisfy the needs of low-wage workers and those who wait in line for hours on end alike.

More ramen coverage on Food Republic: