Instant noodles are noodles that are fried in oil, dried, then sold in small packages, usually with a flavor packet of dried seasonings. They are a type of convenience food and can be prepared quickly. Most instant noodles require only boiling water and can be prepared with a microwave oven or a stove top. Instant noodles are renowned for their simplicity and low cost.
Taiwanese-Japanese businessman Momofuko Ando (1910-2007) invented instant noodles in 1958. They were developed in Japan to create a food that could best take advantage of wheat imports from the United States after World War II. The concept of bread was relatively uncommon to the Japanese during this period, and using wheat flour to make noodles provided a food that was more culturally accepted. Momofuko Ando's original instant noodles were chicken-flavored.
Instant noodles usually are made from processed wheat flour. They might also contain dried vegetables, dried tofu or precooked meats such as shrimp. A small packet of spices and powdered stock is often included in order to make a soup. The entire noodle packet might be sold in plastic packaging or a polystyrene cup.
The healthfulness of instant noodles varies depending on the manufacturer and the kind of wheat used to make the noodles. Instant noodles are considered high in carbohydrates, and the broth made from the spices and powdered stock is usually high in sodium. Additional vegetables and meats in the noodle packet can change the vitamin, fiber and protein content of the entire meal.
As with most instant food items, instant noodles usually are cheap and are a favorite among college students because of their low cost. They also are popular with this demographic because they are very easy to cook and do not take a long time to make. The sales of instant noodles can be used as an economic indicator of an area because the usage of low-cost goods increases as incomes decrease. This does not imply that instant noodles are not used in well-developed countries or affluent areas, however.
Instant noodles typically are made by placing the dried noodles in boiling water for three to five minutes or until the noodles become soft. Traditionally, the noodles are boiled in a pot and then contents of the flavor packet is mixed in. For instant noodles in a polystyrene cup, boiling water is added to the cup and allowed to cook the noodles. Some people simply put the noodles and water in a bowl and cook it in a microwave for several minutes. To decrease the sodium content of the final product, less than the entire contents of the flavor packet can be added, or the broth can be partially drained.