I can’t remember what triggered it exactly, but about a month ago, I suddenly had a desire to visit the instant ramen museum while we were in Japan. I think the one I was thinking of was the one in Yokohama, but the one I ended up finding via Google was the one in Osaka – the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. I went to their website, and saw that they had a tour of the instant ramen factory, which included a class on making the noodles as well. How could I possibly turn down an opportunity to learn a cooking skill? With Grad Daniel’s help (because the form was entirely in Japanese, and Google translate wasn’t very helpful), I managed to sign us up for a class. On sign up, there were 3 categories of students: elementary school (grades 1, 2, 3), junior school (grades 4, 5, 6), middle school and older. I figured we were technically in the middle school or older category, so that’s what I signed us up for. To say that I was excited about the experience was an understatement. I was telling everyone and anyone and grinning like a serial killer every time I remembered that we would be learning to make ramen.
When MrFodder’s sister asked what we planned to do in Japan, I immediately had to tell her about the instant ramen factory. I mentioned the part about the 3 age groups and MrFodder suddenly asked, “Wait a minute… is this class for school kids?!” I said no, because the form distinctly said middle school or higher (Grad Daniel checked), and we were the “or higher”. He got that look on his face that said, “What has Anna signed us up for now?”, but it’s OK, because I’m used to seeing that face, so it’s not a big deal.
Well, today was the big day – chicken ramen factory day! We caught the train to Osaka, but since there was quite a bit of snow today, it was delayed. It didn’t matter though, as we had left quite early to leave us enough time to explore the museum itself. We didn’t really eat breakfast or lunch either, as the museum has vending machines for you to buy cup ramen to eat, and they have some of the rarer regional cup ramen flavours that you can only get in certain parts of Japan.
Finding the museum wasn’t too difficult, but we were both pretty surprised at how many people were going to see it as well. Entry is free, but the factory tour noodle making part requires a reservation and is 500 yen for middle school or higher people. While the museum does have a brochure in English, and the staff are pretty fluent, all of the attractions were in Japanese, so we weren’t really able to understand some of the finer points. We understood the gist of the process from the pictures though, so that was OK. They had a wall filled with lots of different flavours of ramen, and you could see the evolution of the packaging over time, from the plainer packages at the start, to the incredibly colourful packages now, often with misleading looking pictures (cup ramen never look like the pictures).
We got to customise our own cup noodles as well. You buy an empty cup for 300 yen, then you get to colour it in and draw on it. There were example images for you to copy from, like this one:
And then here are our works of art (mine is on the left, his on the right):
After that, they put in a dried noodle cake, and you get to pick which soup base you’d like, and which 4 ingredients you want in your cup noodles.
I picked a curry base, with naruto, spring onion, corn and crab. MrFodder picked a curry base with spring onion, naruto, pork and egg.
They put a lid on it, and shrink wrap it. Then you put it in this inflatable bag so it doesn’t get crushed and take it home to eat later. They say to eat it within a month. They also say if you are flying by plane, not to take the inflatable bag, as the cabin pressure can mess with it, so we’ll probably have to deflate it and eat it soon.
We made it to the vending machine area, but we didn’t have enough time to actually stop and eat as the factory tour started soon, so we headed upstairs. Fortunately, we saw quite a lot of adults taking the class, and it didn’t look like it was just teachers either, so we didn’t feel so bad about signing up anymore.
The tour fits up to 48 people, and you must do it in pairs, so you can’t register alone (which is why poor MrFodder got dragged along). You watch a demonstration on TV first, then you get to make it yourself. One clump of dough was enough for 2 people, so we both didn’t get to try every step, but we did get to do most of the process. The most impressive part was putting it through the noodle machine. The dough that we kneaded was pretty ugly and messy, but after a few passes through the noodle machine it was beautiful.
After that, you need to let it rest a bit, and then pass it through a different setting on the noodle machine to make it flat. You do that a few times as well, and then there’s another section of the machine that cuts it into strands. Those strands get steamed (the staff did this part), and then you mix in some seasoning and put it into the moulds. It gets fried (staff did that part, too), and then left to dry for a bit, after which it is placed into a package and sealed.
Once again, we had to decorate the package, and we were given some example pictures to draw from.
Look at these works of art:
If you think MrFodder and I drew those, you weren’t paying attention earlier. They were drawn by the cute Japanese girls next to us (didn’t get any names of phone numbers, unfortunately).
These are the ones that we drew (mine is on the left, his on the right):
Since it is almost Valentine’s Day, which is a huge event in Japan, we made heart shaped noodle cakes. They also gave us these cute pink bags to place the packets in. The bandanas that we were wearing were also a souvenir for us. The cute girls next to us loved MrFodder’s picture of a chicken, they even took a picture of it, and then took a photo of him as well.
That was the last part of the tour, so we left the museum (which was now closed) and headed back to Kyoto. I had a great time, and I’m really glad we went.