A view from Dave Trott: Use your noodle
A view from Dave Trott

Use your noodle

After World War Two, there was a massive food shortage in Japan.

So the US began sending huge quantities of wheat.

The wheat was made into bread, but the Japanese didn’t eat bread.

Making noodles with the wheat would require a kitchen, but no-one had a kitchen because of all the bombing.

Then a young man named Momofuku Ando noticed something.

People would queue round the block to buy a single bowl of ramen-noodle soup from street vendors.

Maybe he could find a way for people to make noodles easily at home.

He experimented until he found a way to boil the noodles, then quickly fry them.

The "flash frying" would take the moisture out of the noodles – it evaporated so fast it left tiny holes, leaving the noodles dry and stiff.

But if you added boiling water, the water seeped into the little holes and the noodles became hot and moist again.

Momofuku Ando had just invented instant noodles.

People could make them without a kitchen, with nothing but a kettle.

And because the noodles were dried, they could be kept for months without a refrigerator.

So people didn’t need a kitchen, just a kettle.

Momofuku Ando found he could flavour them to make them tastier.

At first he only made them in one flavour: chicken.

Why did he choose chicken?

He did this because some religions objected to pork, and some religions objected to beef, but no religion objected to chicken.

So, this way every religion could buy his noodles.

And people began buying his noodles to take home and make, with nothing but a kettle.

But the ramen-noodle seller stayed in his mind.

He was selling noodles people could eat in the street – why couldn’t Momofuku Ando do that?

Then one day, on a trip to America, he saw something that stopped him dead.

He saw Americans drinking takeaway cups of coffee in the street.

How could they do that?

The answer was something he’d never seen before – styrofoam cups.

And it hit him: if the cups could hold hot coffee, they could hold hot soup.

Even better, he could fill them with dried instant noodles.

Then people could pour hot water into the styrofoam cup.

The noodles could "cook" in the cup, anytime, anywhere.

Momofuku Ando had just invented the Cup Noodle.

Today, Momofuku Ando’s invention is produced in 20 countries on four continents.

Worldwide, people eat around 90 billion cups of his instant noodles every year.

I love that Momofuku Ando didn’t try to solve his problems by making them more and more complicated.

He solved them by making them simpler and simpler.

That’s real creativity.

Not adding expensive technology, just adding brains.

In 2005, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi ate Momofuku Ando’s instant noodles in outer space, on the space shuttle Discovery.

Somewhere even the noodle-ramen street vendor couldn’t go.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.