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The Secret To Designing The Perfect Ramen Noodle

How American ramen came into its own

The Secret To Designing The Perfect Ramen Noodle
[Photos: Daniel Krieger]

Technically, ramen is just a bowl of broth, noodles, and toppings. Nothing too special. Yet until recently, it was remarkably difficult to get a perfect bowl of ramen in the United States. Now, you can get a great bowl of ramen almost anywhere, whether in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, even Milwaukee. And we owe it all to one man who finally figured out what American ramen was getting wrong.

Hidehito Uki founded Sun Noodle in Hawaii in 1981. Now, his company manufactures 90,000 servings of fresh ramen noodle a day and ships them to the best ramen houses in the country. Amy McKeever over at Eater makes the case that Sun Noodle is largely responsible for kicking American ramen into high gear. But why has Sun Noodle succeeded where other noodle makers had failed?

It all comes down to the flour, according to Sun Noodle. As it turns out, the flour that the best Japan ramen noodles are made from is 10 times finer than even the most finely ground domestic flour. To make authentic ramen noodles, Sun Noodle had to work with American millers to improve their grinding technology to the point where their flour was up to snuff with the stuff in Japan. That has made ramen noodles better not just for Sun Noodle, but for everyone.

It’s a design parable in microcosm: the big problem that is solved by a small, overlooked detail, and consequently changes the world. Or at least the world of ramen.

There’s much more to the Sun Noodle story, so make sure to read the rest of Eater‘s long-form profile for more.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.