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A Brief History of Instant Noodles: Propaganda, Chicken Seasoning and Those Damn Commies

July 9, 2017
Momofuku Ando

If you’ve ever eaten instant noodles, you’ve participated in the fight against communism. That’s right, the crunchy or sloppy snack (depending on how you consume it) was invented as a result of America’s post-war operations in Japan, where Chinese noodle-soup, or Chuka soba as it was then commonly known, was a favourite dish among its starving citizens. It was also one of the only hot meals available under US Occupation. You see, the US didn’t prioritise feeding Japanese bellies (as a matter of policy, Asians received less food than Europeans), and it got to the point that the Japanese government were directing their people to eat acorns, snails, even weeds on the side of the road.

The Japanese Communist Party contended that the real reason people were starving wasn’t for lack of food, but because of widespread bureaucratic negligence and corruption—hence why the black market seemed to have plenty of Chuka soba on the go. Sniffing a mass rebellion, Eisenhower sent emergency wheat shipments over to Japan, along with a message: “The era of flour has arrived.” The food wasn’t free (the Japanese would have to repay the US for its “generosity” later on down the track), but it ensured that the population would a) not murder local US combat forces, and b) stick with Team America for the duration of the Cold War.

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