Cup Noodle: The Original Cup Ramen Then and Now

Cup Noodle: The Original Cup Ramen Then and Now

Cup ramen means many different things to many different people. It can be a way to try different Japanese flavors, a super affordable yet filling meal, or a quick and easy lunch option for those who need it. No matter how you see it or what brands and flavors you enjoy, there’s one brand that changed the ramen world that you have to appreciate: Cup Noodle.

Cup Noodle is the original cup ramen and has maintained a strong grip on the cup ramen world thanks to its long history and delicious flavors. Let’s learn all about where this brand came from and about the amazing flavors this brand puts out there!

The History of Cup Noodle

Momofuku Ando and Instant Noodle

A statue of Momofuku Ando outside of the Cup Noodle Museum Osaka Here is the man, the legend, the icon: Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin and Cup Noodle.

You can’t talk about Cup Noodle without talking about the icon that is Momofuku Ando. Born in Japan-controlled Taiwan in 1910 as Go Pek-Hok, Ando eventually came to Japan in 1933 where he established himself. He later became a Japanese citizen through marriage in 1966 when he took on the name Momofuku (the Japanese reading of his first name) and Ando, his wife’s last name.

Ando, after a few years of both financial and legal trouble, re-entered Japanese society during Japan’s post-war era, when food shortage was a major issue. At the time, the US government offered wheat flour to Japan to help with food scarcity, and the Japanese government recommended people to eat bread made with wheat. However, Ando thought, “Why bread and not noodles? Japanese people are more used to noodles.”

With that idea and the idea of making sure that people around the world have enough to eat, Ando developed a way to flash fry precooked noodles, creating the world’s first instant ramen in 1958. This instant ramen was made in the original Chikin (chicken) Ramen flavor and Nissin, Ando’s company, was born.

But different to today, this instant ramen was considered a luxury item. You see, at that time, it was pretty expensive to make the materials, but it eventually took off, especially in metropolitan areas.

The Origin of Cup Noodle

A block of instant ramen on a pink background Isn't it crazy that the same guy who created instant ramen also invented cup ramen? Image via Unsplash

Speaking of metropolitan areas, instant ramen started to take off in American cosmopolitan areas where it was considered chic and international. In fact, America’s way of eating instant noodles was what inspired the iconic Cup Noodle product!

Ando went to America and noticed that, instead of bowls and chopsticks, Americans broke up the noodles, put them in paper cups, poured hot water over the noodles, and ate it with a fork. That’s when Ando thought, I can make this a product and improve on it.

Ando took this simple idea and ran with it. First, he replaced the paper cup with Styrofoam for heat insulation so you can hold the cup. They also put the noodles in the middle of the cup (instead of the bottom) to help the noodles cook. To make sure the item succeeded overseas as well as Japan, ‘Cup Noodle’ (a translation mistake) was plastered right on the cup with a psychedelic font popular in the 1970s.

This 1972 invention became the iconic Cup Noodle we know today. Then, as the prices of production fell, instant and cup noodles became more affordable and more accessible, taking them from a luxury product to a beloved everyday food product.

If you want to learn more about the history of Cup Noodle, experience making your own or want to see how it's made in detail, check out the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama or Osaka! We actually made a video all about it on our Instagram!


Want to try Japan-exclusive ramen flavors from brands like Cup Noodle? Check out Nakama Noodles! Nakama Noodles sends tons of unique Japanese ramen, udon and soba right to your door for you to enjoy every month!

Get Nakama Noodles Now!

Fun Cup Noodle Flavors

With the success of Nissin Foods’ instant noodle and Cup Noodle products, there are plenty of flavors besides the original flavor, both Japan-only and international flavors! So, let’s go over some of the cool flavors Cup Noodle offers.

Fun Japan Flavors


This delicious Cup Noodle flavor is based off of Japanese curry and has a deliciously sweet yet mild curry soup. With potatoes, minced pork, carrots, and onion as toppings, these curry noodles are iconic.

Chili Tomato

While Japanese people tend to shy away from spice, this popular soup combines the taste of slightly spicy chilis and sweet tomatoes. The add-ins, like tomato cubes, corn and cabbage, all help to bring out the soups flavor and fill you up.

Cheese Curry

Combining cheese with Japanese curry is not a foreign concept for Japan. This Cup Noodle flavor is particularly interesting though with its use of beef and a 3-cheese powder for a savory ramen sensation.

Seafood and Hokkaido Milk Seafood

The normal seafood flavor of this cup ramen brand is already a well-loved flavor for its savory seafood ingredients in a white soup. However, the Hokkaido seafood flavor sets itself apart with its rich, creamy soup utilizing Hokkaido milk in the broth.

Limited edition Cup Noodle flavors featuring high-class versions of the main four flavors. If you're feeling fancy, Nissin has upgraded versions of the standard flavors, like the standard Cup Noodle but with truffle oil, as a limited edition product! Image via Instagram (@e3_com)

Limited Edition Flavors

While we love the common flavors, there are ones that only come out for a limited time and make us cheer when they do. For example, at the time of writing this, Spicy Miso, Spanish Paella, Singapore Laksa and Seafood Gochujang Chige are for sale now in Japan. Add the currently trending Gaming Cup Noodle and the "Tokujou" or "First Class" series (pictured above), and you have plenty of options!

One of our personal favorites that come and go is their special mix series that sees combinations of two Cup Noodle flavors. If you want to play a game, read the name first and try to guess the combination.

First is Searry, a combination of Seafood & Curry. Then, there’s Cheechili Curmato, which combines the Cheese Curry & Chili Tomato flavors. Tonso might be a hard one if you don’t know the types of ramen, but it’s Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) and Miso. Last is the hardest with Siup Noodle, combining Shio (salt) & Shoyu (soy sauce) Cup Noodle.

A limited edition Cup Noodle with an Italian Seafood flavor and limited edition design Limited edition flavors also leads to some unique flavors like this Italian Seafood flavor with garlic and tomato! Image via Instagram (@kyomotabetemimasita)

International Flavors

Singapore: Chilli Crab

This Singaporean Cup Noodle flavor creates a perfectly spicy cup of noodles with delicious bits of crab in each bite. The soup, inspired by the Singaporean dish, is thick and has a sweet and salty taste with a balanced seafood flavor.

Mexico: Camaron, Habanero and Limon

If you like a kick of spice and delicious shrimp, then this popular Mexico flavor is for you. This version of Cup Noodle combines a spicy habanero and lime broth with tasty shrimp and vegetables.

Hong Kong—Spicy Seafood

Cup Noodle has a seafood flavor that is especially popular in China and has a cosmopolitan image among young people. However, Hong Kong’s spicy seafood is an even more beloved flavor, combining China’s most popular flavor with a kick that Hong Kong loves.

A hand holding the Tom Yum Kung flavor of instant ramen by Cup Noodle Some of the international flavors out there are so popular that they make it to Japan via the World Cup Noodles series.

India—Mazedaar Masala

Nissin really created a hit when they combined the delicious taste of ramen with delicious masala to create the Mazedaar Masala flavor. Nissin claims that this is the top cup ramen product in India, and with its amazing flavor and vegetable garnish, it’s easy to see why.

Brazil—Galinha Caipira

Cup Noodle is said to be Brazil’s number one cup ramen and it may be thanks to this Galinha Caipira flavor. This flavor is based on the country-style chicken stew of the same name and is super flavorful and heart-warming.

Singapore—Tom Yum Seafood

Although Tom Yum is mostly affiliated with Thailand and that flavor already exists in Thailand, the Tom Yum Seafood is a very popular cup ramen option from Singapore. The hot and citrusy flavor of the Tom Yum soup is amazing and has bits of delicious shrimp inside.

As much as we’d love to talk all day about all of Cup Noodle’s history and flavors, we have to end it here. If you want to learn about the amazing the popular museums celebrating Ando and his iconic product, check out our blog about the Cup Noodle Museum.

What’s your favorite Cup Noodle flavor? Are there any other flavors you would try? Let us know in the comments!

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