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The Strange and Twisted History of Ramen Noodles

Welcome to the dark history of the world’s favorite comfort food. It all begins with two arch-enemy nations, Japan and China. Though their mutual hatred stretches back over the years, when these countries first made contact around 400 A.D., they were friendly. The Chinese were much more advanced, and the Japanese played eager students, learning such skills as how to write and how to make paper. They even borrowed the Chinese calendar and the Buddhist religion. But by the late 19th century, Japan was feeling superior to its former teacher.

In 1895, the small nation dealt China a humiliating defeat in a naval battle. As spoils of war, they annexed the province of Taiwan and wrestled control of Korea away from Chinese influence. Flexing its empire-building muscle further, Japan soon took over more of China, and in the process, assimilated aspects of its culture. Most notably, martial arts, as well as parts of their cuisine.

And that’s where the Ramen enter the story, although by a different name. In 1910, two Chinese cooks at Tokyo’s Rairaken restaurant introduced a signature dish with salty broth and noodles. They called it Shina Soba.

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