Instant noodles were invented in the 1950s by the Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, then marketed by Nissin under the name Chikin Ramen (Chicken Ramen). In 1971, Nissin went on to combine their instant noodle invention with disposable cup packaging and a delicious flavor packet, producing the Japanese cup ramen we love today.
As an easy and delicious meal, the noodles-in-a-cup became an instant hit in Japan, and soon after, around the world. Cup ramen is so popular in Japan that there’s even a cup noodle museum dedicated to them. Meanwhile, the country’s leading cup noodle companies, like Nissin Foods and Maruchan, have produced hundreds of different flavors.
With so many flavors, it can be hard to choose which ones to try, so we’ve done the sorting for you. From the miso ramen of northern Japan to the bone-broth soup of the south, we’ve narrowed down the 8 best cup ramen of every type!
Nissin’s chicken-flavored instant cup noodles were the flavor that began the ramen craze back in 1971. The world’s first ramen flavor is still a consistent best-seller, both in Japan and internationally. The vegetables and chewy instant noodles are steeped in a rich chicken broth, for the ultimate comfort food. It’s like Japan’s version of chicken noodle soup.
For some extra protein you can crack a raw egg in too before adding the hot water — Nissin even put an indent in the center of the noodles just for that purpose.
Hakata, in the prefecture of Fukuoka, is famous for its pork bone broth ramen, and out of all the ramen shops in town, Ippudo is considered one of the best. The creamy bone broth, combined with wood-ear mushrooms, scallions, and the Hakata ramen specialty, slightly sweet barbecue pork
Seven-Eleven, Nissin, and the Michelin-starred restaurant Nakiryu have all teamed up to produce the world’s first Michelin-star instant ramen. The instant noodles reproduce the restaurant’s signature tangy broth, which includes the nutty flavor of sesame paste with a hint of heat from chili spice.
It’s often difficult for vegans to find ramen that doesn’t contain any meat products. Even the broth can contain pork or milk extracts. However, the vegan T’s restaurant in Jiyugaoka is famous for its vegan tantanmen, a Szechuan-style ramen with a rich broth of peanut powder, sesame paste, and chili oil. The shop also serves a vegan version of tonkotsu ramen, the pork bone broth-based noodles.
T’s is a great option and one of the best Tokyo vegan restaurants. Now, T’s Restaurant has launched a line of vegan cup ramen noodles including the shop’s delicious meat-free tantanmen. You can purchase the vegan cup noodles at Natural Lawson’s convenience stores across Japan. T’s Restaurant is definitely a great option for those looking for Japanese vegan cup ramen or any Tokyo vegan restaurants too!
Tokyo’s spicy ramen shop Moko Tantanmen Nakamoto collaborated with Seven-Eleven to produce one of Japan’s most popular cup ramen flavors. In fact, it’s so popular it ranked first on the convenience store’s 2018 ramen ranking!
The cup noodles include tofu, cabbage, and carrots, all steeped in spicy broth, whose deep flavor comes from its miso base and sesame oil topping. If the spice is too much for you, you can add a sprinkle of cheese, for some extra-tasty umami (savoriness). But for those who can’t get enough of the heat, it’s one of the spicy cup ramen brands you have to try!
Seafood is one of the 5 bestselling cup noodle flavors in Japan, for good reason. If you’re a fan of seafood, then you’ll love this cup ramen topped with surimi (a minced fish paste) made from fish, squid, and crab flavors, all immersed in a thick seafood and pork-based broth. For a red-hot take on the classic seafood cup noodle, check out the spicy Red Seafood Flavor too!
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, specializes in thick, miso-based ramen, perfect for staying warm during the region’s snowy nights. Sapporo, the region’s capital, is home to some of the best-known miso-based ramen restaurants in Japan, including Sumire. Sumire collaborated with Nissin to bring their special broth to homes around Japan and the world, with these miso-based cup noodles. The grilled miso adds extra depth of flavor to the noodle’s broth, which pairs perfectly with a piquant and citrusy sansho pepper topping.
The original instant noodle brand, Nissin, makes another appearance. These noodles perfectly reproduce the bouncy texture and rich flavor of Tokyo’s best hole-in-the-wall ramen shops. Pork, green onions, and noodles are steeped in the shoyu (soy sauce)-based broth’s mouth-watering umami. The Raoh soy-sauce flavor noodles may just be the best restaurant-quality cup ramen you can make at home.
Originally published on September 27, 2021 and updated in June 2022.
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