The Untold History of Ramen

When George Solt unravels ramen from Japan’s past, present and future, he reveals the noodle dish’s connection to a country, its people and the world beyond. Particularly interesting are the analyses of the impact World War II had on Japan’s now national dish—which arrived as an import for laborers from China—and the gender-role ramifications of cheap, easy, instant ramen. While the writing can be drier than an unreconstituted package of ramen (it’s no surprise that the book began as a doctorial dissertation), Solt does an incredible job of neither over- nor understating the role of ramen in Japan and throughout the world. The assistant professor of history at New York University accomplishes this by pulling information from a variety of sources and contextualizing his assertions and findings in a wider view of history beyond the bowl. However, Solt rarely touches on the culinary angle of the dish, devoting little to no space to the taste or regional differences in ingredients and cooking methods. Though this may leave a bad taste in some foodies’ mouths, this otherwise informative read might make you appreciate your next bowl of ramen just a little more.