Inside Sun Noodle, the Secret Weapon of America's Best Ramen Shops
J Thoendell stashed this in Food
Sun Noodle's New Jersey factory produces 120 different types of noodles. [Photo: Daniel Krieger]
There were only about three or four ramen shops on Oahu when Hidehito Uki founded Sun Noodle in 1981. Ramen in America was pretty much just a cup of noodles you cook in the microwave. Uki — who had come to Hawaii from Japan to make and sell fresh ramen noodles — wondered how he could ever be successful.
Now, ramen shops have proliferated in cities from Los Angeles and New York to DC, Chicago, and even Milwaukee. People stand in line for ramen. Chefs create mash-ups of ramen and hamburgers, and people stand in line for those, too.
Behind the scenes of the so-called ramen boom of recent years is Sun Noodle. Over the last 33 years, the Hawaiian company has built three factories which pump out a combined 90,000 servings of ramen noodles per day. It sells these noodles to notable ramenya across America, including nine of New York Times critic Pete Wells' picks for the top 10 ramen destinations in New York. Ivan Orkin, one of Japan's most respected ramen chefs, says that Sun Noodle was the clear choice when he recently opened two restaurants in New York City. And Momofuku's David Chang, who is often credited with the rise of ramen in America, believes that Sun Noodle facilitated that boom. "It's an entire micro-industry they've created," he says.