TOKYO -- It is a question that has puzzled generations: What, exactly, are the little brown cubes in Nissin Food Products' cups of instant ramen? Now, to celebrate the Cup Noodle line's 46th birthday, the company has served up the official answer.
The cubes are a combination of pork and soybeans, with some other vegetable flavoring.
Actually, it was not much of a secret that the cubes were, basically, pork. However, Nissin never revealed the exact source of their distinct texture and flavor, providing plenty of fodder for debate.
Even Nissin was happy to cultivate a mystique around its "mystery meat." And rather than simply announce the precise composition of the cubes, it managed to milk the big reveal for promotional value.
For the 46th birthday, which fell on Monday, Nissin set up a dedicated website to uncover the identity of the meat in a manga comic.
Around 2005, Japanese snackers started using the term nazo niku, or mystery meat, to describe the cubes online. Nissin took notice of the interest in the ingredients and ran with it. Last year, it started referring to mystery meat in product names and promotional campaigns.
This year, the company introduced a "white mystery meat" in its Chili Tomato noodles. Consumers need not lose sleep over this new riddle: It's chicken.