In Japan, where manufacturers turn out 600,000 metric tons of noodles per year, the U.S. Grains Council is introducing a new choice for noodle makers, ramen chefs and consumers: a noodle blend of 20 percent corn flour and 80 percent wheat flour instead of the traditional 100 percent wheat noodle.

The Council’s ramen noodle, developed at Muramen Ltd., made its debut at a taste test in May for 10 Japanese food and noodle media reporters, five noodle manufacturers and nine corn flour manufacturers.

“This audience gave us good feedback on the taste and texture of our corn flour noodles,” reported Hiroko Sakashita, USGC associate director in Japan. “Some commented that they recognized a subtle sweetness of corn in the noodle. Some said they minded the noodle’s corn scent, but others did not.”

The Council’s noodles were served in three of the forms most popular in Japan: dipping noodles served cold with soup on the side (tsukemen), fried noodles with meat and vegetables (yakisoba), and in a hot noodle bowl with soup (ramen).

Incorporating corn flour into noodles produces several benefits: a shorter cooking time, better texture retention (conventional noodles tend to become soft once served), and reduced ingredient costs.

A Council handbook with the noodle formula and recipes was distributed at the tasting and, later, to 270 ramen shops in Tokyo.

“We hope this will encourage up-and-coming ramen chefs to develop their own original noodle recipes to include in their shops’ menus,” Sakashita said.

Based on the results in Tokyo, she said the Council plans to continue noodle promotion activities in other major Japanese cities like Osaka.