As it often happens, I got an email from a company asking me if I would like to try their products. I’d never heard of Hakubaku – which was great – new is good! I tried their ramen, but have found out about their other products, one of which I’ve started enjoying almost daily at this point. I decided to invite Hakubaku to participate in Meet The Manufacturer, they accepted, and here we are. Let’s start with an interview with Mike Tsuda, VP Operations, Hakubaku USA to find out more about this interesting company.
Meet The Manufacturer: Interview With Hakubaku USA – United States
THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you for agreeing to this interview! To start, can you tell my readers about the history of Hakubaku? Who started it and why?
HAKUBAKU> Hakubaku USA is a subsidiary of Hakubaku Japan. Hakubaku Japan was founded in 1941 by Jyutaro Nagasawa. Since the foundation and through 70 years of company history, we have been deeply involved with grains and grain-process products, and strive to passionately create an impressive value of grain product including taste, convenience, fun, unexpected quality, and richness.
TRR> Why the name Hakubaku – what does it mean?
HAKUBAKU> Our company name [Hakubaku] means white barley in Japanese. The name comes from the product called [Hakubaku mai] white rice shaped barley by removing the black crease running down the center of each barley grain. It has been our company founders passion since 1953 to promote nutritious barley rice and make it in a more enjoyable form.
TRR> Can you tell us about the varieties of noodles you make?
HAKUBAKU> We have noodle factories in Japan and Australia and make all varieties of Japanese style noodles, such as Ramen, Udon, Soba (Buckwheat noodles), Somen and Hiyamugi in both fresh and dried style.
TRR> Tell us about where your company is located.
HAKUBAKU> Hakubaku USA is located in Costa Mesa CA. Our noodle factories are in Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures of Japan and in Victoria Australia, where we have access to fine ingredients and water.
TRR> How does your noodle making process differ from other instant noodle manufacturers?
HAKUBAKU> We are very particular about ingredients, taste, and safety. All the fine and rich ingredients are carefully chosen and well balanced in traditional recipes dating back to 1941. Specifically our noodle for our ramen kits are soft and fresh, never fried – produced without preservatives. Our restaurant-fresh ramen product contains noodles that we produce in Japan. Unlike most fried-and-dried instant ramen, our noodles are soft and made with the best Japanese wheat for that chewy texture you expect from a ramen noodle
TRR> Your noodles appear as fresh noodles but don’t need refrigeration – how is this possible?
HAKUBAKU> It’s really our trade secret – It is Hakubaku’s manufacturing technology and knowledge/experiences make it possible and really sets us apart. Our noodles in our ramen sets are made without preservatives and MSG, yet are still soft and fresh.
TRR> How do you decide on what varieties to produce?
HAKUBAKU> There is a team of people thinking of ramen all the time – develop these ideas through product development meetings and fine tuning our product through lots of testing at our product development kitchen.
TRR> How many noodle products do you produce every year?
HAKUBAKU> A lot if you total in all varieties and all our different factories! We produce noodles as listed above and produce limited production runs based on demand or season in Japan. For now, our restaurant-fresh ramen sets are so new – we will have to wait and see if we can do the same in the USA!
TRR> Apart from noodles, are there other products you produce or plan to produce?
HAKUBAKU> Hakubaku produces grain-related products, such as pearled barley, mixed grains, barley and grain tea, pancake flours. We carry decaffeinated barley tea- because after all , we are a grain company! And we produce 16-grain mixes that add nutritional benefit to any rice dish.
TRR> Can you suggest pairings for your products, like meats, seafood or vegetables?
HAKUBAKU> We suggest adding a poached egg, green onions, some meats (Chashu of course!) or Tofu and veggies of your choosing. We have a recipe page section on our website that shows what kind of toppings you can add to your ramen. We even have recipes for creating “dry” ramen meals! There are so many uses from wet to stir-fry to just random ways you can use our ramen sets.
TRR> A lot of people are concerned with their sodium intake. How would you recommend people enjoy your product as part of a healthy meal?
HAKUBAKU> Our no-MSG and preservative-free ramen pairs well with varieties of ingredients, we suggest adding lots of veggies and other ingredients you like to create your own healthy ramen. Also you can reduce the amount of salt intake by leaving some soup instead of using all of it. Some of our recipes are vegetarian based and you can always use vegetable stock as part of the broth to make it a Lacto-ovo vegetarian meal. (animal by-products like egg, but not meat)
TRR> Are you involved in your local community or participate in charities?
HAKUBAKU> Hakubaku USA donates products to local events and communities a few times a year to help to reduce food insecurities here in the USA. As part of our mission as a grain evangelist we act locally, but think globally trying to spread the value of a healthy Japanese diet.
TRR> Are there any new products coming soon?
HAKUBAKU> Yes, just wait until you see what is coming! We are just getting started and will be launching more items and flavors in the near future.
TRR> In what countries are your products available?
HAKUBAKU> Fresh ramen is available in Japan and the US only for now. Other dried noodles are available in North America, some countries in Europe and Asia.
TRR> When you make noodles for yourself, what do you like to add to them to make them extra special?
HAKUBAKU> Personally, I love to add a few drops of oil – sesame or hand-made onion oil for Shoyu flavor and chili oil with crunchy garlic –makes my bowl special. Yum!
THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you very much for this opportunity to learn about Hakubaku and your products!
HAKUBAKU> Thanks for what you are doing! Hope this helps to educate your audience just a little more about what we are doing here at Hakubaku-USA! We invite everyone to be their own ramen artist. Be traditional, be creative – make it your own!