Since my previous About Me text (which can be found below) was something I wrote up in 2012, I thought perhaps it was time to update things around here. We’ll start at the beginning.
I was born in 195 and grew up in a small fishing town called Anacortes at the northwestern tip of Washington State. Growing up I did some interesting things – I would catch snakes, did a lot of art, built a lot of LEGO contraptions, rode my bike around – pretty typical kid stuff.
My mother would oft times cook up a product called Nissin Roasted Ramen – 2 minutes instead of 3 on the boil, drain. drop in a pan with a little oil, fry until edges were crispy, then drop a scrambled egg in and cook until done. It was really great and a real treat.
Instant noodles come and go, and this Roasted Ramen came and went. Since that was pivotal in the dish, my dad loaded us all up in the 1967 Chrysler New Yorker (mind you this was probably around 84 or 85) and we drove all the way down to Seattle to Uwajimaya, a large Japanese supermarket.
They asked the folks there about what would be comparable to what we’d been using and they directed my parents to Nissin Chikin Ramen. This was the moment I discovered instant noodles and was drawn to them. I saw this aisle with all these different varieties, in different brightly colored packages, all sorts of languages that I’d never seen before. This was a big thing to me, as all these exotic things were now accessible. Anacortes wasn’t really all that exotic; sure, it had beautiful sunsets and beach all around the island it was on, but as a kid, it didn’t really have an outlet for a sense of adventure and the opportunity to try food people in exotic places ate was really something that fascinated me.
Over the years we would head back down to Seattle and the big Japanese supermarket. I’d always get the Chickin Ramen (later I became especially fond of Indomie Mi Goreng Satay), but I’d always get a couple especially interesting looking varieties I found there as well.
About twenty years later in 2002, I thought it would be neat to make a list of what I liked and what I didn’t. It was just kind of a thing to do; not something serious. This is when Ramen Rater was born.
In the beginning, I used a really basic editor called Netscape Composer. built a table with a picture of the pack (often scanned), how many stars I gave it, and an extremely short little blurb about the variety from a very uneducated palate. These comprised the first 50 or so reviews that are still on the blog today.
I abandoned reviewing for quite a while – I started a diet and cut carbs. I started reviewing hot sauces and then Sauce Rater was born. I really did a deep dive into hot sauces – review over 250 varieties before I gave up due to the fact that the bulk of varieties were just vinegar, xanthan gum, salt and cayenne pepper. But the endeavor was well worth it as I met many neat folks in the industry and started making my own small batch hot sauces.
At the tail end of 2009, my life changed for the better. My first marriage ended, which was a very hard time for me, however it was an opportunity to re-invent myself. I got back to my roots, started producing large amounts of art, and moved back to my hometown. I moved into an old friend’s garage and it was there with a little plug in burner I rekindled my relationship with the instant noodle. I did a few reviews while there and changed how I did them – more detail focused,more in ages, and more in depth than before. I also switched from the basic site design to using WordPress to publish reviews.
On December 22nd, 2009 I met someone on an online dating site. She lived in California. In the first 3 days, we spoke on the phone maybe 30 hours – it was definitely meant to be. She invited me to fly down and meet in person on New Year’s Eve. Against the recommendations of friends and family to ‘stay alone,’ ‘be careful,’ and basically continue being lonely during the whole divorce process, I decided to go for it. In April, Kit and I got a place together in Edmonds Washington and 3 months later were married.
We lived about a five minutes walk from 99 Ranch Market – a large Asian supermarket. This was what really brought the reviews back to the forefront. In the past, it was a matter of finding a way to get some noodles to try, which usually involved finding a way to an Asian grocery. Being legally blind and not able to drive a car due to my disability, this involved trying to finagle a ride to an Asian market – something a lot of people weren’t really into. Now I could just walk myself, getting exercise and a huge array of varieties from around the world to try.
I started doing daily reviews, sometime two or three per day. I used an array of cameras during this time; a Blackberry 8500 phone camera, a Sony CyberShot, a Fuji waterproof model, an old Olympus.
I finally was able to through research and means, craft a setup that is perfect. I have a Nikon D5500 DSLR camera mounted on a copy stand. The camera points straight down and is flanked by two diffused lights. The camera is plugged into the computer and so I can get everything set for a picture, see the preview on a large screen, and with a click of the mouse take the perfect shot.
Once I started getting more contents on The Ramen Rater (as well as adding a ‘The’ at the beginning of the site’s title), the blog started getting noticed. A write up in a Dutch tech magazine on a backpage about blogs was neat. An interview over Skype with a Japanese TV show. In 2012 I was interviewed by a local newspaper which was great as well.
Then in 2013 I got a call from a company in Southern California. Nongshim America, manufacturers of the popular Shin Ramyun instant noodles invited my wife and I down to visit their factory.
This was huge for us – I was just trying things I liked and taking pictures and writing my thoughts on them – and people seemed to like that. I was getting samples sent by companies. I started a special series where I’d interview a company with twenty or so questions about their company and products and do a series of up to 15 reviews called Meet The Manufacturer.
It was around this time I thought an app would be nice. I asked if someone wanted to do this and met a developer from Oregon. He started working on the app, but saw that changing the site from being on the free WordPRess.com platform to self hosted and adding advertising as a revenue stream was a good idea. It was like taking the training wheels off. This was a new thing and went for a few months. He paid for the initial hosting, but once the site gained popularity, the hosting fees went up and we parted ways when it wasn’t profitable. This was a tough spot, however trying and switching from one hosting provider to another over the years, I’ve found one that is really great and affordable.
As for the app, I had a developer make a great app for iPhone, but they didn’t update it and so the iTunes store dumped it. Someone else took the reigns on the Android app project and quite recently, a new version should be out about a week after the writing of this new about page on the Google Play store.
In 2014, I was invited by MyKuali – a company in Malaysia for a visit. They flew my wife and I over and we had a great time. I’d been fascinated with Asia for years – I could never afford to visit and didn’t previously know anyone there. Now, a company had invited us over and shared the food culture of Penang and Langkawi with us. This was a dream come true; one that I’d never expected and appreciated in the extreme.
The next year, Thai President Foods, makers of the popular MAMA brand products brought me to Thailand. I needed a pair of eyes to accompany me and this time I brought my sister. She’d had a poster on her wall of Thailand for years and now she got to see it firsthand.
The next year we were invited to Taiwan, and I returned the year after that in 2017. Visiting Asia I have come to the conclusion that this is where I belong. The people, the flavors, the everything – it’s amazing. I eventually want to live there with my family. I don’t know how that will come to be, but it’s a goal of mine to eventually relocate.
In the meantime, I continue to review instant noodles from around the world – in essence, traveling by tastebud. Companies still send me many different varieties all the time. I come out with annual top ten lists which garner a lot of attention.
I’ve focused a lot of attention on producing videos – Instant Noodle Recipe Time is a cooking show and I do a video showing me cooking and garnishing every variety I review now. With text, images, and now video, the content is richer and more complete than ever.
My wife Christine and I also do a new show called The Chocolate Break where we review chocolate products we find. I always felt bad for her – w would go to an Asian grocery store and I would be like a kid at a candy store scanning the shelves for a new instant noodle to try while she kind of stood there looking bored. She likes chocolate and so do I, so now we have something we can review together. We both like different things when it comes to chocolate, so it makes it more interesting.
In October 2018, my doctor told me I needed to make a change. I’d gotten to 365 pounds and had high cholesterol. He said if I continued in this way, I would be prescribed a stain drug and didn’t have a great outlook. So I decided to do something about it. I got a jogging stroller, some flashing lights, a Bluetooth speaker, started diet and exercise while pushing my daughter around. As of late March 2020, I’ve dropped 156 pounds and I’m at 209 pounds, cholesterol is great, blood pressure is great, and my doctor is really happy. I started a series called The Ramen Rater Diet detailing this process when people started noticing my transformation.
Nowadays, life is very busy. I get up early in the morning, get the framework for the day’s review post ready, then exercise before anyone wakes up. Later I do the review and the Instant Noodle Recipe Time show as I cook everything up and take pictures, then put it all together and the rview is done, then do some more walking. As a stay at home dad of a 3 and 4 year old, it’s a busy life. I wouldn’t change anything – maybe a mute button for the kids sometimes and more time for us all to be together. But life is good and the horizons are bright.Time to go out walking. Thanks for reading!
March 28th, 2020
Below is the ‘about me’ from 2012:
Since I was a small child, I have enjoyed instant noodles. I started out with what every other kid in the USA has – Top Ramen. Then, they came out with something called Roasted Ramen, noodles that already had the seasoning within them – no packet!
These were off the market soon though and that’s when everything changed in my instant noodle world. My parents took me south to Seattle and we went to a big Japanese grocery in the heart of the International District. As it turned out, the Roasted Ramen I so enjoyed actually was how they marketed Chikin ramen – Nissin’s first instant noodle in 1958, of which they had a great quantity.
What I noticed (I was about 12 years old) was that there were a ton of different varieties of instant noodles to be had there; with different colored packaging and strange foreign writing I couldn’t begin to understand.
My folks let me sample a few and it was fun – some were almost impossible to cook; what were the instructions saying?
I tried some from anywhere and everywhere. Then I got kind of bored with it and left it alone. In 1998, I started eating instant noodles again – I found Indomie’s Mi Goreng Satay and was hooked. I would get bags of the stuff and give lots of friends saying ‘you’ve got to trty this stuff.’ I had been trying my hand at webdesign for a few years and one day I thought I’d start a little website with a table of noodle varieties and a picture and a link to the company that made them and a review with one to five stars. This went on until I reached around 50 some varieties in 2003 or 2004. I then got on the Atkins diet, a diet that was certainly not ramen-friendly and decided since I enjoyed the reviewing that I should continue it. Saucerater.com was born out of this and I reviewed a total of 250+ varieties or hot sauce. The Ramen Rater was on the backburner.
Fast forward to 2010. Found the woman of my dreams, true happiness and a spark of interest in instant noodles again. I was living in a converted garage in Anacortes, Washington and bought a little single burner plug-in dealy with which I did a few reviews – here’s one of them.
My future wife and I moved to Edmonds, Washington shortly thereafter. What really made this site happen was WHERE we moved to. I live within walking distance of two rather large Asian supermarkets: a 99 Ranch and a Boo Han Market. Plenty of instant ramen noodles to kickstart this thing into overdrive. Here’s one of those early reviews.
Nowadays, I get noodles from all sorts of places – people send me them personally, online retailers and distributors have sent them, and even big instant noodle corporations have started sending me noodles. As of writing this, I’ve reviewed 715 unique varieties of instant noodles from all over the globe.
People often ask me ‘doesn’t it get boring eating the same instant noodles all the time?’ I wouldn’t know – I eat a different one every day.
– Hans Lienesch