S. Korea adopts culinary robot for instant noodles Ramyeon on highway rest stop

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : February 10, 2024, 18:21 Updated : June 1, 2024, 18:02
Courtesy of the Korea Expressway Corporation
[Courtesy of the Korea Expressway Corporation]

SEOUL -- South Korea's expressway operator has adopted a robot chef that can cook the country's iconic instant noodles known as Ramyeon at an expressway rest stop. The culinary robot, designed to reduce the burden of human workers and to provide the standardized taste, consistently stirs the noodles while they boil and places them into a bowl afterward.

Ramyeon, featured in many South Korean movies including the Oscar-winning film "Parasite," is one of the main dishes favored by many South Koreans taking a brief rest at highway rest stops. The Ramyeon robot chef can complete the cooking process in less than five minutes.
The Korea Expressway Corporation (KEC) said on February 7 that the cooking robot is providing Ramyeon at a highway rest area in the eastern city of Wonju. Along with the Ramyeon chef, KEC is also operating two other cooking robots, one for wheat flour-based noodles Udon, and the other for various Korean dishes including Galbitang, a traditional beef broth made with ribs. These robots can simultaneously cook up to 14 portions of 13 different foods.

KEC unveiled its plan to offer approximately a 30 percent discount for dishes cooked by robots. Depending on the test run results, the Korea Expressway Corporation will decide whether to expand robot chefs to rest areas across the nation.

Despite concerns about potential job displacement for human chefs, the trend of integrating robot chefs is steadily growing in South Korea. Since the beginning of the second semester of 2023, Soonggok Middle School in Seoul has employed four robots for frying, stir-frying, soup and rice cooking, and ingredient addition. The robot chefs were in charge of preparing meals for 645 students last year.  

In February 2022, four different culinary robots were demonstrated at the country's largest army boot camp in Nonsan some 154 kilometers (96 miles) south of the capital city to alleviate the workload of military chefs and mitigate safety hazards.
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