From the "Friends, Ramens, Countrymen" site:

    First of all, Ramen is Japanese, or at least a word born in Japan. Although the true origin of the word is not yet identified, there are two theories: One is that in Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan, where Sapporo-Ramen speaks for itself of its fine "al dente" noodles and rich soup often enhanced with "miso", fermented bean paste, and butter, there was a shop where ramen was allegedly invented (this calls for another heated discussion). The restaurant was a small Chinese eatery where the owner liked the sound of Chinese chefs calling out "hao-la!" or somesuch to mention the order is ready. The "la" is a grammatical element in Chinese indicating preterite (past) tense. Though the word alone doesn't mean anything whatsoever, the restaurant owner lady liked the cheerful sound of it and named her recent invention "La-Men" (Men means noodles).

I won't bother with the second theory, but i will say that ramen is a cheap (6/$1 at Stop and Shop) and underrated food, and if you don't use the broth powder, it's vegan! The noodles are awesome with any stirfry or added to other soups. Sometimes i just break them up and eat them plain (uncooked), like really curly crunchy crackers. A friend of mine who hiked the Appalachian Trail really liked them this way (light and no effort).