I often blog about food, and I’ve even blogged before about the instant noodles that I eat, but I don’t think I’ve shared how much I love instant noodles…ramen…ramyun…or whatever else you prefer to call it. Actually, it’s not so much eating instant noodles as it is trying different types of instant noodles. If I had to choose noodles, rice or bread to eat for the rest of my life, I’d choose bread or rice before noodles. Hands down. I don’t even need to think about it. But whenever I see a new brand or variety or flavor of instant noodles at the store I have to try it. A sudden and all-consuming need to try the newest instant noodles just overwhelms me, and the next thing I know I’m in the checkout lane with 5,6, 7, even 10 bags of noodles. At least the good thing about instant ramen is that they’re cheap and almost always less than $1 each.
I’m not a noodle-eating maniac though. I restrict myself when it comes to my ramen hobby and I usually eat at most 2 bags of instant noodles per week (lunch on Saturdays and Sundays). However, even though I set that weekly limit for myself, it’s usually more like 2 bags of instant noodles per month because, like I said earlier, I’m not the biggest fan of noodles. I just like to try new things, so if I don’t see any new noodles at the supermarket for weeks or months I won’t eat any until I do…or unless I get a craving for ramen which is very rare.
I think over the years I’ve sort of become a instant noodle connoisseur. I definitely know what I like and don’t like.
- I like udon style and Korean brands for the actual noodles (not necessarily the broth) because they tend to have more texture and chewiness. I hate mushy noodles.
- When it comes to Taiwanese/Chinese instant noodles I tend to prefer noodles that have been fried rather than simply air-dried. You can tell the difference if you try to eat the noodles before boiling them. Fried ones are crunchy and can be eaten as a snack (think Baby Star noodle snacks). Air-dried feels hard and stale in your mouth.
- I love spicy beef broth noodles but hate ones that contain Szechuan Peppercorn or a lot of Sesame Oil in the soup.
- I generally prefer regular flour noodles to rice vermicelli noodles.
- I rarely buy instant noodles that come in a cup or Styrofoam bowl because they cost more and I don’t think they’re a good value.
The crappiest brands, in my opinion, are Nissin Top Ramen and Maruchan Instant Noodles. The only thing they’re good for is for stir frying or salads but even so I find these noodles get soggy easily. But, in a pinch, you can boil the noodles and use them in a cold Asian-style salad, make cold noodles with peanut sauce, or stir fry the noodles with meats and veggies for Lo Mein. The soup packets are garbage though.
Anyway, one of those rare occurrences happened recently and I had a hankering for noodles. I ended up grabbing some old faves from the Asian supermarket. The cheapest were the MAMA Tom Yum Noodles (one’s the regular Tom Yum and the other’s a pork variation but both were $0.40 each) and the most expensive was the Shin Ramyun ($0.89).
The Shin Ramyun is probably my all-time favorite instant noodle. It’s the king of all instant noodles as far as I’m concerned. It’s spicy and savory, the noodles have a bit of tooth to them and don’t get mushy, and overall it’s just really satisfying and I never get tired of it. I don’t eat it often but I always come back to it when I’m craving noodles. Recently, I tried adding a Kraft cheese slice to the soup, which is supposedly a popular way to eat these noodles in Korea. It was interesting, neither good nor bad — the cheese added a richness and slight tangy taste to the soup — but I can’t say that I’ll be trying that again the future.
I’m pretty loyal to the Tung-I brand. I’ve been eating their noodles for years. Their Spicy Beef flavor is one of my favorites except I think they might have changed the seasoning packets in recent years. I sometimes detect an off flavor.
The MAMA Tom Yum noodles are always fun to eat because they’re sour and spicy. The amount of noodles in the package is also less than average so these are perfect when you want a light meal.
The green bag in the center is actually not for me but for my sister. I forget who makes them (MAMA?) but they come with a duck flavor broth. They’re her fave.
I’m not a big fan of the Sapporo brand but I like they’re Miso flavor noodles.
And the Indomie Mi Goreng noodles are an old favorite. They’re a soup-less ramen. You boil the noodles, drain them and then mix them with the seasoning packets. I was introduced to them in college by one of my roommates who was from Indonesia. There was a scare last year about Indomie noodles containing some harmful preservatives but I think I remember that the tests came back negative or the harmful levels were only detected in certain batches of noodles. Either way, I believe the noodles weren’t recalled or banned here in the States and I don’t think I consume enough of them anyway for them to cause kidney failure or whatever else people said would happen.
Below are some of the noodles that I’ve tried in recent months. The only one that really didn’t care for is the Bak Kut Teh noodles but I knew beforehand that I probably wouldn’t like it. The noodles have a traditional Chinese herb/medicinal broth which is an acquired taste (that I apparently haven’t acquired yet).
I also didn’t care for the Sesame Chicken noodles for obvious reasons (me no likey sesame oil) but it was a new flavor and I wanted to give it a try.
The beef noodles were good but I was most pleasantly surprised by the noodles in the tall red and purple bags. These were the most expensive (a little over $1 if I remember correctly) but they were the most reminiscent of soup ramen you’d get in an actual restaurant or food stall. The noodles had a nice springiness and the broths were savory and mild. They actually turned out to be a really good value because each bag contains 2 servings (2 bundles of noodles and 2 sets of seasoning packets per bag).
The Yakisoba noodles were interesting. They’re sweet and sour with some green laver (seaweed flakes) that you sprinkle over the top. It would’ve been better if I’d added some meat or veggies but the first time I try a new noodle I like to eat it “as is” to experience the true flavor.
And here’s a photo of the bowl out of which I eat all of my instant soup noodles. It was “free” with the purchase of a box of instant beef pho. I believe the box contained 40 bags and cost $17. I didn’t eat all the noodles by myself. I gave some to my parents and sister, but I kept the bowl 😛
Nong Shim, the company that makes Shin Ramyun, also makes a non-spicy seafood noodle called Neoguri which is also very tasty. It comes with a little rectangle of seaweed kelp and dehydrated naruto fish cakes that puff up in the hot soup. I like to poach an egg in the broth and add some chopped fresh cilantro before serving.
And, yes, when it’s just me I use my green, plastic chopsticks. I only break out the fancy chopsticks for guests 😛