Collective Ramen Haul

I’m not a big fan of noodles but you really wouldn’t know that based on all of the bags of instant noodles I buy and blog about here. If I had to rank my carbs from most to least favorite it would be (1) bread, (2) rice and (3) noodles. The only exception would be crispy pan-fried noodles or possibly chow fun/char kway teow which would leap ahead to number one and two. It’s saucy or soup (basically wet) noodles that I’m less fond of as I prefer to have my carbs on the drier side.

But I’m a foodie at heart and I love trying new foods and, besides snack foods like chips, the only convenience foods that companies are constantly updating with new, interesting flavors are instant noodles. So, of course, I’m going to be intrigued when I see a new flavor of ramen on the supermarket shelf.

Nong Shim is in my opinion the ultimate authority in instant noodles. They make the daddy of all instant noodles, Shin Ramyun, which beats any wimpy Nissin, Maruchan, or Cup Noodle ramen that you can get at a western supermarket. Not only is the noodle itself infinitely better with a springiness and thickness that can’t be found at your average American supermarket but the soup is so much more flavorful. Plus, a single pack of Shin Ramyun noodles is literally double the size, so it’s also filling and a great value. Nong Shim also makes a whole bunch of other flavors and I personally prefer the Shin Black and Neoguri Spicy Seafood noodles but Shin Ramyun is the OG and a total classic.

I do occasionally buy the cheapie Nissin/Maruchan noodles but I discard the seasoning packet and only to use the noodles in an “Asian” salad or as a component in another dish. Awhile back there was a ramen hacks article that was making the rounds online and one recipe involved boiling and draining the noodles, mixing it with egg and seasonings and then pan frying the mixture as a patty until crispy which sounded tasty (only in theory, in reality it wasn’t good).

A couple of months ago I spotted Nong Shim’s Champong spicy seafood noodles which I’ve searching for since at least 2014 and I was so excited to find it. As I mentioned above I already love their Neoguri Spicy Seafood noodles so I really thought I’d love these Champong Spicy Seafood noodles too.

The Champong noodles come with three flavor packets: a seasoning oil, a powdered soup base and dehydrated veggies/seaweed/seafood. I believe the big blocks within the dried veggie packet are supposed to be dehydrated mussels or clams.

The noodles are flat, kind of like fettuccine, but still have the springy, slight chewiness typical of Nong Shim noodles that I really love.

All together the soup and noodles taste really good at first bite — spicy, seafoody and savory — but the more I ate, the more I noticed a bitter aftertaste. I bought a 5-pack of the Champong noodles and I was eventually able to isolate where the bitterness was coming from. At first I thought it was the powdered soup base but it’s actually the blocks of dried mussels that was causing the bitterness, so on future occasions I would pick the mussels out of the foil packet and discard them before adding it to the boiling water. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by leaving them out. The soup alone was already very flavorful and seafoody enough and the mussels were very rubbery and only added unnecessary bitterness in my opinion.

If you want some Korean spicy noodles, I would recommend the Neoguri Spicy Noodles instead. They’re very similar minus the bitter, rubbery mussels.

Paldo’s the other big Korean noodle brand that I often see at the Asian grocery store but I often find their flavors lacking compared to Nong Shim. I was NOT a fan of their jjajangmen when I tried them a few years ago. However, I had high hopes when I saw these Green Tea Chlorella Noodles. Green tea noodles sounded delightful and the chlorella was intriguing. As far as I know chlorella is largely a type of algae mass produced on water farms for its high protein and additional health benefits, so I’m assuming this is supposed to be a “healthier” instant noodle.

The noodles come with two flavor packets: a powdered soup based and a pack of dried seaweed and veggies.

The noodles themselves were meh: slightly chewy but limp compared to Nong Shim noodles. The soup was savory but not particularly memorable.

I cooked a bit of the noodle separately from the soup base and I’m glad I did because only then was I able to get a bit of subtle green tea flavor. The green tea is only in the noodles. The soup has a mild seafood flavor that completely masks the green tea flavor of the noodles.

These noodles were boring and forgettable. I would not repurchase.

If you’re an instant noodle connoisseur then chances are good you’re familiar with Mama’s Tom Yum noodles which are a classic.

These Green Curry noodles were a lot spicier than I thought they were going to be but not mind blowingly hot. If you like the spiciness of Nong Shim noodles which have a good amount of heat, you’ll be fine with these Green Curry Noodles.

The noodles are thin but have a nice chewiness and the soup’s flavorful with a creamy, shrimp based broth and the strong, bright flavors of lime and spicy Thai green curry. This was really tasty and I would definitely repurchase. I like these noodles a lot more than Mama’s Tom Yum noodles but I’m a big fan of creamy soups as you’ll see.

I’m totally obsessed with these noodles. I absolutely love them!

I first heard about these noodles five or six years ago. If you follow K-pop at all which I used to, Nichkhun (the ethnically Chinese, born in America, Korean pop star from Thailand) was the spokesman for these noodles before his DUI scandal. But that’s not why I wanted to try them. The whole adding cheese to noodles (and various other traditional dishes) that’s become popular in Korean cuisine just really intrigues me. For example, one hack which is really popular in Korea is adding a slice of processed cheese to a bowl of Shin Ramyun; I gave it a try and it was surprisingly tasty. The cheese doesn’t add a whole lot in the way of flavor but it dissolves completely into the hot soup and adds a mild, rich creaminess that undercuts the spicy heat level and complements the savoriness of the soup. You could probably achieve a similar effect by adding a dash of half and half or heavy cream to the soup but I suppose adding cheese has a certain coolness factor that the other options lack.

The Ottogi Cheese Ramen comes with three seasoning packets: a dehydrated veggie packet, a powdered soup base, and a powdered cheese packet.

If you don’t like super spicy noodles but don’t mind a little bit of heat and love the springiness of Nong Shim noodles, you’ll probably love these. Imagine Korean instant noodles crossed with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and you basically have the Ottogi Cheese Ramen. I tasted the Ottogi Cheese ramen’s powdered cheese packet on its own and it tastes exactly like Kraft’s mac & cheese powder. Mix that with a mildly spicy Korean instant noodle broth and voila Ottogi Cheese Ramen. The cheese flavor doesn’t hit you in the face but that’s the way I feel about Kraft mac & cheese too. The Ottogi noodles are a bit spicy, very savory and subtly cheesy and creamy. The soup isn’t thick or dense at all but has a nice richness of flavor.

I would definitely repurchase these!