Did you know that the Japanese voted instant noodles as the best invention of the 20th century? With more than 100 billion servings slurped up every year, you can bet that many more agree - there’s nothing quite like a warm, tasty bowl of instant noodles!
Instant noodles have become more than just a quick meal; they're a global sensation. From late-night cravings to busy lunch breaks, they cater to all. Ready to explore this delightful world? Let's dive right in.
What are instant noodles?
Instant noodles are pre-cooked noodles that have been fried and dried before being packaged into small packets, bowls or cups. Instant noodles are a popular Asian snack, usually coming with a few sachets of seasoning, which may include sauces, oils, dried seasoning or even vegetables and pre-cooked meat.
What are instant noodles made of?
Instant noodles are typically made from wheat flour, water, salt and kansui, an alkaline water that adds elasticity to noodles. These ingredients are mixed together and kneaded into dough before being cut into noodles. Instant noodles were first invented by Momofuku Ando in 1958 when wheat was supplied as aid for food shortages in post-war Japan.
Why are instant noodles so popular?
There are three main reasons.
One, it’s a delicious comfort food that comes in a wide range of flavours to cater to different taste buds. These days, you can find flavours from garlic chicken, tonkatsu, tom yum, spicy beef-style and more on supermarket shelves.
Secondly, instant noodles are famed for their convenience and simplicity. At its most basic level, all you need to do is to add boiling water and let it steep for 2-3 minutes and voila! You have a snack or meal ready to go.
Finally, instant noodles are inexpensive and what’s not to like about that?
Are instant noodles healthy or bad for you?
As with many other food items, instant noodles should be consumed in moderation. Add protein and vegetables to your noodles, consume a wider array of nutrients in your meal or go for low-sodium packets, for a healthier option.
Additionally, healthier varieties of instant noodles are also gaining popularity lately, such as those made with wholegrain or those using techniques such as air-drying rather than frying.
How to cook instant noodles and what to eat with them?
The best thing about instant noodles is that they can be cooked in a matter of minutes and provide a great base to add on whatever ingredients you desire. Read the cooking instructions carefully as they may vary by pack or brand.
Once cooking, throw in some protein for more substance - a runny egg, leftover roast chicken or some sausages work great. Load up on veggies such as leafy greens or frozen peas and sweetcorn to make your noodles more nutrient dense.
Then go crazy with toppings or sauces to customise it to your taste - spring onions, fried garlic chips, hot sauce such as sriracha or chilli oil or sesame oil are some great options to try.
Basically, don't hesitate to experiment! It’s almost impossible to ruin instant noodles although if you’re looking for some tried and tested recipes, here are a few to get you going:
Mix minced garlic, ginger, cornflour and a touch of soy sauce to ground meat such as pork or chicken and roll it up into meatballs. Add the meatballs to cook in a pork or chicken broth based noodle and sprinkle in some pak-choi, spring onions and a soft-boiled egg for a complete, satisfying meal.
If you’re not feeling like a brothy situation but still craving noodles, try this recipe for stir-fried instant noodles! Boil your noodles until they’re half-cooked then set them aside. Saute minced garlic and add in a beaten egg, shrimp, chopped cabbage, tofu and birds-eye chilli for a hint of spice. Mix in your noodles well and serve with a slice of lime for a zesty, filling meal with a kick.
For our vegan friends, there are so many vegetables that pair well with instant noodles. Aside from the usual leafy greens, you can also try Chinese cabbage, daikon, lotus root or beansprouts - the more the merrier! For more texture and chew, feel free to add tofu and sliced shiitake mushrooms.
Best instant noodle brands
If I had to list down all the brands of instant noodles I enjoyed eating, then we might have an encyclopaedia on our hands. But if I really had to choose, here are some of my top picks for best instant noodle brands in the market!
As pioneers in the instant noodle industry, Nissin Noodles have been delighting taste buds for decades. Originating from Japan, Nissin offers a variety of delectable flavours, from their classic Demae Ramen noodles to the crowd-favourite Cup Noodles. Don't miss out on their limited-edition flavours which reflect the culinary diversity of the region.
Nongshim is South Korea’s largest instant noodle company.
If instant noodles had a kingdom, Shin Ramyun just might be the king of the castle. Released by Nongshim in the 1980s, Shin Ramyun has a signature spicy beef-style broth and wonderfully chewy noodles is now one of Korea's favourite snacks and is exported to over 100 countries.
This rich, flavourful bowl of noodles will warm you up and get your taste buds tingling. But never fear, to take the spice level down a notch I recommend adding a slice of cheese and enjoy!
Besides its famed Shin Ramyun, Nongshim is also known for its other brands such as Chapagetti (a sweet black-bean sauced dry noodles) and Neoguri (a spicy seafood flavoured noodle). In the Academy Award winning film Parasite, a dish called Chapaguri (mixing both Chapagetti and Neoguri) was featured which quickly became popular in real-life. This addictive combination is savoury and slightly sweet but with a hint of spiciness after each bite. To mimic the film, just add thinly-sliced sauteed ribeye as a topping on your noodles!
Samyang may be the producer of Korea’s first instant noodles but in 2014, its popularity went through the roof when the Korean Fire Noodle Challenge became viral on social media with Samyang’s Buldak Hot Chicken Flavour noodles as its star. This global craze for spicy noodles led Samyang to release more adrenaline-pumping, fiery flavours such as Hot Chicken Cheese, Kimchi Hot Chicken and Hot Chicken Curry.
KiKi instant noodles from Taiwan stand out from the pack as it's handmade and sun-dried, giving the noodles a chewy, springy texture. Its popular dry-stirred noodles, which are amongst my personal favourites, include the fragrant and spicy Szechuan Pepper and the wonderfully flavoured Aromatic Scallion with a hint of sesame oil.
For the health-conscious noodle-lover, immi ramen is 100% plant-based, low-carb and keto-friendly. Best of all, you can slurp it down guilt-free! immi ramen was founded to create a more nutritious version of ramen without compromising on its delicious rich umami flavour. immi ramen comes in three yummy flavours including spicy ‘beef’, black garlic ‘chicken’ and tom yum 'shrimp’.
Itsuki Foods is a top ramen specialist from Japan founded in 1878. While they boast a selection of ramen flavours, both dry and broth-based, one of their most popular noodles is the Kyushu Tonkotsu Pork Ramen.
This smooth, toothsome noodles and creamy, flavourful broth has been a hit with noodle-lovers and to take deliciousness to the next level I recommend just adding a hard-boiled egg, pork slices and spring onions to get the holy trinity of taste, convenience and nutrition!
In certain parts of Asia, like India and Malaysia, Maggi is synonymous with instant noodles. Currently a brand under Nestle, Maggi firmly understands the local pulse and released noodles in many beloved Asian flavours such as Asam Laksa, Tom Yum, Masala and Kari. Fortify these yummy, slurpy noodles with your choice of meat and vegetables and enjoy a bowl in the comfort of your own home!