I’ve recently seen a whole lot of misinformation being spewed lately about the instant noodle. Why do I care? Well, primarily because I’m really into instant noodles. I’ve been a fan of them since a child and been reviewing them since 2002. A kind of strange obsession, but there are definitely stranger ones out there. What gets me is information that is presented by news and social media sources often is really quite inept; lack of research and frankly poor quality journalism on their parts. So, I’ve decided to come out with an annual list of ten facts about instant noodles starting today! Ready? Well, here you go.
1. Instant Noodles Aren’t Full Of Wax, Nor Will They Kill You
There have been a lot of ridiculous claims made about instant noodles. The one I see most often is that they are coated with wax or plastic which keeps them separate when boiled in a pot. I’m sure most people with common sense know that boiling wax only results in one thing: melted wax. Another one is that MSG when boiled turns into a lethal cancer causing monstrosity. Nope. Although not a whole food or a health food, instant noodles aren’t really scary. They are primarily wheat flour and water, made into a dough, rolled thin, sliced into noodles, fed through a line where they’d cooked with boiling water, then fried in oil. The frying pulls out any water in them and leaves tiny holes which, when re-introduced to boiling water, cause them to spring back to life as an instant noodle. Another funny one is the video of instant noodles in someone’s stomach that is very popular. I hate to break it to everyone who’s bought into this, but I can’t think that any foodstuff that chewed up and swallowed is going to look pretty. The long and short of it is that instant noodles are just fine to eat and aren’t going to kill you.
You may have as a kid crunched up a pack of instant noodles and sprinkled the seasoning on them. I remember doing that. Well, this is most definitely not an American invention by any means. In South Korea, Ottogi makes a couple of varieties – Ppushu Ppushu and Pow Crunch that are made for doing this exact thing. In India and Nepal, ‘brown’ noodles (noodles that are pre-seasoned) are often enjoyed this way – not only with a powder seasoning, but sometimes the oil mixed in as well, and added nuts, raisins or vegetables. In Taiwan, Ve Wong makes Little Prince, which are tiny bags of crushed noodles with seasonings – seaweed and bacon flavors being two of them.
3. The World Of Instant Noodles Has Many, Many Flavors
In the United States, instant noodle flavors such as Beef, Chicken, Shrimp and Oriental are very common. Chicken seems to be quite universal, but there are so many different flavors around the world. For example in Poland, a company called Amino makes Żurek flavor, patterned after a local dish and has a smoky flavor. In the UK, Pot Noodle makes Southern Style Fried Chicken flavor. In Indonesia, Indomie makes Mi Goreng, a very popular dish which contains no broth. The regional flavors always end up in the locally sold instant noodles. What I have noticed is that this rarely happens in the United States. You might see a cheese variety, but I’ve never seen a pizza instant noodle – you have to find that by Knorr in Pakistan. I haven’t seen cheeseburger flavor here, although Nissin Japan made a noodle cup which actually had a hamburger patty in it that hydrated surprisingly well.
4. Instant Noodles Will Not Survive Until The Next Ice Age
While instant noodles do have a very long shelf life, they will go bad. Yes. It’s true. There’s usually a printed expiration date on instant noodle packs. Now as with many processed, packaged foods, they will probably be fine a bit after the expiration date. However, a lot of foreign varieties won’t be – especially ones with packaged meats. China’s Master Kong makes a beef and sauerkraut noodle bowl that comes with a little sausage in it – that’s not going to do well after a year or so. Oil can go rancid and cause the sachets to bloat – a definite warning sign to stay away after the expiration date. As with anything in life, it’s best to use common sense. If you have a worry about eating expired instant noodles, or any food for that matter, it’s probably better to pass on it and find something else to devour.
5. Why Are They Called ‘Instant?’
We’re all familiar with noodle cups – you add boiling water and wait three minutes and presto – you’ve got a meal. Well, did you know that this works the same way with a packaged instant noodle? Take a bowl, drop in the block of noodles and seasonings, add the directed amount of boiling water and cover it for three minutes. Boom – instant noodles are ready to enjoy. They are of course also cooked on a stove in a pot or in a microwave, but this method is not considered the instant way. If you cook them on the stove or in a microwave, the correct term is ‘cooking noodle.’
6. All Instant Noodles Aren’t Cooked The Same Way
Two cups of water, boil. Add noodles and seasoning sachet. Cook for three minutes. Eat. This might be one of the most common methods, but beware – there are many varieties of instant noodles and many different ways to cook them. The popular Indomie Mi Goreng is a great example. The noodles are cooked and drained, and then the seasonings are stirred in to complete the dish. Imagine if you made spaghetti and marinara sauce and didn’t drain the spaghetti. Taiwan’s Wei Lih makes one called Jah Jan Mien. You cook the noodles, then drain them, but save the liquid the noodles were boiled in. You add a seasoning sachet to the liquid to make a broth, then add a paste sachet to the noodles and stir them. You end up with a soup and brothless noodle dish in two seperate bowls. Done the wrong way, it’s really quite terrible. Done the right way however it’s extremely good. If you go exploring your Asian market shelves for instant noodles, make sure to follow the directions on those packages!
7. Instant Noodles: The Criminal Element
I try to keep up on all instant noodle related news every day through newsfeeds I get on my phone. One thing I’ve found is that people in the heat of the moment have time and time again used a boiling hot bowl of instant noodles as an object to hurl at their foes. Last month, a woman inmate in Bradenton,Florida threw a hot bowl of instant noodles at another inmate during an argument. Also in Florida, a riot broke out when a basketball game ended with the winning team not receiving three cups of instant noodles from the losing side. In Galveston, Texas, a woman held a burglar at bay with a paintball gun until police arrived – she caught him trying to steal Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup. These kinds of crimes aren’t just isolated to the United States though. In Nigeria, an 8 year old girl got mad that the family’s housemaid hadn’t prepared her Indomie noodles quickly enough and so she poured boiling water on her. Stories of people stealing boxes of Indomie over there aren’t uncommon either.
8. Ending World Hunger And The Environment
A lot of people like the idea of eating fresh vegetables and grain fed beef amongst other things. Non processed foods are very popular as they’re quite healthy for us. But there’s one issue with this: how long can this last? With the world population surpassing 7 billion this year, we’re going to hit an impasse soon. A herd of cattle might make for some tasty beef, but you have to take in account of the fact that there are many resources required for turning them into that tasty steak. Not only that, but the cattle’s waste has an effect on the atmosphere via gasses it produces. Heirloom vegetables are very nice, but they have a much shorter shelf life than their distant hybridized cousins. The instant noodle, although less healthy than these can be a real answer to these issues. Many countries have initiatives involving fortifying them with vitamins that the population that subsists on them might not receive, making them a more nutrient rich food. Dehydrating vegetables that have shorter shelf lives allows them to reach many more with less waste as well. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. With such amazing things as the cellphones in our pockets that have computers built into them that surpass the power of the ones that took our astronauts to the moon such a long time ago, it seems that this problem is something we can figure out if we want to.
9. Instant Noodles For Different Seasons
In the Summertime, it’s hot and a refreshing cold drink is usually a nice thing to enjoy. Well, did you know that there are such things as cold noodles? In South Korea, Nongshim makes a variety called Doong Ji, which are cooked, and then added to a broth made with cold water. Paldo makes one called Bibim Men which are cooked drained and rinsed with cold water and a sauce is added and stirred in for a spicy and chilled meal. In Japan, cold buckwheat noodles as well as cold udon are served with soy sauce based sauces and lemony flavors for a refreshing meal.
10. Instant Noodle Cups Don’t Tip Themselves Over – No, Really
There have been a lot of stories about emergency room doctors calling for instant noodle cups to be banned or to be redesigned. A lot of people, primarily children, have been ending up in the emergency room after being given a boiling hot cup of instant noodles. The problem however isn’t the cup itself. Images of the angle required for the cups to tip over have been shown to illustrate that they are top heavy. Sure, you put pretty much anything on an unsteady surface and it will fall off. Also, if you’re crazy enough to give a small child a cup of boiling hot noodles, you’ve got a screw loose. Kids have accidents, so do adults. The simplest way to handle this one is to make sure the cup’s broth has cooled down and to pour the noodles into a bowl. You wouldn’t go to Starbuck’s and give a kid a super hot cup of coffee, would you? Common sense and taking responsibility for your actions are a clear path to victory here. If you give a kid boiling water in a cup, it’s not the cup’s fault if they get burned or scalded – it’s yours.