Tag Archives: research

Friday Video: The Instagram Instant Noodle Research Study

Today is Halloween and I thought I’d post something a little different. I spend a lot of time posting on instagram and perusing other people’s instant noodle related posts on there as well. I thought I would pick a standard instant noodle related hashtag and see what interesting things would pop up, then I would share my conclusions. The hashtag is #topramen.

Here are my findings:

  • People like to add many things to their instant noodles – especially dry seasonings
  • Alcoholic beverages pair very well with instant noodles
  • Hot sauce must go well with instant noodles
  • People think all instant noodles are called Top Ramen, regardless of brand
  • Cats truly enjoy instant noodle boxes
  • Many people are unskilled at cooking for themselves
  • People often have hair that resembles instant noodles
  • People enjoy posting pictures of large amounts of instant noodles in one place

These were things I kind of knew already, but was surprised to see so well represented in this hashtag. The images in the video are picked from the last 6 months of photos posted with the hashtag on instagram. Hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween!



#1388: Paldo Barbecue Ramyun (Prototype)

I got a message from my pal Moses over at Paldo America while back asking if I’d like to review some instant ramyun that hasn’t been put out yet but is being sampled with college students to see what they think. I was absolutely rceptive to the idea – prototype instant noodles sound very interesting! Let’s see how barbecue ramyun tastes – this is the first of two versions, the other I’ll try soon.

Here’s a closeup of the label (click image to enlarge). There’s nothing on the back of the package. Not sure if it contains meat. To prepare, boil 500ml water and drop in noodle block and solid ingredients for 4 minutes. Drain, reversing a couple spoonfulls. Add in powder sachet contents and stir. Enjoy!

The ramyun noodle block.

The powder sachet – no labeling whatsoever.

A lot of powder!

The solid ingredients sachet.

Looks like some green onion in there – maybe some TVP?


Finished (click image to enlarge). Added sweet onion, fried egg and sukiyaki beef. The noodles are thick and have a decent chewiness – chewier than usual I’d say. The flavor is very different. It seems to be a melding of beef, smokiness and a little spiciness in an approximation of barbecue sauce, but not quite. What gets me is it tastes exactly like barbecue potato chips. Exactly. The interesting thing about that to me is that when Paldo came out with their Kokomen, I thought it tasted like Jalapeno Cheddar Chee-tos. I think they might be on to something! Like a barbecue chip flavored mi goreng.  3.75 out of 5.0 – very curious about the second prototype on this one.

Here’s an example of a focus group. A group of random people are in a room and shown a prototype opf a product and asked many questions about it to try and give the company who wants to make it an idea of whether it will succeed or fail. When you make a million zillion of something, you want it to appeal to people!

Special Report – How Instant Noodles Are Made: The Pilot Line At The Wheat Marketing Center [VIDEO]

Recently, I was given the great opportunity to visit the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Oregon. People who work with noodles and other wheat products from all over the world come here to take part in the Asian Noodle Technology and Ingredient Application Short Course. The course is taught by Dr. Gary Hou, an expert in the production of wheat noodles like ramen and yakisoba. I found out about the course via a news feed I follow and decided to email Dr. Hou and see if I could cover the instant noodle workshop for The Ramen Rater. I was very pleased when he answered in the affirmative, and so on March 27th, we got up early, hopped in the car and drove to Portland! In the following pictures and video, I’ll describe how instant noodles start as raw ingredients and become the blocks of noodles we all know so well. I’ll go through everything from photos first, and then there’s a video at the bottom of the process. Enjoy!

In the photo above you can see participants getting ready to make instant noodles.

Here we see Dr. Hou interacting with students who have been broken up into teams. Each team will experiment with different ingredients in the noodles they make.

The recipes are very precise.

The first stage: ingredients are put together and mixed.

Cleaning the first machine that will be used on the pilot line. Why is it called a pilot line? Well, for example, filmmakers will make a pilot episode of a television show to pitch to executives at a television studio. If they like it, it will go into production. This pilot line is where R&D food scientists test theories and fine-tune recipes. Once they’ve got things exactly the way they want, their recipes and methods will be translated into a large production line which is designed to make noodles at a much faster rate.

The logo on the machine.

After the ingredients have been combined, the dough rests.

It then begins the process of being flattened into a long strip.

After it goes in, a cover is attached.

As you can see, plenty of keep hands out signs. Industrial strength rollers evenly flatten the dough.

A long, flat strip of the dough. On to the next machine.

These are machines that flatten the strip we saw in the last picture gradually thinner and thinner until it reaches the desired thickness.

It finally reaches this machine, where it is cut into noodles. There is a blade that moves in a wobbly fashion which makes the noodles wavy as you see here.

Next, the uncooked noodles take a trip uphill.

They enter a steam cooking unit. The steam is boiling hot and cooks the noodles.

Dr. Hou converses with students while waiting for the noodles to come to the far end.

Here is where the noodles will emerge from after their steam bath.

Next, the noodles are cut and folded in half, then weighed.

Here they are immersed in a deep fryer. They cook in here for just over a minute.

The noodles are done and ready to be popped out of the cooking containers.

The finished product: two blocks of instant noodles. I was able to see how they tasted fresh out of the fryer and they were quite good – warm and crunchy!

Here you can see the process in motion.

My thanks go to The Wheat Marketing Center, Dr. Gary Hou, Mike Allen, and my wife Christine who took on the task of driving me down and back – a long day but one full of learning. Want to find out more about The Wheat Marketing Center? Check out www.wmcinc.org for more information.

What’s All The Mess About MSG?

Let me make a disclaimer before you read this post. I am not a doctor or health official, and I dont hold a doctorate. The information I am providing you here is through my own research – though all major health agencies have made statements that agree with the facts that I will present to you here. This is the best information that is available at the time of this post. If new things should be discovered in the future, this information may change.

MSG. Monosodium Glutamate. What is this substance, and what is the controversy surrounding it? What does it do, and why do manufacturers add it to products? Can it hurt me? Isnt that stuff toxic?

These are all valid questions the layman might ask. This is relevant to ramen noodles since just about EVERY noodle manufacturer adds it to their product (it also extends to MANY of the products you eat as well).

Lets start with the simple question:

What is MSG?

Wikipedia says: Monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium glutamate or MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids.[1] It has been classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and by the European Union as a food additive.  Industrial food manufacturers market and use MSG as a flavor enhancer because it balances, blends and rounds the total perception of other tastes.

Okay. So MSG enhances the taste of foods. It doesn’t really have much of a taste all by itself, but when added to other foods, it enhances the taste.

Lets move on to the next question:

Can it hurt me? Isn’t that stuff toxic?

To answer this question, we should first know what MSG actually is. Monosodium glutamate. What does that actually mean? When MSG touches your tongue, it essentially becomes dissolved into two things: regular old sodium, and glutamic acid. I think everyone can agree that sodium is safe (in normal amounts). The content of sodium in MSG is only 12% versus table salt (sodium chloride) which has a 39% sodium content.

Lets move onto the other part – glutamic acid. Is this some toxic, green, bubbling toxic waste produced by nuclear plants in some underground dungeon? As it turns out, it certainly isn’t. Its an amino acid, and it’s essential for human life. So essential, in fact, that without it you wouldn’t be able to sustain life. The human body creates about 50g of free glutamate daily – all by itself. The amount of glutamic acid (the glutamate part of monosodium glutamate) consumed in a regular meal is far lower – the most you would probably consume is only a few grams at best.

There has never been any rigorous double-blind, placebo controlled study that has shown any significant harm done by MSG. You may have heard the term “neurotoxin” thrown around. This stems from a study done on rats where they fed the rats enormous amounts of MSG and observed the changes. A human couldn’t mimic such a diet. The same goes for any substance – salt, sugar, and water. Too much of anything can be deadly. Some experts agree that a very small percent of the population is sensitive to MSG, but there are no known lasting harmful effects. In one study, people who claimed to be MSG sensitive had more reactions when exposed to the placebo then the actual MSG!

But Eric! I’m still uncomfortable about consuming MSG! I get reactions from eating it, honest!”

Some people take this position. If you think you are sensitive to MSG, I challenge you to look in your cupboard and look at the ingredient label. Did you know glutamates are in many foods, naturally? Here’s a chart of foods where free glutamates are contained naturally.

In addition, MSG and its similar forms goes by many different names, and is even included in products which claim to have no MSG. While they are “technically” not lying, they DO include essentially the same exact thing in a different name. Theres no avoiding it. Heres a list:

  • Glutamic acid (E 620)2,  Glutamate (E 620)
  • Monosodium glutamate (E 621)
  • Monopotassium glutamate (E 622)
  • Calcium glutamate (E 623)
  • Monoammonium glutamate (E 624)
  • Magnesium glutamate (E 625)
  • Natrium glutamate
  • Yeast extract
  • Anything “hydrolyzed”
  • Any “hydrolyzed protein”
  • Calcium caseinate,  Sodium caseinate
  • Yeast food, Yeast nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Anything “…protein”
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto

Conclusion: There is no way of avoiding glutamates in your food. There has never been a scientific study involving humans that has shown it to be harmful. Stop worrying about it and start worrying more about the things proven to harm you – fat and sodium. MSG can actually lower the need for so much salt. If more MSG was added to foods, maybe we’d see less heart disease.

Stop worrying and enjoy your food.

Heres a video thats worth watching by a favorite youtuber of mine: