Sunday, November 14, 2010

Instant Ramen Rant

"Our saucer which art in a colander, draining be Your noodles. Thy noodle come, Thy meatballness be done on earth, as it is meaty in heaven. Give us this day our daily sauce, and forgive us our lack of piracy, as we pirate and smuggle against those who lack piracy with us. And lead us not into vegetarianism, but deliver us from non-red meat sauce. For thine is the colander, the noodle, and the sauce, forever and ever. R'Amen."

A prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Have you been touched by his noodly appendage?

Ando Momofuko, founder of Nissin Foods, invented instant noodles in the 1950's after World War II. The man's simple philosophy was: "peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat." Words to live by. I'm old-school and my favourite brand of instant ramen is naturally Nissin - the Tokyo shoyu flavour one in particular - which I would eat for every meal if I can (I can't). Maggi mee tastes like wormy turds in comparison. That's just a figure of speech; I don't actually know how wormy turds taste like.

About a month ago when I was shopping for comestibles in a supermarket, I noticed that they had revamped the packaging of my favourite noodle by bagging it in a semi-opaque outer plastic wrapper, partially obscuring the 5 individual packets inside. They look sexier, sure, but I couldn't shake off the nagging feeling that they were trying to hide something. The 5-packs I'm used to look like this,

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things
The original transparent outer wrapper. This is how honesty looks like.

Anyhow, I bought the new-packaged one because I had this vague idea that they would be fresher since they were obviously manufactured at a later date. Yes, it's ironic that I'm talking about the freshness of processed food so preserved they would outlast the mummified remains of ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

So, I went home and hours later, I started hankering for some hot, brothy, noodle action and tore a packet open. And I screamed like a girl scout jumped by a flashing hobo. There were only two sachets of condiments instead of the usual three.

The usual three. Uno, dos, tres!

The old packets came with an oily, shoyu seasoning sauce, a powdered soup base and some shredded nori. The new ones each just had a bigger sachet of powdered soup base and the seaweed, and I assume they had found a way to pulverize the shoyu. This is an abomination. I cooked the cake of noodle and my worst fear was confirmed: my favourite instant noodle now tastes like Maggi awful. It lost that certain je ne sais quoi which made it awesome. I slurped the horrible mess in silence and after finishing the bowl, I went and sat down under a cold shower hugging my knees to my chest.

I have no fricking idea what I did to deserve this. I had always been thoroughly loyal (excepting that one time I flirted with Indomie - I was a younger and more foolish boy then). Sure, I went on health kicks once in awhile and swore off instant noodles for weeks at a time but I have always returned. Always. Aren't relationships all about the ups and downs, the fights and the mock break-ups? You have changed, Tokyu shoyu Nissin. I don't even know who you are anymore.

The next day, I gave the new-and-improved packets of noodle to a hostelite friend I know who likes Maggi (he wouldn't know better anyway). Then, I returned to the supermarket to hunt down the original and buy as many as I could. I confirmed that the old, transparently-packaged Nissin noodle still contained the shoyu seasoning sauce by feeling through the plastic. Using a palpation technique I learned in my 5 years in med school called the fluctuation test, I managed to determine that the sachets inside did still in fact contain a fluid (hurray for higher learning!). However, I did get more than a few sidelong glances for pressing on packets of instant noodle as if I was shopping for melons.

Silly random people. I bring my stethoscope when I shop for melons.

I don't know if Nissin will ever revert back to their old condiment formula but I'm going to boycott their products until they do so. Vote with your wallet, I always say. Till then, I'll just have to stretch my two dozen packets to last me for as long as humanly possible. Anyone got any other instant noodle to introduce to me? I'm on the rebound.

A Well-Balanced Meal
MSG laden soup, I love to drink/These are a few of my favourite things.

P.S. And does anyone know if boiling the noodle first and then mixing in the condiments after you poured it into a bowl is the correct way of cooking instant noodle?

Fueled by ramen,
k0k s3n w4i


Phoebs said...

AHA! mismatched cutlery >_>

Terri said...

my boyfriend does it that way - boils the noodles separately, then pours away the "starchy" water before adding the drained noodles to a seasoning and hot water soup mixture. i like to add the seasoning to the boiling water prior to adding the noodles, so it can dissolve and make tasty soup which the noodles will absorb.

brendan says my instant noodles are way tastier :D but he can't bring himself to do it my way since it goes against what his momma taught him. so he makes me cook them for him in the preferred way :D

of course this could all be a lie to persuade me to do the cooking for him :P men! so lazy and manipulative!!

Michelle Chin said...

I have the same bowl. I think it comes with a toothpaste or something.

février said...

michelle chin has the best comment so far xD

apparently brend's way is the better way coz it gets rid of all the 'wax' n stuff but i do it terri's way coz i like the flavour absorbed in the noodles (sometimes the noodles don't absorb at all and are very irritating) and i can't be bothered to strain the water away from the first batch.

also, perfect post! :D what a coincidence, just a few hours i was speaking to a friend and we were talking about instant noodles and he asked when they were invented. :3

Azygous said...

Instant noodles are frequently coated with a layer of "wax", which is actually boric acid/benzoic acid.
It's popularly used as preservative for yellow noodles.

I assume Nissin products doesn't contain any Boric or Benzoic acid (compared to other Malaysian products, eg Ibumie/Indomie/Maggi).
However, you can perform a simple experiment to determine whether the noodles contain boric acid or not (I've done it b4):

P.S. And does anyone know if boiling the noodle first and then mixing in the condiments after you poured it into a bowl is the correct way of cooking instant noodle?

Yes. Like what's mentioned by Terri.

Azygous said...

Oh yeah, try spaghetti instead :)

Zzzyun said...

ooo try the nongshim brand of noodles... they are awesome!! and i feel they are like a better version of nissin..!

k0k s3n w4i said...

Phoebs: bite me T^T

Terri: i dunno. i think if you add the seasoning to the boiling saucepan, the heat might ruin the flavour a bit. might have read something like that. I cook maggi your way but for nissin, i follow the instructions at the back - and they told me to add the seasoning after removing it from the fire. and i don't drain the "starchy, oily" water either. i'd ask phoebs to cook for me, but i'm sure i can do it better than her.

Michelle Chin: yeah, darlie :D

beve: draining the water also gets rid of the oils the pre-fry or dry the noodle cakes with. that's one way to get rid of some calories. just cook it till it's nearly done, drain the water and then add it to a hot water plus seasoning soup base. let it soak for a bit a voila, the strands will absorb the seasoning that way too, right?

Azygous: personally, i wonder just how much boric/benzoic acid you can actually get rid of by draining the water you boil the noodle with - and whether the levels of these compounds in instant noodle are actually high enough to pose a health risk. the article seem to be talking about yellow noodles (the ones they use in yong tau foo) rather than instant noodles. which one did you do the experiment on?

Zzzyun: i like the texture of nongshim's noodle but i'm not to crazy about their flavours. well, i guess i'll just have to swear off instant noodle at some point :/

Zzzyun said...

yeah the texture is so much better than maggi's soggy noddles.. actually i quite like cintan mee back in malaysia..but here dont have despite much searching :(

Azygous said...

The article is about yellow noodles, but I've tried doing the same experiment on instant noodles.

Haven't done it on Nissin noodles before.

So far, I've done it on some Maggie products (hot cup, maggie noodle - chicken & asam laksa flavour), Wantan mee from chinese hawker stalls, and Ibumie - Mi Goreng

Guess what..all tested +ve

Anyway, moderate intake of proper instant noodles shouldn't be a problem I think.

Of course too much of MSG may give you something known as Chinese Food Syndrome. :)

ap said...

I recommend Samyang brand instant noodles,
similar to Nong Shim but better broth better noodles texture- noodles tend to be more chewy even when u commit the atrocity of cooking it past al dente

*for taste-wise reference im a fan of indomie and Nissin tom yam cup noodles i experienced a falling out with new-and-improved Nissin prawn flavour circa 2000, the original sesame oil au naturel Nissin tasted its very best when i was a toddler in hk hanging at 7-11- now its inedible sighhh

as a followup to my comment on religious atrocities, i think it is particularly problematic when religion takes on an evangelistic dimension, being told that its alright to shove religion down the throat of non-believers by religious doctrine can inflict some serious damage, it boils down to an individual's sense of human rights and nots- if people left other people alone when they didnt act as they wish instead of resorting to violence...... if religion adheres to that principle.... seems to me that it is nigh impossible to do away with religion, i get a sense that man gravitates towards the idea of divine perfection naturally, which might take on a myriad of forms, say at one point in my life i was conditioned to hanker after matrimony with Prince Charming and Disney's idea of romantic love as perfect happiness, and have been struggling to undo that brain damage ever since, but i had a natural inclination to believe and so was swayed like any mortal would be

lovealynna said...

I ate Indomie all the time in boarding school and it's available in the supermarkets here, unlike Nissin, so you'll have to forgive me. Heh.

And I cook Indomie in the microwave. It's too much effort to pull out a pot, wait for the water to boil, yadayada. If I wanted to pull out a pot, I'd make a truckload of pasta.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Zzzyun: but i dun like cintan's flavours :( maybe instead of eating instant noodles, you should eat more local aussie food. like koala pies. that is a real thing, right?

Azygous: wow, i don't think i can get motivated enough to care about what i put into my body to actually buy some tumeric powder. but thanks for the heads up! learnt something i didn't know before. and chinese restaurant syndrome is still a pretty undefined entity but a lot of double-blinded studies revealed that the effect attributed to MSG is no different than from a placebo. i think they need to do a comprehensive systematic review of all the papers published on the subject :/

ap: i'll look into samyang after i deplete my supply of nissin, thanks! i agree with you that humans, in general, want to be better people. the best i can do is to demonstrate and to continue demonstrating that religious morality is a sham. and i am very much with you in that i think we often mistake what feels right with what is really right. i don't think we need to look further than romantic relationships to realise our capacity and potential for self-delusion. our brain is a very flawed organ. take the phenomenon of agency, for example. if you can't get open a stuck drawer, you tend to get the impression that the damn thing is just being stubborn... as if it has a personality. same goes for things slipping through your fingers being wily escapists, etc. that's why if something unexplained occur, we have a tendency to think of ghosts. that's why when the universe came into existence, we imagine an all-powerful intelligent being poofed it into existence. also, if you ask children questions like: why is the water in lakes still? tell them that some people thinks it's to ensure animals bathing in them don't get washed away. tell them that some other people think the water is still because nothing is flowing into it disturb the stillness. a child tend to pick the former. we are naturally wired to assign meaning and purpose to everything around us.

lovealynna: hmmm, wikipedia say that the company that makes indomie is the biggest manufacturer of instant noodle in the world. needs better citations, if you ask me. i only ever made pasta once and the ex-grrrfriend™ said it was delicious. methinks that needs better citations too.

Anonymous said...

Tradewinds Oriental Shop on sells these. It's the boxes of 30 from Hong Kong that have the 3 sachets/packets inside of soup powder/oily meaty sauce (tastes like them tins of bamboo & pork slices), and the shredded seaweed. Fantastic, though a bit more expensive than the usual fare.

little gecko said...

Greetings from S'pore! This post is 3 years late, but hey I just stumbled into your blog. You may be surprised at what I'm about to tell you but here goes :

We have some things in common and it was our previous love for Nissin's Tokyo Shoyu instant noodles. I too used to love the previous ones with the liquid shoyu seasoning. I stopped after trying my first packet of the powdered version. How can the folks at nissin not be able to tell the difference?? It affected me so much that I actually wrote in to the company. The next thing I knew, they contacted me and thanked me for my feedback. They came personally to my house and offered me 2 packs of their other instant noodles to try.

I asked the guy why they had changed the formula and content and the reply was that they did it to cater to the halal market. The original had porcine content. Anyway, I stopped taking it ever since. I| really wonder if they have captured the halal market but lost many of their previous customers like you and me. Kekeke...

Hope things are great for you!