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The wonderful world of instant noodles. (Image: Archi Banal)
The wonderful world of instant noodles. (Image: Archi Banal)

KaiJanuary 16, 2023

The ultimate instant noodle guide for the end of the world

The wonderful world of instant noodles. (Image: Archi Banal)
The wonderful world of instant noodles. (Image: Archi Banal)

Summer read: With supply chain shortages potentially set to hit our instant noodle shelves, you’d be wise to stock up on these top-tier recommendations from Charlotte Muru-Lanning and Naomii Seah. 

First published April 6, 2022

Instant noodles are cheap, easy, fast, and most importantly, they always taste good. Well, they always taste good if you know which ones to buy. (Looking at you, Indomie “Hot & Spicy” flavour.)

But as living costs increase, so too could the price of this cheap eats staple. Indomie, one of the world’s most recognisable instant noodle companies, is facing supply chain shortages that could soon hit New Zealand shelves. That’s because most packets of Indomie are manufactured in Indonesia, whose top supplier of wheat was Ukraine. 

Partly due to the Russia-Ukraine war, the global price of wheat has increased to levels not seen since the global financial crisis in 2008. And although Nestlé, Indomie’s parent company, has confirmed that New Zealand’s supply of Indomie is made in Malaysia from Australian wheat, we can’t count ourselves safe from a noodle shortage or price increase just yet

Thankfully for all the noodle lovers out there, any price changes likely won’t eventuate for a few months yet, meaning right now there’s a golden window to branch out and try some new brands and flavours.

Indomie BBQ Chicken flavour might be the most elite instant noodle available at Countdown, but there’s a whole other world of instant noodles out there. So get your chopsticks ready – these are our top picks of other elite-tier flavours to try.

Maggi Instant Noodles Asam Laksa and Samyang Buldak Carbonara Hot Chicken.

Maggi Instant Noodles Asam Laksa  

Let’s get things straight. These noodles will never come close to the goodness of an actual bowl of asam laksa, with its thick umami soup, pineapple chunks and thick chewy noodles. But they’re pretty dang good for an instant noodle flavour. These noodles are perfect for anyone who likes a good amount of MSG-laden broth with their afternoon snack. The noodles themselves are pretty stock standard – decent, but not mind blowing. But the real star of the show is the almost neon-orange flavouring, which feels like a salty, sweet, sour and subtly spicy slap in the face. Garnish these noods with spring onions and an egg if you’re feeling really fancy. / Naomii Seah

Samyang Buldak Carbonara Hot Chicken

Everyday feels like Valentine’s Day when you know you have a pack of Samyang Buldak Carbonara Hot Chicken in the pantry, with its adorable pink-tinged, love heart-covered packaging. Samyang’s range of various spicy instant noodles has garnered internet infamy over the last five years – particularly for the boisterously hot “3X Spicy Buldak” flavour that has become a viral eating challenge. The slightly more pared-back carbona twist on the flavour remains intensely spicy, but thankfully is defanged by a packet of cheese powder added at the end. Don’t let the idea of “cheese powder” put you off though, the final product is a heap of delicious, glossy, bouncy noodles. Chef’s tip: they’re better served with about half the liquid suggested on the packet. Egg, spring onion and steamed ong choy (or some type of green) are requisites. / Charlotte Muru-Lanning

Ottogi Jin Ramen Spicy and Nissin Kyushu Black

Ottogi Jin Ramen Spicy

These are the pantry staple variety of ramen: practically perfect cooked as the packaging suggests, but also lends itself well to adaptations. If you like Shin Ramyun, I promise you’ll like these. Similarly, you’ll end up with a bowl of noodles in a wonderfully spiced broth. Although these ones are accompanied by an intimidatingly hefty sachet of powder, the flavour here is perkier than you’d imagine – but still wonderfully warming. Through extensive kitchen investigations I’ve found that Jin Ramen works particularly well in Tina Choi’s chilli oil ramen recipe and in this Kewpie mayo ramen recipe. / CML

Nissin Kyushu Black

Smooth and springy wheat noodles in a milky roasted garlic broth topped with fried shallot chips and sesame seeds – what a dream. What’s really impressive about these is the lovely little slicks of oil that float atop the broth. Most instant noodles make me feel immensely aware that I’m eating at home, but artfully top these ones with a soft-boiled egg cut in half, shards of spring onion and a couple of nori sheets and you’re just a few daydreams away from a cosy ramen shop in Fukuoka. / CML

Thai Mama Tom Yum Instant Rice Noodles and Paldo Kokomen Spicy Chicken Flavour

Thai Mama Tom Yum Instant Rice Noodles

No worrying about a wheat shortage with these bad boys. Thai Mama’s range of rice noodles are always on the money, but the tom yum flavour in particular is extra juicy, and a firm favourite with the Asian aunties. The noodles are light and delicious, with that delightful slippery texture that makes chewing them a truly messy yet amazing experience. Slurping encouraged. If you chuck in some of your own cocktail prawns and fish balls, you might even be fooled into thinking you’re eating a lovely home-cooked bowl of tom yum. This bowl packs a spicy, limey taste that hits the back of the throat just right. / NS

Paldo Kokomen Spicy Chicken Flavour

The label promises four things: fun, yum, clean, spicy. All qualities I strive for but if I’m honest, mostly fail at. Unlike me, however, these noodles really do manage to be all four at once. Here, the noodles are suspended in an almost clear broth that truly is fun, yum, clean and (slightly) spicy. Chicken is the hero flavour, but it’s less salty than its counterparts and spiked with a distinct jalapeno-esque flavour. If you’re a fan of Maggi two-minute noodles, these will likely strike a perfect balance between the familiar and the new. / CML

Prima Taste Laksa La Mian and Samyang Bajirak Kalgugsu

Samyang Bajirak Kalgugsu

I grew up collecting tuangi from the estuary near our family bach and then gorging myself on the shellfish for breakfast the next day, so I have a nostalgic affection for anything clam-based. When I discovered these clam-flavoured instant noodles, I was tickled. They’re an instant version of traditional Korean dish 바지락 칼국수, which is knife-cut noodle soup with clams. As if summoned from my own childhood memories, the broth is clean-tasting and delicately clam-flavoured. The noodles here are elite-level chewy. If you’re interested in levelling these up, do consider adding a tumble of actual clams to steam while your noodles cook. These may not be for everyone, but as the saying goes: don’t yuck my yum. / CML

Prima Taste Laksa La Mian 

From the cursive brand lettering to the seductive black packaging, these Singaporean noodles scream elegance. Of course, they’re no competition for an expertly made bowl of coconut laksa, but for a bowl that takes just seven minutes to cook, they’re pretty impressive. While laksa tends to be brimming with rice noodles, the noodles here are wheat-based. The end product is a silky coconut broth with an improbable depth of flavour that’s punctuated by shrimp paste, shallots, ginger, garlic and spices like turmeric and coriander. These are hearty instant noodles, and could even pass for a pretty decent slap-up dinner as is, but sneak in some mung beans, a spliced boiled egg, sambal, deep-fried tofu, fish balls or prawns and you’ve got yourself a proper feed. / CML

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