By Lim Yong Le (22S03M)
From Mala Xiang Guo to the best Home-Based Learning Naps, Rank-It! has certainly dabbled into many different fields. The spiritual successor to the previous Mala article, this article sets off on a perilous journey of evaluating various brands of popular fiery instant noodles. All noodles reviewed here were cooked as per packet specifications.
The criteria is as follows:
Noodles: Does it slurp well? Evaluating texture and taste.
Broth: Does it taste good? Evaluating saltiness and flavour.
Spice Level: Does it burn the mouth? Evaluating spiciness.
Hai Chi Jia Suan La Fen (嗨吃家酸辣粉)
Suan La Fen, literally sour spicy noodles, is a dish that hails from Sichuan, China. The centre of a Singaporean craze years ago, the traditional dish saw itself packaged into brown cups, and is easily prepared with boiling water at the comfort of one’s own home.
While touted as an ‘instant noodle’ of sorts, there are many smaller packets with unique flavours that have to be added before simply pouring hot water into the cup. Ranging from fragrant chilli oil to crunchy peanuts, the various additions elevate the noodle from the squalor of instant noodle-dom to a bona fide deal. The deep-red broth has a pronounced sour mala flavour, characteristic of the Sichuan peppers and copious amounts of black vinegar.
The dehydrated glass noodles swell upon adding water, turning into a thick, chewy delight that complements the already delectable broth. Boasting a “Q” texture and slurp-ability like no other, this noodle definitely stands out from its competitors.
That being said, the product can be rather polarising, with some unable to accept such harsh flavours.
For all the interesting additions to the dish, it does feel like a tad bit too much at times. Rather than a comfort food, this feels like an extravagant, exotic dish to be enjoyed when one is feeling a little adventurous (but not enough to step outside the house).
Spice level: 3/5
Shin Ramen (Shin Ramyun)
Does this even need an introduction?
Shin Ramen is a ubiquitous sight in the pantry of any spicy noodle lover. Emblazoned with its signature “辛“, which literally translates to spicy, the fiery red broth is definitely no slouch in the spice department.
The deep crimson powder dissolves easily upon adding boiling water to yield a rich, savoury broth that stings the tongue and leaves one sweating. The bold flavours are spicy, salty, and addictive. They play well with other ingredients, allowing one to easily raise the nutritional value (and lower the guilt of eating such an unhealthy treat) with a plethora of ingredients, ranging from the humble egg to more luxurious proteins like beef or pork.
Shin Ramen’s sheer versatility cannot be understated. It can be prepared Kujirai-style (dry with cheese), with milk, or even mixed with boiling oil to create a copycat chilli oil ramen of sorts!
The noodles here are great too—glossy, chewy and indulgent, they pair well with the mouth-watering broth. This is further complimented by a packet of dehydrated vegetables that add textural contrast.
While not a major issue, the dish is often a tad too salty at times, causing one to reach for their water glass to battle both the spice and salt the dish is heavily laden with.
A rounded noodle block, picante powder and desiccated vegetables are the trinity that make up this simple yet appealing ramen.
Spice level: 4/5
Samyang Hot Chicken Flavour Ramen (Samyang Buldak-Bokkeum-Myeon)
Belovedly referred to as Korean Fire Noodles, Samyang’s Buldak Ramen has been trending on social media for the last few years. The only dry ramen on this list, Samyang’s noodles are flaming hot and not for the faint of heart.
A ladle of starchy noodle water and viscous chilli paste creates a thick, fiery sauce that evenly coats the noodles. Artificially flavoured to taste like the increasingly-rare chicken, the sauce is tantalisingly savoury and overwhelmingly spicy. The extreme spice may be a deterrent for some, but many masochists have quickly become addicted.
The noodles are also thick and chewy, firm enough to support each mouthful blanketed by the piquant crimson ‘fire sauce’. Otherwise, the noodles are fairly typical of a Korean ramyeon, which tends to have slightly thicker noodles than other variants, being the ideal complement to the already aggressively spicy gravy.
The intense spice levels boasted by this noodle makes it particularly polarising, loved by spice enthusiasts while eschewed by many others who are quite literally unable to stomach the sheer heat of the dish.
Personally, for all the in-your-face spiciness and saltiness this dish boasts, it feels rather plain and uninspired. The large variety of similar samyang noodles featuring the same fire sauce are much more appealing, with various additions like cheese powder or even a jjajangmyeon based sauce. For even crazier people, a 2x spicy version exists too.
Broth (although more like sauce): 3/5
Spice level: 5/5
While many may see Maggi as a household staple in Asia, the company was actually founded in Switzerland in 1884! Since then, Maggi Curry has quickly become ubiquitous in Singapore, requiring only two minutes for a quick, spicy fix.
Compared to the bells and whistles the other instant noodles come with, Maggi Curry consists of a humble noodle block and a single flavouring packet. Despite this, it holds its own in the flavour department, with an aromatic curry broth that infuses each strand of noodle with a familiar, comforting flavour. While bearing a strong curry flavour, the soup itself is rather mild, being spicy enough to merely tickle one’s senses.
However, the noodles pale in comparison to the other heavy hitters, being the thin, lacklustre wheat noodles that are commonly associated with typical instant noodles. Lacking bite and originality, they can only serve as a means to carry the spice-laden flavouring to one’s mouth (while filling the stomach).
Overall, this serves as a simple, comforting meal that can be whipped up at a moment’s notice. A classic that has stood the test of time, perhaps its lack of dry ingredient packets to add a little extra pizzazz still leaves it somewhat lacking compared to its other, newer, competitors.
Spice level: 1/5
With all the noodles having unique strengths, picking a winner from the four feels almost impossible. Still, a verdict has to be passed, and in my opinion, Shin Ramen stands as the best noodle among the lot.
Well-rounded and versatile, it is no wonder that this noodle’s presence can be felt globally, being sold at supermarkets around the world. While all the noodles are appetising and enjoyable to eat, Shin Ramen is by far the most customisable option, with a fairly generic yet tasty flavour profile that allows it to be consumed anytime and in any way.