Monday, 4 January 2010

Cooking with Nissin Ramen

Although Japanese in origin, Nissin Ramen or to give it its Cantonese nickname – 'gongzai mein' (lit. cartoon character noodles) has become a Hong Kong staple. Consequently, it's also popular amongst British born Chinese and entire shelves are given over to these packets of instant soup noodles in Chinese supermarkets across the UK.

These were probably the first noodles I ate and whilst these heavily processed treats aren't particularly good for you, they are very addictive. Back in the day, there was one flavour – 'original' which came with sachets of MSG soup base and sesame oil. Nowadays, there are loads of flavours such as chicken, spicy, tokyo shoyu, and my favourite, XO sauce seafood.

So what's the big deal about these 35p pack of noodles ? Well I think they were responsible for me becoming Mr Noodles. Like many a student leaving home, I was given a care package. Unlike most of my peers, it included a big box containing 30 packets of chicken flavour Nissin Ramen. I lived off these humble noodles and before long they gained a cult following amongst my friends.

Giant batches of noodles would be cooked to round off a night down the pub or a poker session. I started to experiment adding various ingredients to the mix although I soon realised that my special of beer noodles was a waste of both beer and noodles. I guess there's a reason why Nissin HQ in Tokyo never came up with Newcastle Brown Ale flavour ramen.

To this day, I keep a supply of Nissin Ramen in the store cupboard. After a long day at work, you can rustle up a meal in 3 minutes after the kettle has boiled. The thing is though a bowl of just soup noodles is a tad boring and not a very balanced meal.

So how do you go about pepping it up ? The easiest way is to throw in some vegetables when cooking the noodles – pak choi, watercress, and baby leaf spinach work particularly well. I also like to poach an egg atop the noodles in the saucepan. Another option is to add leftover siu mei or roast meats to the noodles. Whatever you end up with, garnish with spring onions and voila a quick TV supper after a crap day at the office.

Now the sachet of flavouring is not to everyone's taste. It is mainly MSG and whilst for most people, a little won't hurt from time to time, that's not an option to those who are allergic to the stuff. My tip is to cook the noodles without adding the sachet of soup. Having discarded the cooking water, dress the noodles with soy, sesame oil, chilli oil, ginger, garlic, and spring onion and you have a simple lo mein as a side dish.


  1. I also grew up on instant noodles, and I usually eat them now as you described, throwing away the sachet.

    I do love cup noodles (especially the blue one) dearly though - it has bits in it!

  2. Seriously? Beer noodles? o_O

    I was brought up on the rather sad and pathetic Maggi Mee, and despite various flings with the Korean instant noodles, I still turn to Maggi first when I need a quick light meal. It's hard to fight against childhood habits eh.

  3. Lizzie - I know what you mean about Cup Noodles as they are very addictive!

    WB - I once added some Newcastle Brown Ale to a batch of noodles but it was a long time ago. Maggi mee? I've not come across these.

  4. Ha ha, that has taken me back a few years... i used to love this as a child and basically grew up on this... I used to add an egg to mine as you recommend but was never adventurous enough to think of adding vegetables too. I should revisit this at some point - good recommendation as a side dish though.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  5. Oh I always have packets of the pork flavour Nissin in my pantry :)

  6. Have you tried the lo mein varieties they now do? They're yum too!

    I also add frozen fish balls, beef balls, or whatever variety I have in my freezer.

  7. Tracy - Welcome! I have tried their lo mein but I'm a creature of habit and tend to stick to the ramen.