When you get bad head colds and allergic rhinitis as often as I do, you tend to look for hot soups and drinks to help clear your sinuses. I find the effectiveness increases for soups when they're particularly spicy. Lucky Me's local Jjamppong flavor, inspired by the Korean noodle soup of the same name, got me started on today's post topic: imported instant noodle soups from all around Asia. All of them have some degree of heat.
Luckily for me, the closest grocery and convenience stores around my workplace have stocks of the more exotic instant noodle soups around. Most of the ones I've tried - largely due to availability - come from a Korean company called Nong Shim, although I've also tried one from a Singaporean brand called Koka.
Nong Shim's locally available instant noodle lineup is remarkable for being all degrees of spicy. The mildest I've tried is the Korean Clay Pot Ramyun Big Bowl, bought from Mini Stop for PhP55 - perhaps less at a grocery. Despite the red chili flakes floating around, the heat from the soup is rather tame compared to its siblings, and I can easily finish off the bowl without feeling my lips have been burned off.
Next up is the Kimchi Ramyun. Nong Shim throws in a functional novelty: a folding plastic fork!
It has snaps along the shaft so you can lock it either in the extended or folded positions. Used as a fork, it's not flimsy at all, and it's way more useful than the laughably small, thumb-sized forks Lucky Me! throws in with its noodle bowls.
As for the noodle soup itself...well it'll certainly start to get one hot and bothered. There's real heat from the broth, with a little touch of sourness, and combined with the multitude of dried vegetable leaves it does feel a bit like you're eating kimchi soup. Expect more sweat to form on your brow from this one.
We come to the first Nong Shim soup bowl I've ever tried: the Shin Ramyun Cup. The color of the bowl itself is a bright red, which, as we'll see, will serve as a warning.
If you already wimp out at the spicy heat of Lucky Me's Jjamppong, you'd better not try the Shin Ramyun Cup. This soup will clean out your sinuses, throat and nose in one sip - and leave a burning reminder of its potent flavor on your upper lip. Fans of spicy soup will love it, in my opinion. I even used it one morning as a substitute for coffee - while the effect was a lot shorter-lasting than real caffeine, it did wake me up.
All three bowls have the same type of ramen noodle, staying reasonably firm after a bath in hot water. If you do get a hankering for Nong Shim's instant noodles, eat them sparingly. Instant noodles have never been famous as a healthy food...
The genuine article (#14 in this post) is a dish made out of "thick rice vermicelli noodles in a rich, spicy coconut gravy. The soup is thick, opaque and slightly gritty from the abundance of ground dried shrimp, which gives it the umami kick." True to form, Koka uses thick, flat rice vermicelli noodles in its instant laksa as well. The seasoning packet is pretty interesting, because it has this viscous red oil in addition to the flavor powder...and I made a bit of a mess on the company pantry opening the sachet and putting it in the bowl. Sorry guys...
After the three minutes are up and the noodles are cooked, I opened the lid and saw this bright conflagration of color, smothering the noodles inside the Styrofoam bowl.
So how does the colorful laksa singapura taste? It reminds me of that Thai soup favorite tom yum goong, albeit a bit milder. The signature spicy yet grassy taste goes well with the wide and flat noodles and I thoroughly enjoyed finishing off the laksa off the bowl.
The surprise with this dish is how much healthier-looking the nutrition facts label is, compared to your usual instant noodle soup bowl. I still have to maintain, though, that instant noodles aren't supposed to be everyday fare due to high levels of sodium and saturated fat. Try eating a banana or two to balance the high sodium content with potassium.
What's your favorite instant noodles? =)
What's your favorite instant noodles? =)