Introducing the Instant Ramen
The UK’s love of oriental food continues to grow. After all, who doesn’t love a Chinese takeaway once in a while? In fact, in recent polls Chinese food came top of all the takeaway options, which surprised many people (but not this writer). Today, however, we’re not talking about Chinese food exclusively; in fact, we’re talking about Japanese food.
You may not know this, but the instant ramen – or if you prefer, instant noodles – was first marketed in Japan as long ago as 1958. These days, the popular idea of ready noodles onto which you pour hot water for an almost instant meal is often thought of as Chinese, but we assure you it has its origins in Japan. Today, you can buy instant ramen from other countries – the Koreans offer some particularly nice varieties – and you can also add whatever you wish to your noodle dish.
So, what’s the appeal? There are many: one is that you get a tasty noodle snack without any need for actually cooking anything, and another is it will ready in a couple of minutes from you opening the pack. Instant ramen is a cheap snack – or you can make a meal out of it – and the sheer variety of flavours available means there is always something new to try.
We won’t go into our usual ‘how it works’ explanation here – open packet, put noodles and other items in a bowl, and add boiling water is usually the routine – so let’s just get down to business. We chose 10 top-selling best instant ramen UK options, so let’s get cracking!
The Top 10
Nong Shim Shin Gourmet Spicy Picante
As each of our choices is, well, noodles, we are naturally going to repeat ourselves a little. So, what we will do is tell you about the amount you get – so that’s the value for money – plus the flavour, and then we’ll talk about what customers have said. For example, this Gourmet Spicy Picante ramen from Nong Shim, a known brand, comes as a 20-pack, each being 4.2oz. That’s enough to make a decent lunchtime snack for one.
This ramen comes from Korea – they are experts in noodle soup dishes and this is among the best Korean instant ramen you will find – and it is very highly rated by customers. Indeed, 93% of buyers gave this a 4-star and above rating. They are halal, and are also suitable for vegans. The only complaints appear to be that they can be crushed in transit, and that the flavours have changed lately. However, over 200 people gave this 5-stars.
Nong Shim Shin Instant Noodle Cup
Another from the Korean brand, this is a handy snack-sized pack that is designed to be eaten as you would a cup-a-soup – from a cup! This is the same Gourmet Spicy flavour as above, but in smaller sachets, and comes as a 12-pack at a very sensible price. The instructions for this one say it needs 3-4 minutes before you have a tasty snack – we are getting very hungry writing these!
One interesting factor about instant ramen is that they are largely made from fresh ingredients. Once again these are Halal and are also suitable for vegans – that comes from a buyer, not the company – and you really can’t go wrong as a handy snack to have around. Once again, more than 90% of buyers are very satisfied with this product, with the few complaints being that they are too small – in which case you buy the bigger pack – and that they may be too spicy for some.
Samyang Hot Chicken Flavour Limited Edition
This 5-pack comes from Samyang, another popular maker of instant ramen dishes, and this is marketed as a limited edition. It is ‘2xspicy’ – so we take that to mean twice as spicy as their standard product – and is a hot chicken flavour. Each pack is 140g, which is a standard size that makes up a decent-sized meal for one when you add the water, and they are certified halal as well as being eaten by vegans.
Now, as for that 2xSpicy claim: 90% and more gave these 4-stars and above, with comments such as ‘wow’ and ‘definitely a regular from now on’, all commenting on the fact that these are VERY spicy and hot. Strangely enough, the few complaints are that – these are VERY spicy and hot! If hot is not your thing, these are not for you, but if it is, enjoy!
Nong Shim Shin Noodle Big Bowl
Back to our Korean friends at Nong Shim for this item, which again is from their Gourmet Spicy range, and is the ‘Big Bowl’ size. These people really are among the masters at making noodle soup products, and this does not let them down. Each Big Bowl is a 114g serving, and there are 16 in the pack. Without mentioning the price, if you consider you’re getting each serving for little more than a pound, you simply have to have some of these in your cupboard.
Fresh vegetables and a lovely flavour broth are the norm with this brand, and the product is vegetarian-friendly. There is no notice of them being halal, but as the other products from the brand are we suggest this one should be. Comments have been made about the new paper cup being recyclable, and 93% of buyers gave it 5-stars. The sole complaint is about too much sugar, and not liking the taste.
Nissin Demae Black Garlic Oil
We should point out a distinction here: instant noodles may be known as ramen, but actually there is a distinction. Ramen is a noodle soup; not all the products here are soup. However, in the USA, ramen is used to describe any instant noodle product. So now you know! Nissin is the brand that invented the instant noodle meal. This black garlic oil and pork flavour version comes in 100g servings and as a pack of 30. That works out at a lot less than £1 per serving.
They are – despite the pork flavour – suitable for vegetarians (it says ‘artificial pork’ on the packet, although we are not sure if they are halal. 96% of those leaving comments gave this 4-stars or above, and there is only one negative review that says they couldn’t eat them. This is perhaps as close as you will get to the best Japanese instant ramen.
Kabuto Noodles Chicken Ramen
Kabuto claims to be the ‘UK’s number 1 premium instant noodle brand’. This is the chicken flavour instant ramen, which is made from all natural ingredients and no preservatives. There are 10 flavours to choose from in the Kabuto range – the brand is a UK one, and describes it products as ‘inspired by ramen recipes from Japan – and they are notably popular. You get 6 x 85g packets with this one and at the price, that works out a touch more costly than some, but by no means expensive.
What do the customers say about these ‘Asian inspired’ ramen flavours? Well, after a run of 90-percent scores, this one is a bit more disappointing. While 71% at 4-stars and above is decent, in this company it is not very strong. There are quite a few single-star comments claiming they are ‘tasteless’, ‘fake spice flavour’, ‘absolutely hideous’ and similar. Of course, that is down to personal taste, but it is worth noting.
Samyang Hot Chicken Carbonara Limited Edition
Before you even get to eat the Samyang range, the packaging will gran your attention. Typically Korean and a lot of fun, the bright colours alone are enough to make us smile, and this is another ‘limited edition’ from one of the top brands in the ramen market. This one is spicy chicken, which is a favourite for many, and you get a pack of 5 x 130g sachets for your money – indeed, not very much money at all.
These are suitable for vegetarians, and as the other we have chosen from this brand is halal we shall say this one may be, too, and they are the usual easy to make, add the water concoction. The customers vote 88% 4-star and above, which is more than adequate, but warn that they are very hot. Once again, the major complaints are that they are very hot! We don’t understand someone buying a product labelled ‘hot chicken’ and then finding them too hot.
Nissin Instant Noodle Chicken Ramen
We are a bit confused by this product. First, it comes from the originators of the noodle dish, Nissin, and indeed it is promoted as ‘The Origin’. We take this to mean that this is the original flavour ramen dish, which is all good. Yet, the description is very vague – not uncommon with genuine Japanese products – and the price is very high. We will assume that, give others in range do so, this comes as a pack of 10. It’s still expensive at that price.
So, let’s check out customer reviews. ‘Amazing’, ‘Delicious’ and ‘not overly salty’ are some of the positive comments, but there are only a handful. We believe this is down to the price. Whereas some of the authentic Korean and Japanese examples sell for the equivalent of around £1 a serving, this one works out at about £2.60. Yes, it’s the original and it is very authentic, but the choice is up to you.
Nissin Tokyo Soy Sauce Flavour
As we have already said, Nissin was first on the market with instant noodle products, and remains a market-leader in the sector today. It’s worth pointing out that while this is an authentic Japanese ramen dish, these days they are manufactured in Europe. That doesn’t stop them being delicious! This is a 30-pack purchase, with each serving being 100g, and is Tokyo Soy Sauce flavour. That’s about as authentic as it gets, but it might not be to everyone’s taste.
As for price, you get 30 servings for under £20, which is not bad at all, and while there are only a few customer reviews so far, every one is 4-star or above, and they mostly comment on the excellent flavour. We can’t comment on whether these are vegetarian and halal as we don’t have that information, but as others from the Nissin brand are, these may well also be.
Nong Shim Instant Noodles
The final entry on our list is another from the Korean Nong Shim brand. We are told the brand name means ‘Country Heart’; we just thought you might want to know. This is an authentic and basic instant noodle dish that is entirely vegetables. It’s suitable for vegans, and many have commented on how good they taste. Ready in a few minutes, this simple and yet satisfying dish is also very cheap to buy.
In this package you get 20 packs of 112g servings, which works out at around 80p per dish. That’s really not a lot to pay for a healthy, decent snack. Notably, 94% of customers rate these noodles as 4-star and above. The sole dissenter even gives it 3-stars, the complaint being it’s not spicy enough, but adding that it is very tasty. If it’s simple snacks for when you need something quick you are looking for, remember Country Heart!
So, there you have it, our list of the best instant ramen noodles on the market, and from some of the top, authentic brands in the business. But, which is for you? This could be a very difficult choice, and we have a few words to add before we give you our verdict.
A Buying Guide – of Sorts
Searching for the best spicy instant ramen, or indeed the best Japanese instant ramen, led us on a path that taught us a lot about these seemingly simple dishes. In the main, that is that they are not quite as simple as you may think.
The sheer range of flavours – from vegetable to chicken through pork, soy sauce and more – and the different levels of spiciness, basically from not at all to extremely hot, mean that there is bound to be an instant ramen product here that appeals to everyone.
What we will say is, if you’re going to try one of these, before you buy – for example – a 20 or 30-pack, try and find a single one of the same brand and flavour, perhaps in an Asian supermarket, and try it for taste before buying in bulk online.
Also, if something is labelled or described as ‘hot and spicy’, expect it to be so. There are a surprising number of complaints that the product was too hot and spicy, despite it being clear that this was the point.
Which to buy? Let’s have a look at our choice.
Quite simply, we can’t give you a single option when it comes to the best Korean instant ramen, or any best instant ramen UK buyers might want to try. This is because everyone has their own taste. Personally, we like a mild spicy flavour, others like a very hot version, and many of you are probably looking for a vegetable noodle soup. So, to pick one would not be helping anyone.
What we can do is show you a couple we would not buy, and tell you why. The first is the Nissin Instant Noodle Chicken Ramen. It is authentic, and the original, but in this guise it is simply very expensive, as evidenced by the lack of buyers. There are better products from this brand. Also, the UK-made ‘Asian inspired’ Kabuto Noodles Chicken Ramen would appear to be, from a large number of dissatisfied customers, a poor effort at emulating dishes from the Far East.
So, we’re left with a few choices from the three main brands: Nissin, the inventor of the instant noodle dish from Japan, and Samyang and Nong Shin, which offer a range of genuinely authentic Korean ramen noodle dishes. All of these score very highly with customers, and we have deliberately included a selection of spicy and not so spicy flavours.
If we had to choose one, for value for money, great flavour and an authentic Korean ramen dish, we’d recommend the Nong Shim Shin Gourmet Spicy Picante, but please try others before you splash out on a multi-pack.
That’s us done here, so try some tasty instant ramen dishes, and stock up for when hunger strikes!