Chef-marketer David Chang chooses wisely by outsourcing his instant noodles.
One of my favorite U.S. ramen bowls was at the Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Chef David Chang knows what he’s doing and the kitchen team executes with skill. A marketer as much as restauranteur, it made sense that Chang would hop on the instant ramen renaissance of the last decade.
Chang offers three instant Momofuku Noodles: Soy & Scallions, Spicy Soy, and Tingly Chili. I’ve tried both the Soy & Scallions and Spicy Soy. Each package, at a retail price of between $14 and $17, includes five individual packet portions.
Rather than make his own instant noodles, modeled after the flavorful barley noodles at his restaurant (too expensive to mimic?), Chang uses noodles from A-SHA, a Taiwan-based food company. Unlike deep-fried, how most instant noodles are produced, A-SHA’s are air-dried over 18 hours. Noodles are made of wheat flour, water and salt.
Chang’s site says the noodles are “different from instant ramen” and have 25 percent fewer calories and more protein. Of note: the word “ramen” is nowhere to be seen on the product packaging. I appreciate the simplicity of just doing the noodles..
I’ve been unimpressed with the noodles in several of the elaborate instant ramen, so Momofuku instant noodles were a pleasant surprise. The noodles are flat and wavy. I’d call them medium width. They have a satisfying mouth feel, a good texture and a distinct flavor of their own. The many reviews on the Momofuku site seem to agree with my favorable opinion.
Does air drying allow the natural flavor of the wheat to come through, where deep frying might mask it? Does it mature that flavor in the same way air drying does with prosciutto ham? Hard to tell, but it had me wondering.
One of my main criticisms of any ramen dish is when the noodles lack a distinct flavor or personality. The best restaurant ramen I’ve had threads that needle successfully. Many restaurants, unfortunately, do not. I’ve come to expect less from instant ramen, so it’s notable when someone gets it right. I’m not comparing Momofuku Instant to the best restaurant noodles. I am saying these are the best instant noodles I’ve had.
Given the care Chang put into finding better noodles, I wished he had put more attention into the accompanying sauce packets. I found both the Soy & Scallion and Spicy Soy sauces were pretty basic. I expected more of a premium product.
Tip: If you want to save a few dollars, rather than buy Momofuku instant, just order A-SHA packages, which has several noodle types available on Amazon and elsewhere. My taste test confirmed that the noodles are identical. When you order A-SHA, you can specify thin, medium, wide or extra wide noodles. Even the flavor pack of dried onions is the same. The sauces were similar.
I’ve found that a topping of sauteed chopped sausage and vegetables, along with the flavor packs, makes for a nice bowl of noodles at home. Enjoy.