I went through the instant noodle phase when I was in college. Nissin, I think, was the first brand of instant noodles sold locally and I was so smitten with the idea of being able to have a bowl of mami within minutes. But the phase passed. After a while, I lamented the lack of texture and color. I do prefer my bowl of noodles to have generous amounts of meat and vegetables. And I like the little extras that make a world of difference — the crisp garlic bits, the fried shallots, the fresh herbs…
When the girls were younger, I discouraged instant noodles in the house. Well, I discouraged anything instant, period. Today, however, with Sam and Alex living away from us five days a week, they find instant noodles among the most convenient food items for condo living. They’re available in all 7-11 and Ministop stores, they’re generally inexpensive, they’re uncomplicated to prepare, they can be cooked in the microwave and you only need one bowl to do the job. When we do our grocery shopping for the house and the girls tag along, they buy their instant noodle supply so that the cost is passed on to us. Smart, eh? So, you get the picture when I say that we’ve bought a lot of instant noodles — local, Korean, Japanese and Thai, plain and fancy, very cheap and not so cheap.
So, we know very well that instant noodles are not created equal. We liked some and swore off others. But how we liked and disliked each one were more of subjective judgments. We never really documented how the texture of the noodles differ, how the powdered broth of some taste better than others, how some almost mimic freshly made noodle soup while others taste totally artificial.
We took two of the most popular instant noodle brands, Lucky Me and Payless, to start documenting those differences. We chose the same flavor, beef bulalo, to make things as equal as possible. The two packs were cooked per package directions and here are our observations.
Price? Lucky Me: PHP13.75. Payless: PHP6.10.
Net weight? Lucky Me: 65 grams. Payless: 55 grams.
Lucky Me: noodles, powdered broth packet, oil packet and dehydrated meat and greens packet.
Payless: noodles, powdered broth packet and oil packet.
The instructions on the pack of Lucky Me said put the noodles in a bowl, pour in two cups of boiling water…
…cover and leave for three minutes.
Meanwhile, the instructions on the pack of Payless noodles said cook the noodles in about two cups of boiling water on the stove top for three minutes.
After three minutes of soaking in hot water, I added the contents of the broth, oil and dehydrated meat packets to the bowl of Lucky Me noodles.
I poured the Payless noodles with the cooking liquid into a bowl and stirred in the contents of the broth and oil packets.
Side by side, that was how they looked — Lucky Me on the left; Payless on the right. There is a ten-gram difference in the net weight of the two packages and that became really obvious after the noodles were cooked.
Speedy liked the texture of the Lucky Me noodles better. I liked the texture of the Payless noodles better — they were plumper, slippery, a bit chewy and reminiscent of ramen.
We both preferred the taste of the Lucky Me broth — it had beef undertones and the overall sensation was subtle rather than overwhelming. The Payless broth was rather strong and all I could think of was MSG.
Did the dehydrated meat make all that difference? Not to me. In fact, because we’ve had pet rabbits in the past, the little round bits of brown bothered me. Don’t ask me to elaborate here. If you’ve never observed rabbits, just ask someone who has.
Having tested both noodles and broth, I added slices of pork and blanched pechay to both bowls of noodles. Just because we were eating instant noodles didn’t mean we couldn’t have them with real meat and veggies.