I have to admit I did a good bit of flip-flopping around about my digital artefact. At the beginning of the semester I thought I knew what I wanted to look at; the way that Japan more or less stole aspects of American culture to make it their own (Denim/ Workwear, Cuisine, Jazz… etc.). It was a matter that I had looked into in previous subjects, but the more I considered the assignment at hand the more I knew I needed to move towards a different topic.
That brought me to the humble instant noodles.
Noodles… Asia… Great, how very original. I get it, it doesn’t seem like a massive leap towards any real cultural experience or immersion, but I think in some ways that’s the point I’m trying to make. A true Asian experience (at least culinary) doesn’t have to be this far reaching thing, but is readily available.
Finding a decent instant noodles isn’t a hard task. Depending on what style you’re after (without or without broth etc.) and what region’s specific flavour profile you like, there are many choices available in your local supermarket. I always find it surprising to see just how big my local Woolworths noodle selection is. I live in an area that is VERY white, but this just shows how much of Asia has influenced Australia’s food culture.
It can be overwhelming, and I understand why many would select to buy the familiar bright yellow packet of ‘2-Minute Noodles’ that Maggi provides. But if you can step out of your comfort zone and forget about the language barrier there are far superior products to be found.
For my experience with instant noodles this week I chose to keep it simple. I picked up a packet of Shin Ramyun Red which is usual the first step for people venturing into the Korean/ Japanese style of instant noodles. When speaking about this assignment with some friends from work they all recommended Shin as a good introductory instant noodle for those not familiar with them.
For this tasting I chose what the starting point is really for many, NongShim Shin Ramyun. The South Korean noodles are available just about everywhere (UOW IGA even has them), and due to their mild flavour it’s easy to see why so many like them.
So what comes in the packet? In the packet you’ll find a curiously circular brick of dried noodles and two flavour sachets; one containing some dried vegetables and the other being the MSG laced spice mix that makes it all so tasty.
(via Serious Eats)
Cooking techniques for instant noodles vary widely between people. Usually I just like to eat the noodles, drink the boiling water and snort the seasoning. But today in the name of autoethnography I thought that I would read the packet and follow the instructions. While lazy Conor would throw it all in a bowl, chuck it in the microwave and hope for the best, I used the stove top to make me feel like a real chef.
If you look for other pieces of writing about instant hacks you’ll find Buzzfeed listicle after Buzzfeed listicle about so called “ramen hacks” that’ll “blow your mind”. But I am man of simple tastes, and instead of throwing in everything ingredient your typical ‘Ramen-ya’ would offer (various sliced meats, kimchi, mushrooms etc.) I opted for the humble soft boiled egg… well two. I didn’t want to add anything that would detract from the original Shin Ramyun flavor flav *yeeeeeahh boyyyyyy*.
Now for the eating…
Shin has garnered quite the following worldwide. Its beef and chilli base make for a delightful bowl of noodles. The broth is this creamy reddish-orangey colour and the strong chilli, garlic and ginger aroma hit you as it boils… and let me tell you, the scent travels. It was so pungent that my sister came downstairs to see what the hell I was making at 9am on a Friday morning.
Using the cooking technique was a new experience for me. Whenever I eat instant noodles it is usually due to time constraints or laziness (mostly the latter), so putting in the time for the broth to steep and really develop its flavours was something new. I also usually eat Indonesian style noodles that are served with very minimal broth so the microwave is always the easiest way to prepare them.
Upon first mouthful it was the beefiness and saltiness of the broth that I tasted – the heat soon followed. It wasn’t very spicy, but the heat was just right. Hot enough to be enjoyable without overpowering the rest of the dish.
It’s hard not to compare these with their yellow packeted cousin. The whole experience is something else completely. Shin Ramyun isn’t just a meal to have when you’re poor or lazy but to use as the base for some genuinely good ramen that’s easily accessible.
It was hard to write this piece without doing any of what we are supposed to do next week, so I look forward to delving into the deep, dark world of the noodle.
*I accidentally left this sitting in my drafts for the last week instead of acutally uploading oops*