Korean Nongshim Instant Noodle Products side by side with their American counterparts on a wooden board

[Photographs: Sho Spaeth]

South Korea must be the envy of all Americans. They have better movies, better boy bands (with better fans), a better body politic, a better bead on how to beat this pandemic. It must come as no marvel that South Koreans additionally revel in higher instantaneous noodles.

A couple of months in the past, I wrote about how Shin Ramyun, the enduring and now ubiquitous instantaneous noodle product produced via Nongshim, had compromised its high quality when reformulating its noodles for a cup noodle model. I additionally famous in passing that I assumed Shin Ramyun Black, a putatively top class model of that product, used to be inferior in each and every option to the more economical unique. I adopted that piece up with a comparison of Nissin Cup Noodle(s) products produced for the American and Japanese markets, by which I discovered some distinct variations, and decided that I massively most popular the Japanese variations to the American.

I assume it used to be inevitable that any individual would recommend that I do a an identical comparability of Nongshim merchandise, attempting Korean variations of Shin Ramyun and Shin Ramyun Black side-by-side with American variations of the ones merchandise, to look what, if any, variations existed, and whether or not I most popular one over the opposite. When any individual did, I requested my father, who lives in Seoul, to ship over a couple of samples of one of the hottest instantaneous noodles—the Shin, the Shin Black, but in addition Nongshim’s Neoguri seafood-flavored noodle soup, which has been taking part in some wider popularity as a result of the truth that is likely one of the parts in “Jjappaguri,” the now viral instantaneous noodle mashup dish recognized within the English-speaking global as “Ram-don,” which figures prominently in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite. (He additionally despatched over some Jjapagetti, which I’m saving for…science?)

Here, then, is the results of a side-by-side comparability of all 3 merchandise, which I stupidly did in one day—neatly, if truth be told, which I stupidly did over the process an hour and a part, bringing my general sodium consumption in that hour and part to, in line with the USA packaging on a unmarried Shin Ramyun Red and my back-of-the-envelope calculation of the way a lot of each and every bowl I ate, roughly 3 times your (neatly, my) advisable day by day worth.

Unfortunately, given the constraints imposed upon us all via the pandemic, I used to be the only real taster on this collection of tastings (my spouse, rather understandably, refused to totally take part, however did sneak a couple of tastes right here and there; my daughter is simply too younger to be subjected to an onslaught of sodium of this sort, but); I additionally needed to function the prepare dinner and the photographer, so my apologies for the standard of the footage, and for the truth that this assessment is fully subjective: I knew in each and every example previously which bowl contained which product, and I’ve a mentioned desire for noodle soups designed for a non-US marketplace.

That being stated, I ready each and every dueling set of goods concurrently, following the directions at the packaging precisely and weighing out the volume of water known as for in grams, and the use of in a similar way sized cooking vessels to keep watch over for imaginable evaporation of water all over the cooking procedure and, thus, intensification of seasoning. Between tasting each and every product I took a pair swigs of water and ate a small little bit of white bread to take a look at to cleanse my palate, which didn’t in point of fact paintings nevertheless it did supply blessed, albeit transient, aid from the onslaught of salt.

Shin Ramyun Red

Korean and American Shin Ramyun Red packages side by side, with the Korean version on the right

Visually, the Korean and American variations of Shin Ramyun Red are an identical, save for the languages printed on the packaging: The noodle blocks glance the similar, the flavoring packets glance the similar, and the directions are the similar—upload the flavoring packets and noodles to 550ml of boiling water, then prepare dinner for 4 and a part mins and serve. Initially, the ramyun within the bowls additionally regarded beautiful very similar to me: the signature fiery purple broth, the yellowish bouncy noodles bobbing underneath the outside, the scattered bits of rehydrated greens floating appealingly on best.

But upon tasting each and every model, the variations have been obvious. The noodles within the American model have a taste that I will most effective describe as being dusty, and there may be an added mineral bitterness, most probably from the inclusion of riboflavin (diet B12), which, in line with the interpretation of the Korean component checklist supplied to me via our social media editor, Jina (who enlisted the assistance of her mom: thank you, Jina’s mother!), isn’t incorporated within the Korean model. Riboflavin is repeatedly utilized in alkaline noodles as a dye and in packaged merchandise in America as a dietary complement; its style must be acquainted to somebody who eats cereals like Cheerios, the healthful-seeming backdrop, at the side of the style of toasted grains, that serves as a foil to sugar, extra sugar, and synthetic flavorings. That style kind of leeches into the broth, too, so the Korean model has a cleaner style.

Another in an instant obvious distinction; the American model’s broth is each spicier and flatter. I discovered the spiciness unexpected as a result of I in most cases bring to mind the typical Korean’s tolerance for capsaicin warmth to be a lot upper than the typical American’s. The flatness I will most effective speculate about, since each merchandise use a variety of umami-rich or -heightening components like disodium inosinate, disodium guanlytate, disodium succinate, in addition to a number of hydrolyzed extracts that, to my eye, learn like euphemisms for monosodium glutamate. Whatever the particular make-up of taste components, the result’s that the Korean broth has a rounder taste that tastes rather less aggressively salty than its American counterpart (ramyun being ramyun, it’s nonetheless extremely salty).

Unpackaged Shin Ramyun Red with components on display, Korean version on the right

After a couple of tastings, alternating between each and every bowl, I made up our minds to dig just a little deeper into each and every one to get a greater really feel for each and every revel in, and I discovered that the principle variations between the 2, as has been the case with the former style exams of quite a lot of instantaneous noodles, lies within the noodles. The American ones are much less chewy and more straightforward to chop along with your enamel; the Korean noodles have a squeakiness, a resistance to being minimize, that interprets to a much more fulfilling consuming revel in.

The noodles additionally appear to have an effect on the standard of the broth, and no longer simply as a result of that dusty riboflavin taste. Looking on the two soups, it’s obtrusive that the American broth is just a little murkier, with globules of fats which can be just a little smaller and thus extra calmly dispensed, while the Korean broth is extra translucent, with globules of fats which can be each clearer and bigger. According to the substances lists in English and Korean, each merchandise use palm oil, so the variations in the best way the oil interacts with the goods’ soups isn’t as a result of other oils behaving another way, which I’ve seen when making ramen at house—saturated fats and unsaturated fats pool another way at the floor of broth. Rather, the best way the oil behaves within the other soups is most probably because of the composition of the soup liquid, which in flip is suffering from the volume and roughly starch launched into the liquid because the noodles prepare dinner.

Prepared Shin Ramyun in bowls side by side, with Korean version on right

That the muddier, American broth is spicier may well be attributed to other formulations, nevertheless it may be a serve as of the best way the fats is shipped within the broth. As capsaicin is oil soluble, it stands to reason why {that a} extra even distribution of the oil within the broth would lead to a better publicity of the tongue to the capsaicin within the seasoning, and so the 2 formulations may well be similarly highly spiced, however the impact could be extra pronounced within the American model, the place the next quantity of starch or no matter it’s that’s making the broth murkier helps the oil to distribute itself extra calmly within the broth.

The verdict right here, if it isn’t in an instant obvious to you already, is that I most popular the Korean model via a mile.

Shin Ramyun Black

Shin Ramyun Black products side by side, with the Korean version on the right

I had dreaded this take a look at in particular for a long time as a result of I in point of fact dislike the American Shin Ramyun Black, and I in short thought to be skipping it since, I reasoned, my opinion of Shin Ramyun Black is so indelibly stained via issues that experience not anything to do with style—its upper value, the audacity of seeking to enhance on Shin Ramyun Red, a great product—that there used to be no manner I may provide an even-keeled, albeit essentially biased, opinion at the topic.

Thankfully, I made up our minds to do it, as it seems that Shin Ramyun Black is an ideal instantaneous noodle product, a corridor of famer, in all probability one of the most easiest in the marketplace, if no longer the easiest in the marketplace. But, after all, I’m most effective regarding the Korean model.

Unlike Shin Ramyun Red, the packaging of Shin Ramyun Black is other within the United States than it’s in Korea. It’s no longer simply the languages imprinted on the packet; the orientation of the packaging is other, with the American one presenting one of those horizontal panorama, against this to the Korean one’s vertical framing. The preparation directions are other, too. The American model instructs you to arrange the noodle soup in the similar manner as you may a Shin Ramyun Red, the place you sell off the flavoring packets and the dehydrated greens into boiling water at the side of the noodles and prepare dinner the entirety in combination till the noodles are sufficiently rehydrated. The Korean model has a reasonably other way: into the pot of boiling water is going the dehydrated greens and one flavoring packet, however the different flavoring packet, the person who possibly makes Shin Ramyun Black other from the lesser Red, is stored till the top, whilst you stir it into the cooked broth and noodles.

Shin Ramyun Black unpackaged with components on display, with Korean version on the right

The different maximum putting distinction used to be the contents of the dehydrated vegetable packet. Whereas the American one comes with the similar greens, albeit greater items of them, incorporated in Shin Ramyun Red—this is, dried scallions, dried mushrooms, and dried carrot—the Korean one comes with dried scallions, dried mushrooms, dried bok choy, and dried chili peppers, in addition to dehydrated bits of scrambled egg and what looks as if floor red meat.

On the style entrance, the 2 merchandise are fully other. The American Shin Ramyun Black is the entirety that I’ve all the time hated in regards to the product: slightly distinguishable from the inexpensive Shin Ramyun Red, with those self same dusty noodles. The Korean model, on the other hand, is remarkably just right: It smells beefy, and the promise of that aroma is learned once you are taking a sip of the beefy broth, which, similar to the Korean Shin Ramyun Red, additionally has a roundness of taste this is absent within the American model. What maximum shocked me, even though, used to be how a lot higher the Korean Shin Black is than the Red. It isn’t simply that the soup is tastier, or that Nongshim seems to have engineered a more-ish high quality to it that brief circuits the portions of your mind which can be caution you about all of the sodium within the bowl prior to you; it’s additionally that the dehydrated greens style all proper, the dehydrated egg is strangely inoffensive, and the little clumps of cooked, dehydrated, and rehydrated red meat aren’t utterly disgusting (as they are able to be in lots of Cup Noodle merchandise from Japan).

Prepared Shin Ramyun Black in bowls side by side, with the Korean version on the right

The high quality of the Korean Shin Black made me suppose that, in all probability, the American Shin Black may well be advanced via the patron via merely stirring within the further inexperienced packet of seasoning proper on the finish, as you’re urged to do via the Korean model. I’d’ve examined this for the sake of science, however for private causes I used to be and am in general quarantine from the outdoor global, and I most effective had one bundle of American Shin Black to idiot round with. But a more in-depth take a look at the goods’ component lists means that if there may be any development, it might be minimum, because the number one flavorings of the Korean model seem to be red meat, kombu, dried shrimp, and dried mushroom, while the American one accommodates red meat, kombu, dried sandlance, and dried mushroom. Which is to mention, the formulations are other.

The verdict here’s that Shin Ramyun Black, in spite of the entirety I assumed I knew, is a rattling fantastic instantaneous noodle product that I’d feel free to devour any time, supplied it’s the Korean model. The American model nonetheless turns out to me to be a massively inferior product, even supposing I feel that stirring within the further inexperienced packet of seasoning on the finish has the possible to enhance it.


Neoguri Seafood Noodle soups in pacakaing side by side, with Korean version on the right

While I’m worryingly acquainted with Nongshim’s Shin Ramyun merchandise, I will’t say the similar about its Neoguri Seafood Noodles, and a part of this is I’m no longer the most important fan of udon-style noodles. For no matter reason why, my personal tastes skew towards alkaline noodles of the type you to find in ramen, and udon has all the time looked as if it would me to provide an inferior consuming revel in and, in sure moods, infrequently makes me really feel like I’m chewing on a host of worms.

That being stated, I revel in a Neoguri now and again, and that’s most commonly as a result of it kind of feels to have an unapologetically seafood-forward taste, a rarity within the American instant-noodle marketplace, and because there used to be some chance {that a} comparability of Korean and American Neoguri may just make clear the relative variations between Shin Ramyun merchandise, I assumed it couldn’t harm (figuratively, because it if truth be told did bodily ache me to devour those remaining two bowls after the primary 4) so as to add them as (anec)information issues on this greater (anec)take a look at.

Contents of Neoguri packages revealed side by side, with Korean version on the right

The very first thing that stood out to me that with the Neoguri, just like the Shin Ramyun Black, used to be that the contents of the packaging have been other. The Korean Neoguri contained inside it a small sq. of dasima, the dried laver that the Japanese check with as kombu, and the American one didn’t. Other than that, the directions have been additionally reasonably other: the Korean one known as for including 550ml of water, versus the American’s 500ml, and given the inclusion of the dasima, that turns out to make sense.

But probably the most unexpected section about those two merchandise used to be that, so far as I may just inform, the noodles have been an identical. Unlike the Shin Ramyun alkaline noodles, there seems to be no distinction within the method of Nongshim’s udon, and, because of this, none of that dustiness I assumed I seen within the American Shin Ramyun merchandise used to be provide within the American Neoguri.

Prepared Neoguri Seafood Noodles in bowls side by side, with Korean version on right

However, even supposing the noodles gave the impression the similar, the American model’s broth used to be, just like the Shin Ramyun broths, spicier than its Korean counterpart, which implies that there in point of fact is a distinction within the method of the broths, and that American shoppers of Nongshim merchandise in point of fact do choose a spicier noodle soup than Korean shoppers. The Korean model additionally had a rounder taste, however on this example that gave the impression inevitable, given the sq. of dasima used within the soup’s preparation.


What is there to mention? I massively choose the Korean variations of Nongshim’s instantaneous noodle soup merchandise, even supposing I’ll fortuitously devour the American Neoguri any time. But as with the opposite items I wrote evaluating instantaneous noodle merchandise for various markets, I need to emphasize that this isn’t only a topic of private style; it is a topic of style conditioning. If you grew up in America consuming American processed meals, it’s possible you’ll no longer to find the flavour of riboflavin to be objectionable, for those who understand it in any respect; chances are you’ll, in reality, choose the flavour profile riboflavin supplies in processed meals, because of a life-time of publicity to it. Nongshim, like different main multinational processed-food corporations, has surely accomplished a ton of marketplace analysis, and if the formulations are modified to regulate for the style desire in their goal markets in numerous nations, it most probably isn’t as a result of they believe “Americans like unhealthy meals, let’s give it to them!” It’s most probably as a result of they believe “Americans like what they prefer, and we need to earn a living.”

While the comparability above would possibly appear foolish and unnecessary to maximum American shoppers, there are a few web sites that promote and send Korean variations of those merchandise. SF Mart has they all, and Daebak has a Neoguri and Jjapagetti set, however sadly doesn’t have the Shin Ramyun merchandise*. Suffice it to mention, for the ones American shoppers of Korea instantaneous noodle merchandise, chances are you’ll to find you like the Korean formulations, too, even supposing I’m absolutely conscious that purchasing imported instantaneous noodles obliterates a part of the basic enchantment of this magnificence of goods: It’s intended to be affordable.

* I will not vouch for the carrier of those web sites; I’m most effective highlighting those websites to emphasise that those merchandise are in the stores within the United States.

However, as with the Cup Noodle, a part of the issue shoppers in America face if they like Asian instantaneous noodle merchandise over their American opposite numbers is that we’re quibbling with the most popular tastes of a overwhelming majority of our instant-noodle-loving compatriots. That those merchandise are demonstrably other and arguably higher in another country manner that there’s a chance, on the other hand vanishingly small, that consciousness of the likelihood that those merchandise may well be made to be higher right here at house may just result in a gentle shift in style personal tastes through the years, and perhaps we Americans may just call for extra from the noodle makers, despite the fact that it’s simply spiking the broth components with just a little bit extra seaweed taste.

All merchandise related right here had been independently decided on via our editors. We would possibly earn a fee on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.


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