12 Super-Popular Instant Ramen Noodles You Should Try

There’s so much more to the aisle than Cup Noodles.

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April 28, 2020
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When I think of convenient meals, I think of instant ramen. My go-to comfort food – and guilty pleasure – instant noodles have gotten me through many laborious late-night study sessions, and barely-enough-time-for-lunch workdays. A crummy day can be made so much better with these noodles alone.

If you find yourself in search of a wider variety of shortcut comfort foods but overwhelmed by the vast array of noodle brands and flavors, we’ve put together a list of the top brands we crave. There’s so much more to the instant ramen aisle – and I promise you won’t be disappointed when you try one of these!

This ramen might look familiar if you watch YouTubers on the regular. Samyang’s HOT Chicken Flavor ramen is no hyperbole – the extremely spicy instant noodles gave rise to the “fire noodle challenge,” popular especially in South Korea. The noodles aren’t served in a broth but are actually coated in the notoriously hot sauce; and those who take on the challenge must eat the blazing noodles as quickly as possible – often with gut-wrenching, but hilarious, results.

Ottogi Jin Ramen is made with thicker noodles, like Shin ramen, but without the crazy heat. Try this one in “Mild” for an equally hearty meal.

I grew up on these noodles, and while I never knew what to call this ramen in English, I could spot them from a mile away thanks to the doll on the packaging. My mom always called them “doll noodles” in Cantonese. While Nissin is a Japanese company, the Sesame Oil flavor is popular in Hong Kong, and is on the mild end of the spectrum. This packet boasts a satisfying umami flavor and soft, silky noodles. It serves as a great, more neutral base if you want to add more seasoned meat or vegetable toppings.

Same doll, different flavor. The chicken variety is also a childhood favorite that makes for a lighter broth with a touch more salt.

Hailing from Bangkok, MAMA Noodles are a bit closer in convenience to Cup Noodles. Instead of needing to cook noodles first in a rolling boil, you can simply place the uncooked noodles in a bowl, sprinkle the powder seasoning on top, pour boiling water straight into the bowl, and cover. In minutes, your ramen is ready to eat. And the best part? You aren’t compromising any flavor for convenience.

For a thicker broth, try Sapporo Ichiban’s instant rendition of tonkotsu ramen. The opaque soup makes for an ultra-comforting midnight snack. I love biting into the little sesame seeds sprinkled throughout. This ramen is also on the more mild, neutral side, so it serves as a great base for plenty of toppings.

Korean Paldo Bibim Myun is perfect for warm summer nights. These noodles are cooked then rinsed with cold water and tossed in a sweet-spicy sauce. Serve cool or at room temperature and top with thinly sliced raw or pickled vegetables.

Get mi goreng, a spicy stir-fried noodle dish from Indonesia, in a flash thanks to beloved Indomie. Cooked noodles are doused in a thick sauce – and better topped with a poached egg – for the ultimate midnight snack.

As it has been described to me by two Indian-American friends, Maggi noodles are “the literal best comfort food for the soul. You can eat them for ANY meal.” But before you dive in, know that there are two schools of thought on the right way to enjoy this classic: dry vs. soupy. After boiling the noodles, drain most of the water, then add the powder seasoning for a drier, more saucy meal. Or retain the water, then add the seasoning for a soupier experience.

Regardless of where you may end up standing on this hot topic, fans say you can enjoy the Maggi noodles plain and simple, or embellished with extra Maggi sauce – sold separately.

Also known as “Shin ramen,” this iconic product is currently Amazon’s #1 best seller in packaged noodle soups – and rightfully so. The noodles here are on the thicker side, and higher in quality (they’ve got more of a bite to them). Plus, the seasoning powder makes for a flavor-packed broth. The packet also includes dehydrated vegetables and mushroom bits that bloom when cooked, so you’re getting a bit more than just broth and noodles.

One warning, however: Shin ramen is not for the faint of heart. It’s spicy as heck! (I admit to tearing up here and there when I scarf it down.) If you’re trying it for the first time, test with a small spoonful of broth before diving in. If it’s too spicy, just add some hot water to dilute the fiery mixture.

If you watched this year’s Oscar-winning movie, Parasite, this instant ramen combination might ring a bell. In the movie, the dish is translated in English to “ram-don,” but no one, including Chung-sook, the housekeeper tasked with cooking it, knows what that actually is. After some sleuthing, the internet deduced that “ram-don” is actually just “Chapaguri” – a “real,” existing and popular dish – topped with hanu, an incredibly expensive Korean cut of steak, in the same league, and perhaps even more expensive, than Kobe.

Cited by K-Pop stars, like G-Dragon of ultra-popular boy band Big Bang, as a late night favorite, Chapaguri is a mixture of two instant noodles: Chapagetti and Neoguri. Both noodles are cooked and tossed in the black bean paste included in the Chapagetti, while a portion of the Neoguri powder (roughly one half of the packet) is added to the mix to ultimately make for an indulgent, super savory no-broth ramen.

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