If you thought the art of cooking instant noodles was a matter of simply reading the instructions on the side of the packet, well, you'd be wrong. Technically, you can just follow the manufacturer's directions: boil specified amount of water, add noodles, add seasoning pack, cook for specified amount of time, eat.

What could be easier?

However, easiest doesn't always mean tastiest, and without complicating matters overly, a few extra steps can make for more delicious noodles.

I'm not talking about throwing away the seasoning and just using the noodles to create a whole new dish. If you wanted to take the trouble of making instant ramen gnocchi Parisienne (which involves mixing together pâte à choux) or instant ramen fideo (where you cook chorizo, mussels and clams with the noodles and serve it with aioli, a home-made garlic mayonnaise) then you might as well start from scratch and make these dishes properly, without the instant noodles.

Instant noodles are "instant" because they're partially cooked before being packaged. Often, the pre-cooking involves frying, and it's usually done in low-quality oil that leaves a residue. To get rid of the residue and freshen the taste of the noodles, boil water, add the instant noodles then cook for about a minute. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot, then add fresh water (the amount called for on the packet), bring to the boil and add the instant noodles and seasoning pack. You need to cook them for less time than specified in the instructions as the blanching process means they have already been partially cooked.

Of course, everyone knows that instant noodles are vastly improved with the addition of other ingredients - some vegetables, meat or eggs, perhaps. I also like to add sesame oil (or a little rendered chicken fat), shichimi (Japanese seven spice powder) and minced spring onions.

When it comes to choosing which instant noodles to purchase, there's usually a direct correlation between price and quality. The ones that sell for 40 HK cents per pack are not going to be nearly as good as the ones that sell for HK$25 or more.

In my experience, noodles produced for export (instructions are printed in English) don't taste as good as those which come in packets bearing instructions written only in the language of the country for which they were made.

My favourite Korean noodles, Shin Ramyun, are much spicier (and a lot more expensive) when made for the Korean market than the ones commonly available in supermarkets. Even if you can't read Korean (or Chinese, Thai, Japanese or whatever language the instructions are in), it's easy enough to figure out. If it says "450" and "3", it doesn't take a genius to know that it calls for 450ml of water and that you boil the noodles for three minutes.


Truc (tryk): noun, masculine, trick, gimmick, device. A French word for a chef's secret.