I am a bit obsessed with instant noodles when I travel in Asia and the 1st place I’d be at any new destination is in the local konbini or corner shop browsing through the local noodle shelves. They would be the first place I visit in the morning and the last place I see at night. As I search for the spiciest instant noodles I can find (or just some tasty local flavours). So naturally, after finding the new Asian Supermarket in Bangor, I have been raiding their shelves for spicy instant noodles which I share here in a handy list of five. Although I’ll probably add to it as I go along.
Making a Meal of It
I do go for the convenience of pot noodles/cup noodles when I travel (my pot noodle reviews here), but with instant noodles at home I can make a proper meal of them. Although I do this rather lazily with easy additions of chopped spring onion, peanuts, and a taste of Lao Gan Ma chilli oil. I also add ramen eggs which are simple to make using soft boiled eggs (4-5mins) bagged in Kikkoman Soi Sauce and left overnight in the fridge. Other toppings that Fanfan would include are fried garlic, beansprouts, and pak choi, although I’m not overly fussed for green stuff.
1. Samyang: Hot Chicken Ramen (2x Spicy)
I’m starting this with Samyang (Korean Ramyeon) as they would likely be the best known spicy noodles worldwide at the moment with an entire range of silly hot instant noodles including Samyang ‘fire noodles’, or ‘fire chicken’ (buldak) noodles as they’re properly known. They are also known for a range of super hot foods including various instant noodles, hot sauces, snacks and even super hot gyoza dumplings. Anyway, the Hot Chicken Ramen (2x Spicy) would be the spiciest noods on this list with a Scoville rating of around 8000 units.
I actually tried these first back in 2014 when they hit the shelves of Asia along with a fair bit of hype around them due to a somewhat viral ‘Fire Noodles Challenge’. And these noodles are hot, they’ll have you sweating, and it is a heat that gets more extreme as you eat them. But they’re not inedible, at least not for those into eating spicy noodles or foods. They are also soupless/saucy chewy noodles unlike the other noodle soups on this list to come.
2. Chongqing Noodles: Spicy Hot Noodles
(I think) this brand is named Sichuan Guangyou 9999, and they appear to specialize in Sichuan noodles (xiaomian) laced with mala spices (chillies and numbing peppercorns) which I have a slight obsession with. Labelled as “Chongqing Instant Noodle”, after the origins of the notorious Sichuan Hot Pot these “Spicy Hot Noodles” are look similar to what many know as ‘Dandan noodles’. The noodles are also “non-fried” “sweet potato instant noodles” which are again completely new to me. And it’s all just very exciting.
Straight off I know these are proper Chinese instant noodles, with no English instructions, so I wing it by boiling the noodles in 500ml of water for 4-5mins before adding the mala chilli oil, and dehydrated cabbage etc. And for me, they’re fairly perfect in both flavour and authenticity of the broth, as these are easily some of the most authentic Sichuan/Chinese noodle soups I’ve found outside of China. Amazing with a lump of Lao Gan Ma. They’re seriously addictive.
3. Nongshim: Shin Red Super Spicy
Nongshim are Korea’s biggest noodle brand known globally for their Shin Cups which are found pretty much everywhere, long before Samyang stole the show. But they are completely different where Samyang are soupless/saucy noodles, while Nongshim, at least Shin Cups, are noodle soups. It’s like comparing Pot Noodles to Super Noodles. And the main difference between the two is that the water is drained from soupless/saucy noodles before the sauce and flavourings are added.
Anyway, something I like about many of these instant noodles is that they are circular unlike super noodles etc, and so there’s no bashing in corners just to fit them neatly in a pan. All noodles should be like this. Then add in 550ml of boiling water, the sauce and dehydrated veg, and you’re pretty much drinking half a litre of seriously hot soup. So, unlike the common Shin Cups, Shin Red Super Spicy are exactly that. They’re super spicy.
4. Nissin Demae: Super Hot Tonkotsu
For those new to Nissin, they are literally the inventor of all instant noodles/instant ramen, as well as the creator of Cup Noodles. They’re likely the most influential noodle brand worldwide with so many flavours on the market that they could easily have an entire post to themselves. But I am yet to find a version of Japan’s seriously spicy ramen bowls such as the mouth-numbing Karashibi, or even a Tantanmen which are the Japanese equivalent to Dandan Noodles.
The closest we have here to spicy instant noodles is a Super Hot Tonkotsu ramen sold by Nissin in the Hong Kong market. And they are fairly standard when it comes to their noodles with fried wheat noodles and a simple stir in sauce. But there is a fair depth in flavour with the almost creamy tonkotsu ‘pork bone’ broth and some fiery heat from the chilli sauce to go with them.
5. Paldo (Fun & Yum): Volcano Chicken Noodle
“That’s Crazy Hot”, “Hot Spicy”, “Volcano Chicken Noodle”, red chillies, volcanos, flames, a crying chicken… I guess these noodles are supposed to be hot. But the word that really stands out for me is curry, as I’d really love to have some curry flavours fused with these fiery kicks. However, no luck, I’m afraid. At least not in the traditional sense of curry. Anyway, this is about the best spicy instant noodles, and I’ll probably come to curry noods down the line.
So Paldo (Fun & Yum) obviously have a crap name, but they are also a knock-off of Samyang when it comes to branding. They have the whole super spicy theme going on, with a sweaty cartoon chicken, and they’re both Korean. They also are both soupless/saucy chewy noodles, with similar heat and flavour. I would call Paldo a poor man’s Samyang Fire Chicken but they are actually more expensive on this occasion. I’d definitely go with Samyang first.
Best Spicy Instant Noodles
I am fairly torn here, as my own preference will be based more on nostalgia from travel and my obsession for Chinese Sichuan Noodles. But it is obvious that Korea does dominate the market for spicy instant noodles, where they seem to have an entire niche dedicated to burning the mouths off people. But personally I’d not go back often with the soupless/saucy noodles like Samyang, having only had a handful in over 5-years of knowing them.
Otherwise it is all about the noodle soups, and, while I’d happily go back for everyone of this list, I have found myself obsessed again with the authentic flavours of the mysterious Chongqing Noodles. And already I have covered the current range at World Foods (Spicy and Sour Chongqing Noodles are awesome) each time laced with the Lao Gan Ma chilli oil. They’re seriously addictive. But China still feels like an untapped market when it comes to instant noodles and one I’m determined to explore.