Students discuss the popularity of instant noodles
Instant noodles are considered to be the quintessential college student snack — most have tried them at some ungodly hour or knows someone who has. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, instant noodles were first made in Japan in 1958 by Momofuku Ando. They were called “Chicken Ramen” and were made by dehydrating seasoned, cooked noodles.
Since then, a number of brands of instant noodles have emerged, each with a variety of flavors. First-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major McKenna Ma likes the miso flavor from Sapporo Ichiban, a Japanese-based brand that has more than 10 flavors of instant ramen. Ma enjoys instant ramen but thinks that there is a range, and while some are quite good, others are not at all.
“I don’t like the [Nissin] Cup Noodles,” Ma said. “I think they’re really gross and they put a bad name to any instant ramen. I think instant ramen is actually not that bad, but […] on the spectrum, there’s trash ones and good ones. [Nissin Cup Noodles] are not quality.”
Ma has a seven-day unlimited meal plan at the dining commons, and she said that although there’s technically no reason for her to eat instant noodles, she does on weekends when she spends time with friends who don’t have unlimited meal plans. She thinks that certain instant noodles are both convenient and tasty, which makes them the perfect food for college students.
“I think it’s just so easy,” Ma said. “You literally just need hot water or a microwave, but also I think it tastes good because, you know, MSG. That stuff always tastes good. There’s a lot of variety, so it appeals to different tastes.”
Ma said her boyfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t like instant noodles. She stated he doesn’t like the taste and thinks they are “gross” and “incredibly unhealthy.” His preferred college snack foods are Kraft Mac & Cheese and “dino nuggets.”
“It’s kind of annoying because whenever I make instant ramen,” Ma said. “He looks down upon it and makes comments on how it’s gross.”
For first-year animal science major Mairead Ryan, instant noodles are an easy and cheap way to treat herself if the food in the Dining Commons (DC) doesn’t appeal to her. Ramen is a food that reminds her of family. Her mom would make instant ramen for her and her friends sometimes, instead of taking them out to eat Japanese food.
“I’ve always enjoyed ramen my whole life,” Ryan said. “My cousins in Kenya grew up in the Kibera slums and they love ramen, or Indomie, which is the brand there. It was very inexpensive and a source of sodium which they could afford. They still love ramen and when I go visit, we eat it often. Every time I have ramen I’m reminded of them, and I actually think Kenyan ramen is much better.”
Ryan considers ramen a special treat and doesn’t feel bad about her consumption of instant ramen, because she doesn’t eat it too often and when she does, she generally eats it with some sort of protein or vegetable.
Alternatively, first-year biochemistry and molecular biology major Aparna Manoj treats instant noodles as a guilty pleasure.
“I know it’s not too good to have all the time,” Manoj said. “But sometimes when the weather gets really cloudy or gloomy I want something that’s hot or spicy. I guess I go for it when I don’t want to spend the work to make something — that’s when I usually get [instant noodles].”
Manoj has a five-day unlimited meal plan, so she tends to eat instant noodles on the weekends. She says that she eats instant noodles “fairly frequently” when she stays in Davis, which is generally every other week.
“By the end of the week, I get tired and I want food that’s hot and I can just microwave it,” Manoj said. “It’s all good.”
Manoj also classifies instant noodles as a sort of comfort food. For her, there is more flavor in instant noodles than in much of the food in the DC — and that’s what makes it the stereotypical college food.
“When people go off to college, they need something that’s convenient and easy to eat that also has some flavor,” Manoj said. “A lot of people tend to feel homesick and usually when you’re sick of DC food, [it’s nice to have] something that has a bit more resemblance to what you ate growing up.There’s this combo — everyone calls it this typical college food but ultimately, I think it’s [also] a really strong comfort food.”
Instant noodles are often associated with having monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor enhancer that some consider unhealthy. Some people are not fans of the fact that instant noodles tend to have extremely high levels of sodium, both of which Ma acknowledges.
“Oh gosh, it’s so bad for you because, again — oh my gosh, all the sodium and MSG,” Ma said. “It’s not the greatest, but it tastes good so we put it into our bodies […] we probably shouldn’t be eating as much of it as we do.”
Written by: Anjini Venugopal — firstname.lastname@example.org