'I thought it was slightly hot with the first bite, but then it felt like my mouth was set on fire'.
Jinjjajinjja Noodle Provided by Nongshim
It was white broth that brought much-needed attention to the saturated local ramen market last year. White broth dominated the shelves and shopping carts in a nation where many people often associate their noodles with a formidable spicy red color.
Upon their release, two dehydrated white soup-based noodles, Nagasaki Champong and Kokomen, changed the map of the nation's ramen market, which is estimated at about 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion). The hype over the noodles seemed comparable to the buzz around the new iPad.
But the new noodle king wasn't on the throne for long. After six months or so, instant ramen eaters started going back to the classics with hot and spicy red soups. Fully operated white soup noodle production lines gradually stopped.
This set the stage for the second round of the ramen war. Noodle makers couldn't let go of their customers and thus came up with conventional red soup noodles - and set them on fire.
Countless postings have already swarmed the Internet about the brand new red soup instant noodles, and the debate is still ongoing as to which ramen is hotter.
The first is known as Jinjjajinjja Noodle, meaning "really, really", from Nongshim, the country's No. 1 ramen maker. The second is called Hot Fried Chicken Noodle from Samyang Foods. They were both released in mid-April and are currently in a heated battle to be crowned the spice king.
Nongshim is still the No. 1 player in the ramen industry with its iconic ramen product Shin Ramyun, but it fell victim to the white soup ramen craze.
The roof (of my mouth) is on fire: Hot Fried Chicken Noodle
The seven red pepper researchers all agreed that the Hot Fried Chicken Noodle, which is inspired by buldak, or heavily spiced chicken, is much hotter than the Jinjjajinjja Noodle.
Researchers said the heat of red pepper paste is categorized into five different degrees: mild, somewhat hot, hot, very hot and extremely hot. When measuring the spiciness of the Hot Fried Chicken Noodle, it almost melted the whole system.
According to Samyang, the official Scoville Heat Scale of cheongyang red peppers is 4,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). The Hot Fried Chicken Noodle is 4404 SHU. The Scoville Heat Scale is a measurement of the piquancy of chili peppers, and cheongyang red peppers are known as the hottest used in many Korean dishes.
"I thought it was slightly hot with the first bite, but then it felt like my mouth was set on fire", said one researcher who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Some researchers said the Hot Fried Chicken Noodle has a similar level of spicy heat to tteokbokki (rice cake served with hot pepper sauce), but they all said people who don't like spicy food should refrain from consuming the liquid seasoning packet.
Unlike most common instant noodles, which are cooked with 500 to 600 millimeters of water, the Hot Fried Chicken Noodle should be cooked with just about eight tablespoons of water, or 120 millimeters. Instant noodles are first boiled with enough water and the cooked noodle is later mixed with liquid seasoning and dried vegetables.
Some researchers said they could taste the rich flavor of chicken as they ate the Hot Fried Chicken Noodle because the liquid seasoning contains chicken stock.
A different spice with a touch of the nutty: Jinjjajinjja Noodle
All researchers said the spicy heat of Jinjjajinjja Noodle from Nongshim falls into the "hot" category. When a packet of ground nuts is added once the ramen is cooked, the spicy heat is downgraded to mild, despite what its title implies (it translates to "very, very hot").
Nongshim says the Jinjjajinjja Noodle is an ambitious product that will become the next Shin Ramyun, but some of the researchers said Jinjjajinjja Noodle is far less spicy than Shin Ramyun.
"I had high expectations about the spicy heat of this ramen", said one researcher. "It says this is really, really hot on its package, but this is not hot at all".
Another researcher said the instant noodle seems to focus on presenting a different scope of spiciness. "It's not tangy spiciness, but it is a kind of long-lasting spiciness".
It was less hot, but all researchers gave high scores to the chewy and thin noodles of Jinjjajinjja Noodle that hardly became soggy due to the noodles being made with a combination of flour and rice powder. Nongshim says the company used about 30 tons of flour to develop the dehydrated noodles.
The fire spreads
Paldo, which saw huge success with Kokomen last year, also launched a new red soup-based ramen called Namja Ramyeon.
"The red soup ramen market has been dominated by Shin Ramyun that was launched back in the 1980s, but this is going to change that", the company said in a recent press release.
Both Namja Ramyeon and Shin Ramyun share many things in common. Both noodles are made with flour from the United States and Australia and they are fried with palm oil. Major differences between the two include how the broth of Namja Ramyeon is more tangy and fiery at first and its noodles are chewier than Shin Ramyun's.
Meanwhile, Paldo has another best-selling red soup instant noodle which is called Teumsae Noodle. Originating from a privately owned ramen restaurant with the same name, Paldo developed the legendary hot ramen into an instant noodle.
According to Paldo, Teumsae Noodle is 8557 SHU, which is about two times higher than Namja Ramyeon. "Vietnamese red peppers are used in Teumsae Noodle because they are much hotter than local peppers", said Lim Min-wook, who promotes the instant noodle at Paldo. Teumsae Noodle also has hundreds of franchise restaurants across the nation.
Source : koreajoongangdaily.jo... ( English Korean )
Subscribe to HanCinema Pure to remove ads (not for episodes) for US$2.99 per month (you can cancel anytime).
The first step is to sign up as a member, please click here : Sign up, then a subscribe button will show.