Discussing about instant noodles

A piece of prose

We have been eating medium-rare beef pho, pork leg vermicelli rice, duck vermicelli, etc. for years (since Hanoi had thirty-six streets and Hue was the central city). However, we have just eaten instant noodles for dozens of years.

Instant noodles are the food dehydrated or fried in palm oil and packed (from 60g to 80g) so that it can be eaten after from 3 to 5 minutes soaking in boiling water. Instant noodles were born late, but it has quickly spread and occupied the market. It can be said that nowadays, instant noodle has come to every family and become familiar with everyone. Annually, there are totally 6 billion packs of instant noodles are manufactured in our country with various brands (Hao Hao, Miliket, 3 Mien, Tien Vua, Bo Rau Thom, Gau Do, etc. The most long-lasting one is cement paper-wrapped Colusa which is still favored). There are some figures of 2005 that I have read in the newspapers as follows: Chinese people consumed the highest amount of noodles in the world with 44.3 billion packs in 2005, followed by Indonesian people with 12.4 billion packs/year in 2005, and the third rank was Japanese people with 5.4 billion packs/year in 2005. In term of consumption per capita, Korean consumed 60 packs/capita/annum, Indonesian consumed 55 packs/capita/annum, and Japanese consumed 55 packs/capita/annum.

What are the reasons?

– The first reason is the low price. Except for the more delicious ones at the price of 5,000 VND and 6,000 VND, an ordinal pack of instant noodles is only three or four thousand VND which is even cheaper than a plate of pancake topped with vegetables and bean sprouts or a bowl of bloating fern-shaped cake sold by the street vendors to the free people who have just got up after short naps at noon. This is the current price, but a few years ago, a pack of noodles cost only 500 VND. It is hard to find a food that is not only cheap but also delicious like instant noodles. It is expensive to eat beef pho or pork leg vermicelli rice, so people eat them occasionally just to improve their meals. Fish vermicelli or vermicelli with sour crab soup is also 1.5 or 2 times more expensive than instant noodles with minced pork. Pancake, bloating fern-shaped cake, or bread stuffed with meat are considered to be common, but they are dry and difficult to swallow, especially for the elderly who eat little and often get choked. Therefore, many people have chosen the solution to eat instant noodles which is cheap and easy to swallow as it has both broth and food. After finishing a bowl of instant noodle (the common name for all types of instant noodles), workers, officers, or farmers can feel assured that they have charged sufficient energy for a new working day from the morning to noon. It is not absolutely correct to say that instant noodles are consumed quickly and have occupied the market thanks to the low price. There are many rich people still eating a lot of instant noodles.

– The second advantage of instant noodles which can be seen easily is the convenience. Firstly, instant noodles are convenient to store. You can put them on the table, in the basket, or in the pantry, wherever possible to avoid rats. If the instant noodles are attacked by the rats, it is like uncle Tam Khung of my hometown who is just passing by and invited to the party. Secondly, it is convenient to cook. For those who are busy, just a pack of instant noodles and some hot water will be a fast food. Because it does not take time for processing and people eat this dish quickly to continue working, it is called “mi an lien” (instant noodles). However, this name is less popular than the name “mi tom” (shrimp noodles) which has been so familiar that vegetarian noodles is also called shrimp noodles.

In my life, I have witnessed many touching moments of eating instant noodles. On the day when the helicopter descended down to the bamboo grove and dropped relief supplies to the “oasis” of our hometown (the area surrounded by flood), the people in the flooded houses immediately rushed out and swam along the water swirl to pick up the boxes of instant noodle wrapped in plastic paper. From that day, people in my village ate instant noodles during hard flood days. A large number of poor students who live far away from home have to balance the budget to buy not only text books but also dozens of instant noodles for backup. That is because they have to eat instant noodles as soup on many days, as breakfast, lunch, as midnight supper for overnight studying. Numerous factory workers, retirees (who used to work for leaders) give priority to go to the supermarket to buy a case of instant noodles as soon as they receive salary or pension and say that “salary plan” has been accomplished”. A store owner in a poor neighborhood once told me that instant noodles are sold well during the days close to Tet. Every family bought instant noodles for Tet. There was a family who even bought several cases of instant noodles. She predicted that I would have a question, so she explained that “Because it is the taste of the people here and because they are afraid that stores will close during Tet holiday, it is better to prepare in advance”.

Many refined people like to eat delicious dishes. When they have to eat instant noodles, they process the pack of noodles with marinated pork, spring rolls, parsley, ground pepper, pickled onion, pig bone broth, beef cartilage, etc. As a result, they have a bowl of Hao Hao instant noodles which is so far from its original taste. The original taste of instant noodles has a little shrimp flavor for shrimp noodles, minced pork flavor for minced pork noodles, and beef flavor for steak noodles. In addition to the flavor of pork or shrimp as per the name of the noodles pack, there are also the flavors of herbs, carrot (or potato, peas), salt, and monosodium glutamate in the seasoning sachets, etc. … Vegetarian noodles has different flavors of vegetables such as parsley, carrot, potato, and shiitake mushroom (instead of shrimp, crab, or pork flavors).

When comparing instant noodle with bloating fern-shaped cake and pancake, the “injustice” in the “treatment” of people is revealed. A pack of instant noodles (costing only three or four thousand VND) is manufactured in a hi-tech factory with advanced production lines, has a beautiful brand and elegant packing. Meanwhile, Chung cakes, pancake, bloating fern-shaped cake, etc. (at the same price) are made on charcoal or wood stoves. When the cake is cooked, there is nothing more, except for the tray. It is fortunate if there is a wise and good diner who understands that this is an ordinal food and shares their enthusiasm.

Instant noodles will not be in a fierce competition although there are currently instant Pho, instant vermicelli, instant porridge, etc. I think that the latter ones only contribute to the diversity of instant food to serve the hustling and bustling life of today.

There is a question that what is the most popular food which has the coverage over the whole country? Is it Pho? – Many towns do not have medium-rare beef or well-done flank Pho. Is it vermicelli with pork leg? – No. Blood sausage porridge and thin noodle that is woven into intricate bundles are the favorite dishes of Binh Dinh people, but they are not special in other places. Cao Lau still remains in Hoi An – Quang Nam while Don is still in Quang Ngai, etc. Therefore, instant noodle is the only food that meets the criteria.

H.K. B

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