When you’re hungry and can’t be bothered to cook, ramyeon (라면, instant noodles) is the way to go. Last year we took a look at the top 10 bestselling Korean ramyeon brands, but many newcomers have popped up since then and have proven to be fierce competition. Although the much hyped Shinramyeon Black (신라면블랙) flopped and production was cancelled, the other newly launched brands flew off the shelves, hardly being able to meet demand. Unlike the beef based spicy red soups of the established brands, most of the new contenders have clear chicken based soups which appealed to the market that was craving for something new.
Here is an introduction to the current most popular:
Kokomyeon (꼬꼬면) started the new revolution of clear broth ramyeon. The ramyeon was created by the famous comedian Lee Kyunggyu (이경규) on a TV ramyeon cooking contest. One of the judges, the marketing manager of a major ramyeon company, immediately recognized its potential and made a deal with the comedian and the ramyeon was born.
Koko is the onomatopoeia of the sound a chicken makes – the hen – and can also mean the chicken itself, thus it is no surprise that the ramyeon soup is chicken based. Lower in sodium compared to the beef based ramyeon, the soup also has a hot spicy kick due to the inclusion of the famous Cheongyang chili pepper, so it doesn’t taste like bland chicken soup. Because the soup is quite light, the amount of water to add should be less than average; otherwise the broth will turn out watery.
Just as Kokomyeon was taking over the ramyeon market by storm, Nagasaki Jjampong (나가사끼 짬뽕) jumped right in and quickly took the lead. Based on the famous champon of Nagasaki, the ramyeon’s soup is made of pork and seafood. Although the broth is clear, it has a deeper flavor than Kokomyeon. The ramyeon also includes Cheongyang chili pepper in a quite strong dose – my dad was reported to have had a coughing fit when he first tasted it. (And he’s Korean!) Many people like adding extra seafood for a more complex taste.
It’s the jjampong craze! Amidst the “white soup” ramyeon invasion, Rice Noodle Jjampong (쌀국수짬뽕), with the no nonsense name, has stuck to the “red soup” formula but with a different approach to the noodles, which are made from rice. The noodles are clear and flat like most rice noodles and mix well with the pork and seafood based broth. Red chili oil and capisucum powder gives the ramyeon its hot spicy taste without being overpowering.
It was bound to happen. Someone was going to name a noodle product Hururuk (후루룩, slurp) sooner or later. Hururuk Kalguksu (후루룩 칼국수, knife noodles) is a chicken soup based ramyeon modeled after traditional knife noodles. Knife noodles are called that because they are sliced into noodle strips from flattened and folded dough sheets with a knife. They are the epitome of homemade noodles and are usually served in a clear broth. The ramyeon has flat noodles like the traditional version and also added Cheongyang chili pepper for a light kick.
Usually the frontrunner of mild tasting ramyeon, Ottogi launched its chicken and seafood based clear soup ramyeon Gisumyeon (기스면) by employing Park Yu Chun (박유천) of the K-pop boyband JYJ as the product’s spokesmodel. Needless to say, sales have skyrocketed and thanks to its “double soup” of chicken and seafood, it offers a slightly deeper taste than the regular chicken based ramyeon. Of course, this ramyeon also has a light touch of the Cheongyang chili pepper to balance out the savoury taste.