Noodle Tuesday: We Try 8 Instant Noodles Under $4

We raided the instant-noodle aisle of Don Quijote for a variety of bowls that make great on-the-go lunches for today's office workers.

At some point in the past 10 years, instant noodles went from cheap, easy meals to sophisticated bowls of glory. Gone are the days of shaking flavor packets over crunchy, dehydrated ramen for a playground snack. We recently raided the instant-noodle aisle of Don Quijote for a variety of bowls that make great on-the-go lunches for today’s office workers. While most still aren’t exactly healthy, many have more complexity and are much tastier, for less than $4 apiece.


We tested two kinds of instant noodles: those you can make simply by adding hot water, and those that are fresh and need to be microwaved. Everything we tried was ready within three minutes. Not surprisingly, the fresh noodles tasted great and had the best texture. Here are the notable noodles, from our least to most favorite.


8. Oh! Ricey Pho Ga and Pho Bo

Oh! Ricey Pho Ga and Pho Bo


The rice noodles in this bowl are slippery, tender things, thin and easy to slurp. And while we were a bit put off by the artificial chicken and beef flavors (what are they?!) and wheat protein that resembles meat cubes, the mild spices and added oil packet make it almost like real pho, and the sodium level is relatively low, at 40 percent of the recommended daily intake. Do yourself a favor and add fresh veggies and hot sauce for a more complete meal. $1.39.


7. Menraku Japanese Ramen “Miso”

Menraku Japanese Ramen Miso


Avoid this bowl if you’re concerned about blood pressure—there are 2,240 mg of sodium in it, or 93 percent of the recommended daily intake. That being said, if you love Nissin Top Ramen, here’s a jazzed-up version that you don’t need a stove to make. It still tastes like instant noodles and gave us tummy aches, but, hey, there’s corn in it, and it’s vegetarian. $2.59.


6. Myojo Ippei-chan Yakisoba

Myojo Ippei-chan Yakisoba


 This one’s not exactly soup, but with skinny noodles soaked in Worcestershire sauce, peppered with cabbage and coated in a creamy mustard-mayonnaise, this is a filling, flavorsome meal well worth the cost. The package even comes with drainage holes for the cooking water, so you don’t have soggy noodles. $2.49.


5. Myojo Seafood Tonkotsu

Myojo Seafood Tonkotsu


The Myojo brand really nails instant noodles. This is the first bowl we tried with fresh, shrink-wrapped noodles, and the difference was striking. The aroma from the soup’s pork base and bonito powder, plus an additional small spice packet to kick it up another notch, is mouthwatering. The only thing these udonlike noodles could use is some meat. $2.29.


4. Shirakiku Sanukiya Soba

Shirakiku Sanukiya Soba


A mild soy, bonito and anchovy broth complements soba noodles, which we’d never seen in instant form before, but which hold up well. $2.99.


3. Shirakiku Sanukiya Fresh Spicy Ramen

Shirakiku Sanukiya Fresh Spicy Ramen


Surprisingly, this ramen contains no MSG, but it does have 2,260 mg of sodium. That’s 94 percent of your recommended daily intake. Make sure to have a tall glass of water to wash these noodles down—you’ll need it for the spice, too. The fresh noodles in this bowl are far superior to Menraku’s dehydrated ramen, and the packets contain bits of shiitake mushrooms and dried fishcake. $2.99.


2. Shirakiku Sanukiya Udon

Shirakiku Sanukiya Udon


We tried both the regular and katsuo flavors from this brand, and we may have had trouble keeping ourselves from drinking the rich broth after we slurped down all the noodles. Fishcake and bonito flakes in the katsuo bowl make it more filling, and the red pepper adds a nice spiciness. $2.99.


1. JFC Japanese Style Noodle Soup, Curry Flavor

JFC Japanese Style Noodle Soup, Curry Flavor


Thick, chewy noodles are bathed in a smooth, full-bodied soup. Curry is a great choice for instant noodles, with the strong, flavorful spices maintaining freshness, even in dried-powder packets. $3.79.