We Tried 5 Random Instant Ramens from H Mart in Kaka‘ako
Inspired by BTS’ love of instant ramen, we grabbed from H Mart’s endless selection. Here are our reviews.
A few months ago my daughter insisted I listen to BTS’ upbeat, get-on-your-feet “Permission to Dance”—she knew I would love it, and I did. I wiggled and jiggled my butt to this smash hit every morning; I still do. And I started watching BTS’ reality shows. The band members are humble, lovable and they love to grind—noodles, specifically. The way they slurp with such satisfaction, lord help me, is mouthwatering and sexy all at once. They’re not indulging in Momofuku-level gourmet ramen, these K-pop superstars are happy with the peel the label, add hot water and wait four minutes Styrofoam bowls. That’s how modest millionaires roll.
Inspired, I took my naive self to H Mart and its dizzying wall of shiny cellophane packages with fiery flames and Korean lettering. I had no idea what was inside any of them. So I called in Frolic’s Maria Burke and together we made five random selections. Our goal was to try a range, so we went for spicy (Maria chose a packet featuring an angry bird), pretty packaging (I’m a fashion editor), and different flavors including jajangmyeon.
In the hope this might help any Korean instant ramen rookies—or BTS fans—here are our reviews.
Kiki Taiwanese Barbecue Noodles
Stacey Makiya: This one was for the packaging: Simple, modern and no crazy cartoon characters. But it was a little vanilla. There was a hint of stew-like flavors, blame it on bits of meat. Ruffled noodles helped the thin, brown sauce cling, but there was no umami punch or good amount of heat.
Maria Burke: I can’t decide if I like or dislike these. The texture of the noodles is interesting, fluted on the edges and giving you different textures throughout. The sauce with micro pieces of meat is kind of meh, not a lot of flavor—decidedly not worth the splurge.
$14.99 for a five-pack
Jinjja JJolmyeon chile and vinegar
MB: I just can’t emphasize how eternally, soul-vaporizingly spicy these noodles are for me. No can handle. The vinegar gives it a nice tang and the noodles aren’t spongy, but otherwise all I taste is burn.
SM: What Maria said.
$7.99 for a four-pack
Guava Rice Noodles – Seafood flavor
MB: These are my favorite. The broth is subtle but surprisingly flavorful and the whole thing is instantly comforting. I never knew about guava noodles before trying these; now I’m a fan. Their texture has good give and doesn’t feel instant ramen-y. Overall, this is the only choice that made me feel satisfied.
Guava rice noodles – Anchovy flavor
SM: Yeah, who the hell is going to try guava and anchovy together? Well, this skeptic will say if you don’t, you’re missing out. This 9-out-of-10 ramen was light, savory and comforting. Of course, there’s no guava taste, but the texture of the noodles was like vermicelli. The broth didn’t boast deep flavors, more of a light umami sip that didn’t leave an MSG coating on your tongue. You won’t feel bloated and go into a food coma after a bowl.
Buldak Spicy Carbonara
SM: Fiyaaaah! That’s what my mouth felt like after two bites. This was the one with the flaming chicken. We thought the carbonara inclusion would offset the heat, but nope. When the noodles first hit your mouth, it’s quite nice. Comforting cheesy pasta. Five seconds later, the heat kicks in. And stays. We tried it with a full packet of red sauce, so use less and taste as you go. The noodles had a great chew, and I made it through six bites while fanning my mouth.
MB: OK, really thought this would be my favorite one if it didn’t melt my face off. Creamy, cheesy ramen is like mac and cheese’s more outgoing best friend and I’m into it. I will definitely be back to H Mart to try the regular carbonara or any of the other cheesy options.
$8.99 for a five-pack
MB: This one is for sure the easiest to eat, good ole paper bowl style. Especially because of the deep color of the sauce I thought it was going to have flavor, but alas, it did not. It’s actually strange how much it tastes like nothing. Maybe I just don’t get it?
SM: Why does BTS like this? Maybe it’s like when we ask Mainlanders to try li hing mui. They’re always like, “Why in the world would you eat this and love it?” I thought this one was going to smack me in the face with bold, rich, oyster-sauce zing. It tasted like … nothing. Or maybe like earthy coffee. The noodles were standard. This jjajang lacked seasoning, heat and gusto.