Q1What is instant noodle?
According to the CODEX*1 STANDARD FOR INSTANT NOODLES, "the instant noodle may be packed with noodle seasonings, or in the form of seasoned noodle and with or without noodle garnish(s) in separate pouches, or sprayed on noodle and ready for consumption after dehydration process." Instant Noodle is defined as "a product prepared from wheat flour and/or rice flour and/or other flours and/or starches as the main ingredient, with or without the addition of other ingredients. It may be treated by alkaline agents. It is characterized by the use of pregelatinization process and dehydration either by frying or by other methods."
*1 International food code developed jointly by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Q2What are the types of noodles of instant noodles?
Instant noodles are categorized into two types, "Fried noodles" and "Non-fried noodles," depending on dehydration method.
- Fried noodles
Noodles in a metal mold are fried in the oil at 140-160˚C for a minute or two. Moisture content of the dough is reduced from a 30-40% level to a 3-6% level, and pregelatinization is accelerated in this process.
- Non-fried noodles
This is literally noodles that are not fried in oil. Noodles in a metal mold are put into an air-drier and dehydrated with hot air at approximately 80˚C for more than 30 minutes. The noodles made with this method are "air-dried noodles."
Other than the above mentioned, "Raw-type instant noodles" are steamed noodles which are sterilized with organic acid (mainly lactic acid, citric acid, acetic acid, malic acid, etc.).
Between fried and non-fried noodles, remarkable differences lie in moisture- and fat- contents. Fried noodles have significantly less moisture content than non-fried noodle. On the other hand, when it comes to fat, one serving of fried noodles typically contain approximately 20g of fat, while non-fried noodles only contain 4-6g or one-fourth of fat, because they are not fried in oil.
Q3What are the components of instant noodles?
The main components of instant noodles are protein, fat, carbohydrate, woodash, moisture, etc. The largest portion is carbohydrate, which accounts for 60g per 100g of instant noodles. It is because the main material of noodles is wheat flour. 8.4-10.7g of protein and 4.6-7.7g of ash are contained in 100g of instant noodles. The contents vary slightly, depending on the type and blending of wheat flour.
Q4What kinds of additives are used for instant noodles?
Listed below are typical additives used in noodles.
Noodle quality improver:
Guar gum and Xanthane gum, protein made from wheat and soybeans are used to enhance the noodle texture and elasticity as well as flavor. Kansui is used to give the noodles unique features of Chinese noodles.
This additive is polysaccharide to increase viscosity and smoothness. Algin acid and pectin, etc., extracted from seaweeds, beans, apples, oranges are used as viscosity stabilizers.
Emulsifiers spread oil and fat evenly and stabilize the product quality. Typically, plant lecithin, which can be produced in the refining process of soybean oil is used.
Antioxidants (Vitamin E):
Vitamin E used as an antioxidant to prevent oxidation of oil and fat contained in noodles. This can be produced in the refining process of soybean oil. This is not a preservative.
To maintain noodle color constant, gardenia dye gained by heating saccharides such as glucose and sugar, and carotene extracted from carrot are used.
Fortifier dietary supplements:
For the purpose of nutrient enrichment, the nutrients such as Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, calcium, etc. are added. Instant noodle are often fortified with calcium, a nutrient many people lack in daily life.
Q5What is "kansui"?
Kansui is an indispensable component for instant noodles. Not only does it provide viscous elasticity, it also adds a special flavor specific to Chinese noodles. In China kansui originally meant water containing wood ashes or mineral rich well water, however now it referrers to the water containing one or more of the following―potassium carbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate, and potassium or sodium in the phosphate group. The components of kansui are included in the list A (1), the category of the highest safety, by FAC/WHO.
Kansui develops the flavonoid color to a light yellow. Approximately 0.1-0.2g of kansui is used in instant noodles of 100 g, but 0.3-0.6g in case of non-fried noodles. With alkaline pH value at 7-8, it enhances flavor coupled with soup.
Q6How many calories does a serving of instant noodles have?
Generally one serving of instant noodles has 300-500kcal.
Just for the referece, the daily energy requirement is said to be 2,450-2,650kcal for an adult male and 1,950-2,000kcal for an adult female*2.
*2 Dietary Standard for the Japanese, 2010 (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan)
Q7Why can instant noodles be stored for a long period of time?
Instant noodles are the grand sum of food preservation technology. The measures to improve preservability are as follows.
- Dehydration process and high-temperature treatment
Noodles, seasoning powder and garnishes are dehydrated, resulting in a moisture content of 14.5% at highest. To prevent deterioration of liquid seasoning and garnishes with high moisture content, they go through high-temperature treatment before packaging.
- Water activity and bacteriostatic effect by pH control
Liquid soup and paste-like soup base are either condensed to reduce moisture content or are mixed with salt, sugar and seasoning to keep down water activity value (the level of water suitable for microbiological growth). Also, pH control and addition of alcohol are performed for bacteriostatic effect.
- Lipid antioxidant
Raw materials with oil and fat are carefully selected in view of oxidative stability. To prevent deterioration of oil and fat, they are not heated excessively in processing. Moreover, natural vitamin E, which has an antioxidant effect, is added. Therefore, we do not have to worry about the quality deterioration resulting from oxidation of oil and fat.
- Examination of packaging materials
To improve preservability, the packaging materials used for instant noodles are high in blocking performance against humidity, oxygen, light rays, heat, and oil, and are durable.
Q8What are the tips for stocking instant noodles after purchase?
You can prevent quality deterioration of instant noodles and enjoy their good taste if you keep to the following four points.
- Keep out of direct sunlight
- Store at ambient temperatures
- Keep out of humidity
- Keep away from odorous substances
If you store instant noodles near odorous substances such as "repellent," "insecticide," "detergent," "deodorizer," "cosmetics," etc., migration of odor components could happen.
Q9How is oil and fat controlled?
Oil and fat works as a heating medium in theproduction stage and gives fatty acid necessary for the human body. Also oil and fat plays an important role by enhancing flavor and the sense of fullness. On the other hand, foods containing oil and fat can be deteriorated by oxidation, and can damage flavor and cause nasty smells. To prevent oxidation, oil and fat used in instant noodles is strictly monitored and controlled.
Palm oil, genuine lard, sesame oil, etc., or a blend of them are used to fry noodles. Frying machines are designed so that noodles are always fried in fresh oil, and the volume of oil in the frying tub is controlled to be constant. To keep the oil absorbed by noodles fresh, the production process is strictly controlled as explained below.
- Control the frying oil temperature at 140-150˚C. (The frying oil at ordinary household is180˚C/).
- Minimize the exposure to air.
- Quickly remove bits of fried noodles
- Do not use oxidizable materials in a frying machine.
- Quickly cool down the noodles and oil after frying.
- Add Vitamin E, which has antioxidation effect.
- Use shielding containers and packaging materials to keep out of humidity, sun light, and air.
The "acid value" of finished products is checked as a quality indicator. Like this, good flavor and quality of instant noodles are protected by strictly controlling oil and fat.
Q10How are instant noodles produced at a factory?
Q11What are seasonings (soup bases) made of?
The three types of instant noodle seasonings are powder-type, liquid-type and granulated powder-type. Among them, powder-type has the largest share.
Listed below are main raw materials for powder-type seasoning.
- Basic seasoning: salt, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, edible oil, etc.
- Natural extracts: meat extract, seafood, kelp, fungi, etc.
- Dehydrated powders: meats, seafoods, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, etc.
- Spices: pepper, allspice, bay leaf, garlic, red pepper, etc.
Q12How seasonings in attached sachet are made?
Shown below is the process of producing seadonings in attached sachet.
Paste-like materials and liquid materials such as natural extracts are dehydrated, together with salt, etc. and crushed into a powder.
The raw materials in small volumes such as spices and amino acid are pre-mixed.
The pre-treated and pre-mixed items are mixed with other raw materials. The temperature and humidity of the mixing room are kept constant so that the raw materials stay dry for the next step.
- Subdivided packing
After inspection, the powdered seasoning is put into sachets by filling instrument. (Occasionally, the sachet comes with liquid soup and paste-like soup with fat. Sealing condition and weight are checked.
Q13How are garnishes of instant noodles made?
Garnishes of instant noodles have an important role; not only do they improve flavor and nutrition balance, they also please the eyes.
Typical dehydration method of garnishes
- Hot air
Hot air is applied to fresh garnishes. This is the most common method to dehydrate garnishes, mainly vegetables.
- Vacuum freeze drying
Garnishes which have been frozen rapidly at -30˚C are dried under vacuum. This dehydration method prevents the loss of nutritional value and helps the materials to be reconstituted easily by adding water. This method is used mainly for veetables and materials rich in protein.
- Micro wave heating drying
The microwave heating drying equipment gives garnishes an inner heat, which achieves tissue formation and dehydration at the same time. This dehydration method is often used for eggs.
Retort food is cooked food filled in pouches, which are tightly sealed, followed by sterilization using heat and pressure. The materials are sterilized in autoclave at the thermal death point of heat-resistant spore-forming bacteria. By sterilizing at 120˚C for four minutes or by an equally effective sterilization method, long time storage at ambient temperature is realized.
- Garnishes are controlled in accordance with, size, weight, moisture content, water activity, microbe, resiliency as well as color, appearance, flavor, foreign matters.
Q14Do instant noodles have good nutrition balance?
Many instant noodles are fortified with calcium, vitamin B1, B2, etc., which are necessary for your health. While enjoying the food, you can take in the nutrition of the daily needs. However, no matter what food you may eat, if you eat only that food, nutrition will be ill-balanced. For balanced dietary life, please eat various foods, such as fish and vegetables, together with instant noodles.