What 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).
What are the types of noodles of
Instant noodles can be categorized into bag-type and cup-type noodles based on packaging. Depending on the blade of the noodle-making equipment, the noodles have different shapes such as square or round, each with a different texture. In addition, instant noodles are categorized into two types, “fried noodles” and “non-fried noodles,” depending on dehydration method.
1. 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 2-6% level, and pregelatinization is accelerated in this process. Fried noodles are porous and reconstitute easily in hot water, allowing people to enjoy the unique flavor and texture of instant noodles.
2. 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.” Non-fried noodles allow people to enjoy texture and taste like that of noodles served in ramen restaurants.
What kinds of additives are used for
Listed below are typical additives used in noodles.
Noodle quality improver:
Used to enhance the noodle texture and elasticity as well as flavor. Kansui is used to give the noodles unique features of Chinese noodles.
Used to increase viscosity and smoothness. Algin acid and pectin, etc., extracted from seaweeds, beans, apples, oranges are used as viscosity stabilizers.
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, caramel coloring gained by heating saccharides such as glucose and sugar, and carotene extracted from carrot are used.
What 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 standardized and certified as a food additive.
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.
How many calories does
a serving of instant noodles have?
Generally, one serving of instant noodles has 300-500kcal.
Just for the reference, the daily energy requirement is said to be 2,600-2,700kcal for an adult male and 1,950-2,050kcal for an adult female*2.
*2 Adults aged 18-64. Dietary Standard for the Japanese, 2020 (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan)
Why 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.
1 Dehydration process
Noodles, seasoning powder and garnishes are dehydrated, keeping moisture content at a low level to suppress the propagation of microbes. To prevent deterioration of liquid soup and garnishes with high moisture content, they go through high-temperature treatment before and after packaging.
2 Fat antioxidant
Raw materials such as 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, vitamin E and other substances with antioxidant effect are added to suppress quality deterioration resulting from oxidation of oil and fat.
3 Bacteriostatic effects by high-temperature treatment, water activity, and pH control
Liquid soup and such with a high level of moisture content may go through high-temperature treatment before and after packaging, condensation, or added with salt, sugar and such to keep down water activity and improve preservability. Also, pH control and addition of alcohol are performed for bacteriostatic effect.
4 Examination of packaging materials
To improve preservability, the packaging materials used for instant noodles are high in blocking performance against humidity, oxygen, light rays and durable.
What 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 three points and store it at room temperature.
1. Keep out of direct sunlight
2. Keep out of humidity
3. 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.
How is oil and fat controlled?
Oil and fat works as a heating medium in the dehydration process and gives fatty acid necessary for the human body. Oil and fat also plays an important role by enhancing flavor. 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 and other vegetable oils are commonly used to fried noodles. To keep the oil absorbed by noodles fresh, the production process is strictly controlled as explained below.
● Control the frying oil temperature at 140-160˚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 after frying.
● Add Vitamin E etc. 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 properly controlling oil and fat.
What 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 etc.
Processed seasoning: extracts and powders of meat, seafood, vegetables, etc.
Spices: pepper, allspice, bay leaf, garlic, red pepper, etc.
How seasonings (powder-type soup seasonings)
in attached sachet are made?
Shown below is the process of producing seasonings (powder-type soup seasonings) in attached sachet.
Paste-like materials and liquid materials such as 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.
5. 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.
How 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 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 vegetables and materials rich in protein.
Garnishes are controlled in accordance with, size, weight, moisture content, water activity, microbe, resiliency as well as color, appearance, flavor, foreign matters.
Do instant noodles have
good nutrition balance?
Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the three major nutrients necessary for producing energy and staying healthy. Instant noodles contain a good balance of these three major nutrients.
Although instant noodles are tasty as they are, taking a bit of extra effort can improve nutrition balance and make them even more flavorful. They can also be enjoyed together with one’s favorite toppings such as vegetables, egg, and meat.