Why, Oh WHY, do Asian noodles have so many calories?

Chow Mein pack with hand to show scale (it's not a big pack).
Chow Mein pack with hand to show scale. It’s not a large pack, but bigger than the Indo Mie brand.
This article was updated on May 14, 2014.

One thing I love (one of the only things I love) about living in Southern California is that there are many Asian stores around (restaurants, too, of course).  They are the best places for buying fresh fish, and usually for fresh produce, too (by “best” I mean they have both good selections and good prices).  I recently made a clear broth-based soup with fresh salmon in it after visiting a new Asian market, and it was awesome; good nutritionally and inexpensive (the store I had visited sold bags of salmon “scraps” that yielded a whole plate of salmon after I deboned and skinned it).

IndoMie brand noodle, this one Mi Goreng (there are other yummy flavors, too).
IndoMie brand noodle, this one Mi Goreng (there are other yummy flavors, too).

Besides all the fresh produce, the Asian stores also sell a great array of sauces and cooking aids, teas, and instant foods – like instant noodles – and these can be purchased by the box (if desired).  I don’t mean the cheap cup-o-noodles that can be found anywhere, but more substantial fare.  Some of these instant noodles can be quite expensive, too, but I just leave those on the shelf.  One of my favorites, and my family’s favorites, is Sapporo Ichiban Chow Mein noodles.  They’re not expensive (usually $.68 – $.98 each), but they’re good!  IndoMei varieties, like Goreng, are excellent (and pretty cheap).  Maruchan (and Nissin) instant Yakisoba’s are easily found now in many stores and are pretty good too, and since they don’t require a pan to prepare them they are tempting to us instant-fix sort of people (they range in price a lot, from $.78 [interestingly, at Target] – to twice that much, depending on the store).

Instant (microwavable) Yakisoba.
Instant (microwavable) Yakisoba.

So now to the point.  My son and I are looking to lose some weight and so started investigating calorie counts and all that, and what I’ve discovered surprised even me (I used to do all that diet stuff a lot when I was younger).  The surprising thing I found was that there are fewer calories in many Hungry Man frozen meals than in many instant noodle packs.  Eating a Hungry Man frozen meal also provides more variety of food types, so more nutrients (but, on the down side, more cholesterol, too).  And what’s actually quite annoying is that the manufacturers of the the noodle packs will not admit that one pack is one serving.  The Sapporo Chow Mein, for instance, actually claims to have three servings in it!  When it is cooked it fits in a small bowl . . . yet when you go to an Asian restaurant, you will be served far more than that with an individual order of chow mein.

So why, really, do instant noodles have so many calories?  Well, because they’re FRIED into that brick or cup shape.  They don’t look like they’re fried, to me, so all the more shocking to find that that is where many of the calories come from.  Nippon actually has a page on the process – how it’s done and why.  Nongshim, a Korean manufacturer, claims to produce healthier, non-fried instant noodles.

I hope the table below—providing a comparison of noodle meals with some Hungry Man frozen entrees—helps you out.

Instant Noodles vs Hungry Man.  Chart by author.
Instant Noodles vs Hungry Man. Chart by author.

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If you’re into noodles . . . and seasonings, check out this blog (if you haven’t already):  How I Eat My Noodles.  If you would like more information on real ramen, see Kobi’s Kitchen: Types of Ramen, Styles of Ramen.

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