Bengaluru Warms Up To A Bowl Of Spicy Ramen
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Our undying love for Maggi noodles is no secret, but when did we fall for ramen? The curious rise in popularity of the Japanese noodle soup is taking many by surprise. Distinctly different in taste from the regular bowl of comfort food, ramen is spicier and available in wide varieties. Blame the Korean wave or the fact that more people spent time in the kitchen during the lockdown period, Bengaluru saw demand for ramen shoot up like never before in recent months. So much so that from occupying only a small part on the shelf, retail stores now have an entire section dedicated to line up packets of ramen.

Bengalurean Sheryl Mariam Zachariah, who confesses to be a die-hard fan of Korean pop culture, loves her bowl of Nongshim Kimchi Ramyun Noodles. “These are essentially dry noodles that expand when put in hot water. It’s spicy and the taste is out of the world. I like it with an egg on top that kind of mildly boils along with the noodles while cooking. This is the best comfort food one can ask for on a hectic work day,” she says. Her fondness for ramen grew even more after savouring a scene on noodles in the Oscar-winning 2019 Korean thriller film Parasite.

Now home to a lot of people from the country’s northeastern part, Bengaluru has also warmed up to the region’s typical taste palate, which is often characterised by a high threshold for spices. According to Chinaoshim Hongva, who runs the Seven Sisters Northeast Store in the city, packets of 2x and 3x spicy ramen noodles are just flying off the shelves. “The lockdown cooking trends may be the reason behind the increased demand for ramen during the pandemic. Social media, particularly Instagram reels and YouTube videos, encouraged people to try out the spicier versions of noodles, and now they are loving it. The huge popularity of Korean products among those in the age group of 15 to 25 years also has a strong influence on the demand for ramen,” he explains.

Adding to that, Swasti Agarwal - F&B Strategist at Foodhall - says, “We saw a 20% year-on-year growth in demand for the noodles in the Ramyun category. A bowl of instant noodles has been the go-to snack option for many to satisfy their hunger pangs in between office work and household chores. But people are bored of the same old instant noodles and want variety. That’s when the spicier variants took precedence. These are a great option for occasionally pleasing your taste buds and are perfect for those who enjoy spicy food.”

Traditionally, ramen is served in a meat or fish broth and flavoured with soy sauce with toppings that include sliced pork, dried seaweed, menma and scallions. This dish’s primary component is the Chinese-style wheat noodles. It is believed that ramen was introduced to Japan in the 1660s by Zhu Shunsui, a scholar who served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni after he became a refugee in Japan to escape Manchu rule and eventually became the first person from Japan to eat ramen. Roughly translating to ‘pulled noodles’, the term ramen was borrowed by Japan from Mandarin Chinese.