Following the hugely successful launch of the KiKi brand of noodles in Singapore last year, it was only a matter of time before food distributors started bringing in similar sun-or air-dried instant noodles from Taiwan.
There are now at least four new brands readily available here: Jinbo Selection, Little Couples, A-Sha and Mom’s Dry Noodle. And the word is that more brands are coming soon.
Like KiKi, all these brands tout the “healthier instant noodle” concept, where the noodles are sun-or air-dried. Traditionally, instant noodles are deep-fried.
These noodles are served dry and tossed with a variety of savoury sauces, as opposed to the common instant noodle soup. And the noodles generally stay springy for a longer time, instead of turning soggy quickly.
Other than A-Sha noodles, which are air-dried, the other brands feature sun-dried noodles.
In Taiwan, there are so many brands and flavours available that supermarket store shelves are filled with them. It is common for tourists to buy them as souvenirs.
Even though Singaporeans were introduced to these noodles only in the past year, the response to them has been healthy.
When KiKi noodles debuted last August, they made a splash, with the first shipment of 2,000 packs selling out in just six days. Only two flavours were available then – aromatic scallion and Sichuan pepper.
Since then, about 45,000 packs have been sold, with two more flavours – young vinegar and aged vinegar hot noodles – added.
Ms Sally Tsai, 49, who runs KiKi Fine Goods Singapore – the local partner of Taiwanese restaurant chain KiKi, which produces the noodles – tells The Sunday Times that there are plans to bring in more flavours soon. Other flavours that KiKi produces include beef and mapo tofu.
While KiKi may have been the first to enter Singapore, the originator of this type of noodles is usually credited to established Taiwanese brand A-Sha, which was introduced to the Singapore market a few weeks ago.
Hailing from Tainan in the south of Taiwan, the noodles – produced by a 40-year-old factory using a 100-year-old family recipe – have consistently topped instant noodle lists online.
Ms Gay Buen, 40, managing director of Redwagon Holdings, which distributes the A-Sha brand here, says she felt compelled to bring the noodles to Singapore after tasting them for the first time in Taiwan last year.
She says: “I just loved them. I found the texture of the noodles vastly superior to that of the usual noodles found in Singapore.
“Right now, we offer only two of A-Sha’s flavours. In Taiwan, there are 52. As more people become familiar with the brand here, there will definitely be plans to bring in other flavours.”
Mr Lin Junda, 36, director of Leting Trading, which distributes Little Couples’ Q Noodles here, says the brand’s noodles became so popular that he soon realised his original plan of placing them only in speciality vegetarian grocery stores would not be enough.
Now, the noodles are available across various e-commerce platforms, such as Qoo10 and Lazada, as well as in heartland grocery stores.
Besides the taste and health aspects, another reason Taiwanese sun-dried noodles have become so trendy is social media.
It is not uncommon for people to take pictures of their noodles – along with unique toppings and garnishes – and share them on Instagram.
Just type in the hashtag #kikinoodles and you get 1,700 posts featuring KiKi noodles topped with everything from luncheon meat and prawns to fatty pork belly and sous vide egg.
Celebrity endorsements help too.
KiKi is endorsed by Taiwanese actress Shu Qi, while Mom’s Dry Noodle is promoted by pop star A-lin in Taiwan. As for Jinbo Selection’s Soul Spicy Noodles, the recipe was developed by Malaysian Mandopop singer Gary Chaw’s Taiwanese influencer wife, Wu Sou-ling.
Noodle fan Annabel Lim, 30, loves eating Taiwanese sun-dried instant noodles because they “do not taste that instant”.
The marketing manager has tried all the flavours of KiKi noodles available here and is willing to try other brands too.
“These types of noodles don’t have that plastic texture and taste that I get with other instant noodles. They taste like real noodles from a noodle store.
“Some people eat fast food, but these noodles are my go-to supper after a long day at work.”
Her only complaint is that they do not come cheap. A bag of five KiKi noodle packs costs $13.70, while the other brands average $11 for a bag of five packs.
She says: “They’re yummy, but I cannot have them every day. That would be too expensive.”
This story was first published on The Straits Times.