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Stop what you're doing, this is important: Cup Noodles can soon be safely microwaved


Instant ramen noodles have long been a staple for Americans short on time or cash or just for anyone who likes an easy treat, like me. Nissin's popular Cup Noodles ramen has been available here in the U.S. for around 50 years. And until very recently, I didn't realize I have apparently been cooking them all wrong. The company announced this week, to my surprise and a lot of other peoples' surprise, that a new design will make the cup microwavable for the first time - oops. Here to talk about the big change and so much more is Jon Kung, author of a new cookbook. It's called "Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes From A Third-Culture Kitchen." Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

JON KUNG: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

SUMMERS: OK, we should start by noting that Nissin does say on the old packaging that it shouldn't be microwaved. But be that as it may, I have to know - do you microwave your Cup Noodles in that Styrofoam cup like I do, or are you the kind of person who boils the water separate and then eats them that way?

KUNG: I think there is a little bit of a cultural difference in this way. So as we know, like, the Cup Noodles were consumed originally in Asia, where we have hot water on the ready constantly in the form of, like, instant hot water kettles. So we never actually took the time to boil the noodles. We always had boiling water ready. So I don't think, culturally speaking, we ever really microwaved our noodles over there.

SUMMERS: Do you have early memories of eating instant ramen? Was it a big part of your life?

KUNG: Oh, my gosh, yeah. Every night I used to, like, wake up in the middle of the night and just, like, fix myself up a snack of, like, all sorts of different kinds of Cup Noodles that they would have available over there.

SUMMERS: Jon, I will confess that I am among the millions of people that follow you on TikTok, though I will just say that nothing that I make in my kitchen at home looks as good as when you do it. And one of the things that I really love about your videos is when you started sort of going rogue, putting your own twist on your ramen. When did you start doing that?

KUNG: I just started doing that because I wanted a reason to try different brands and different flavors of ramen. There are brands that are, like, based in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia that produce things like curry flavors or laksa flavors that are, like, really bright and bold and vibrant. So as an excuse for me to just, like, try a new one, I started a series of, like, how to upgrade them on YouTube.

SUMMERS: Give us some examples. How can we upgrade our ramen at home?

KUNG: One of the most basic ways that I like to upgrade my instant noodles is simply just, like, making the broth a little bit more deep and velvety, and to do that is pretty easy. You can add just a mixture of cornstarch and water, and adding that to boiling broth will make it a lot thicker, closer to the kinds that you'll get at ramen shops. It won't be anywhere near as good, but every step closer to that, I'd say, is in - a step in the right direction.

SUMMERS: One of the things I still really like to do is add an egg, or maybe some, like, baby bok choy or something like that. I guess - I don't know if I'm trying to make it healthy, but I feel like a little veggie kind of elevates it.

KUNG: Oh, absolutely - 100%. Whether it be vegetables or - you can use herbs, or you can use, like, aromatics such as scallions, onions, shallots. Those all go really well in there.

SUMMERS: Jon, you are making my lunch and dinner decisions for the next few days very easy. Thank you for that.

KUNG: Of course.

SUMMERS: Jon Kung is the author of a new cookbook. It's called "Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes From A Third-Culture Kitchen." Thanks so much for being here.

KUNG: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMON SONG, "GO!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Karen Zamora
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Kathryn Fox
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.