Chinese Food: The Noodle Pot
Introducing The Noodle Pot
For the uninitiated a noodle pot is a plastic pot of dried noodles, possibly containing some dried vegetables and even some dried cubes of some form of meat (or what used to be meat). The pot will also contain from between one and four sachets of flavouring in either liquid, powder or semi-solid form. Noodle pots are available all over the world, but why is it that this simple fast food is so insanely popular in China?
The noodle pot is to China what the sandwich is to England. If I was to go on a train in England I’d either buy a sarnie or make my own. Likewise if I was waiting at a bus station and I was feeling peckish. In China, replace sandwich with noodle pot.
I have to confess that I’ve never really eaten noodle pots before (the leading brand in the UK is called Pot Noodle). I guess I’d always considered myself above it. I looked upon noodle pots with an air of snobbery. However, that snobbery went right out of the window when I travelled in China. Not immediately I might add but after a few days I jumped aboard the instant noodle bandwagon.
Why are Noodle Pots so Popular in China?
China is by no means an expensive country. However, if you want your comforts like western chocolate bars you’re going to be paying well over the odds – that’s if you can even find them! I recently read that only one Chinese person in every one thousand eats chocolate. Instead, they eat a variety of things that may seem very alien to a western traveller. I’m not going to go into them in this article but let me just say that with the language barrier and the often wholly misleading illustrations on the packets, it’s difficult to quite know what any of the foods are in Chinese grocery stores and supermarkets.
The one item that is clear is the noodle pot. This is one of the reasons I reached out to the noodle pot the first time that I was looking for snacks to keep me going during the day. A second reason was cost. Although I said that China is cheap, the noodle pots are extremely cheap. Normally around 50 cents but often multi-buy deals meant you could walk away with 3 noodle pots for a one US dollar.
The final reason that made me convert to the religion of the noodle pot, and I think one of the reasons why they’re so popular is that boiling water is available for free literally everywhere in China. From public toilets to convenience stores, from trains to buses, from hostels to airports: free flowing boiling water is available everywhere. Although I’m pretty sure that this abundance of boiling water provision is to supply the Chinese peoples’ insatiable appetite for tea, the noodle pot is undoubtedly a by-product that has become something of a phenomenon.
Noodle Pot Fan?
Do you like Noodle Pots?
Now, while I was travelling in China and eating these noodle pots everyday I wasn't really aware of what exactly I was putting into my body. Since being back in England I thought it would be nice to have a nostalgia moment and re-live my China experience - one of the ways I thought I'd this was by having a noodle pot.
So off I went to China Town and searched for a Chinese Supermarket. I was pleasantly surprised to find shelves stacked full of the very same noodle pots that I'd been eating in China. However, the difference was that these noodle pots included an English sticker that had obviously been placed on the container to conform to the UK food and hygiene standards. This sticker included the nutritional values. Let me just say this: It was better when I didn't know! A single noodle pot for one contains a whopping 610 calories! in addition it contains 80% of an adults woman's daily allowance of fat and 78% of an adult woman's daily allowance of sodium No fibre, no vitamins...basically no goodness whatsoever. Made me think twice about eating noodle pots I can tell you!
Do Chinese Noodle Pots Taste Good?
Yes and no. When buying your noodle pot in China it can be difficult to know what flavour you’re getting. Sometimes there’s a picture that helps but sometimes it really doesn’t. I generally tried to remember the colours and designs of the noodle pots liked. I found that some of the boxes had several sachets. Emptying the entire contents into the mix sometimes created horribly over-bearing flavours, although this could normally be remedied by adding more water.
If your taste buds are developed to such a degree that you can recognise the presence of MSG (mine soon developed this ability) then this may be a little off-putting. You can tell some noodle pots have loads of MSG added and some don’t. I was prepared to put up with it as I was only in the country for a month and then I could cut it out. I’ve no idea how many noodle pots I ate in that month but it was a lot! They got me through some long journeys and were always a good cop-out in those times when I just couldn’t be bothered to go through the rigmarole of ordering who-knows-what in a Chinese restaurant.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about the humble Chinese noodle pot. If you liked it then please consider leaving a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page. If you would like to read more of my China-related articles please click on the links below.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Matt Doran