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These Overly Processed Instant Noodles Own a Piece of My Heart

For Indians across generations, Maggi noodles are an intrinsic part of their masala-smacked memories.
Background image courtesy of flickr user György Soponyai / Composite image by MUNCHIES Staff

Welcome to #NotAnAd, where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.

A week after I moved to Beijing, I commenced the seemingly endless task of moving into my first apartment. After 20 whole minutes of very wheezingly dragging every single piece of luggage I owned up to the fourth-floor walkup, and grimly accepting the possibility of permanent lung damage, I was ravenous. I rummaged through the stash of readymade Indian food my mum had packed into my luggage, and made a bowl of Maggi instant noodles.


The irony of slurping down overly processed, vaguely yellow noodles while surrounded by some of the most exquisite noodle dishes in the world was not lost on me. Not glorious Sichuan dan dan mian, not the “hot-dry” miracle that is Wuhan’s reganmian, and certainly not the ribbony deliciousness known as Shaanxi’s biang biang mian—nope, I had ripped open a packet and eaten a pedestrian mess of artificial flavoring and I honestly wish I felt more ashamed but well, I settled for dragging the back of my thumb across the inside of the bowl to gather every last bit of leftover masala instead. Look, I absolutely adored all the noodle dishes my new home had to offer. But when it came to comfort food, only Maggi would do.

Image via Flickr user Li Tsin Soon

Now I know what you're thinking: it's instant noodles, what's even the tiniest bit exciting about that? But for Indians across generations, Maggi noodles are an intrinsic part of their masala-smacked memories. The Swiss brand Maggi, owned by Nestle, also offers instant soups, stock cubes, ketchup, and sauces. In India, however, it’s been almost entirely synonymous with “2-minute” instant noodles, since they first appeared on shelves here in the early 80s. And because all the Americans reading this are going to be like, “Eh, this is just (instant) ramen, what’s the big deal —hey man, these are instant noodles, yes, but do you guys have this slightly manic, mildly gross, multi-generational obsession with a single brand?


Yeah, I thought not, Josh.

Because despite attempts at competition from other (kinda garbage, imo) brands like Wai Wai and Top Ramen, Maggi surged in popularity and held it. Advertising lore goes that while the first Maggi ads promoted it as a “fast to cook” snack, mothers were ridden with massive guilt because apparently, making their kids these noodles would mean they had put barely any effort into expressing love-through-food for their snotty offspring. Which is why the next wave of ads made a big deal about the cooking process. You saw water bubbling, artfully chopped carrots, and peas being tossed in, the masala gently swirling around the water and the whole panful of goodness reaching a simmering climax. That was obviously a lie because peas and carrots in Maggi are gross, and don’t let the “taste bhi, health bhi” (Full of taste and health!) taglines fool you. Another lie was that the actors never licked the inside of the packet after they poured the masala out—and excuse me, but that’s basically the rule.

The instant noodles started as a treat and bubbled their way into a hardcore staple. You whined and whined as a kid to have Maggi in your school lunchbox; the older you loaded up giant batches of it with cheese for the perfect stoner snack; you could subsist for days on a diet of chai and Maggi, cooked on the hot plate, as a broke student, and that lone shack by the side of the road when you got lost hiking had to have Maggi.


I’ve had in the dead of night, when the bus on a class trip broke down in the middle of the rain-drenched nowhere; I’ve had it in the bitterly cold mountains up north, from stalls set up in ankle-length snow. Anda (eggs) and Maggi, and sometimes a combination of the two in a “Maggi omelette”—these were always-reliable finds for a constantly hungry traveler who sucked at directions.

People sure get creative with their Maggi noodles, as I found on Twitter. “My ex used to make this Maggi where he boiled half of it and deep fried the rest and tossed everything with fried onions and peanuts,” said one. Other iterations ranged from the mildly gross to the truly delicious—involving everything from mint mayo and grated cheese, to bacon jam, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, and crushed Lay’s “Magic Masala” chips. A bunch of people seem to like cracking an egg into the noodles while cooking them and I have tried that but truth be told, kids, that tastes kinda bland.

There were also mentions of a “Maggi sandwich,” an ignominy I once suffered through at a former workplace’s cafeteria. I myself, since you ask, am somewhat of a boring purist. Only a tiny bit of Maggi Hot & Sweet Sauce (no other kind will work, and also I swear this is not a paid article, I just have a lot of opinions) in not-too-soupy Maggi (even soupy vs non-soupy is a matter of great debate) and I'm good to go.

Maggi packages being inspected for lead. Image via Flickr user Nestlé.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the brand in India though. Far from it. In 2015, reports—later disproved—of lead in Maggi surfaced and the noodles were pulled off shelves. The government announced a nationwide ban. After months of court-mandated tests, however, Maggi was declared safe, and relaunched. An e-commerce website jumped in with pre-order deals. I resisted. That would have been a tad extra even for me.


Okay, I lie. The site was all sold out when I attempted pre-ordering.

Some of my snottier peers don’t get it. They tell me brands like Koka taste superior and sure, I agree. But also, that’s not the point. I love the lobster and the black pepper flavors, I truly do, but hey, when you want Maggi , you want Maggi.

When I moved to Beijing from Mumbai in 2016, the contents of my check-in baggage were approximately five-sevenths Maggi. On my first visit home, high up on my list of priorities was ensuring I stocked up on Maggi. When my amazing Indian friends shipped over a massive box of goodies for my birthday, there was—okay, a giant box of condoms because they had completely overestimated my sex life but also, there was Maggi. That’s what I ate (the noodles, not the prophylactics), huddled up and exhausted on the couch after moving day, what I made as hangover food, and what I ate two bowlfuls of when I got home super late from work. And my greatest moment of triumph in my relationship, I must admit, was when I got my American boyfriend to try Maggi. Obviously, like all non-idiots, he loved it. When it’s him making it, he drains the noodles first and then mixes in the masala, like with ramen. I approve.

Try not to judge me—I’m not alone in my love for the brand. On Chinese e-commerce platforms like Taobao, Indian-expat vendors sell packets upon packets of Maggi to the diaspora. The shipping costs can get pretty high though, and my last order took forever to arrive. But as expat journalist Avtar Singh notes, in a column on searching for the familiar through food while abroad, for a transplanted family that has grown up thinking of Maggi as a weekend treat—why not? “If instant noodles makes that family feel warmer when it’s cold outside in Beijing, then it has served its purpose.”