Ah, the beloved Maggie Mee. Best for late night hunger pangs, fast lunches on busy days and everything in between. (FYI, Maggie Mee’s a brand of instant noodles but it’s so popular in Singapore that we just refer to all instant noodles as Maggi Mee.)
Originally invented by Momofuku Ando to ease Japan’s post-war food shortage, instant noodles have shot to global fame, earning a special place in the hearts of broke students, otakus and time-starved workaholics around the world.
In Singapore, instant noodles is ubiquitous in every household, woven deeply into our social fabric. Everyone has got to have a few packs stashed away in one of the kitchen cabinets — pandemic or no.
But with the state of heightened alert and talks of an impending Circuit Breaker (CB) 2, some Singaporeans are repeating CB 1’s panic buying again. Spotted at a neighbourhood NTUC Fairprice last weekend: Singaporeans carting out packs of Maggie Mee, Nissin, Indomie, etc.
Because why not — another good reason to indulge in a bowl of good ol’ instant noodles, even if we know we are chugging down empty calories with no nutritional value to speak of.
But as we greedily slurp down Maggi Mee, we can’t help but wonder if it’d cause hair loss or set us up for some kind of cancer… after all, it’s common knowledge that instant noodles ain’t healthy.
What’s in Maggi Mee, really?
A closer look at the ingredient label of your Maggi Mee pack will reveal the following (we used the Maggi Mee Chicken Flavoured Instant Noodles):
Noodles: Wheat Flour, Palm Oil, Salt, Anti-caking Agents (Potassium Chloride, Potassium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate), Thickener (Guar Gum), Humectant (Sodium Tripolyphosphate).
If you check out the ingredient label of your instant noodles, you’d know that it’s kinda nasty. The noodles probably contain more chemicals than flour. This is due to its manufacturing process, where chemical additives are added before the noodles are dried and packaged, so it can last a long time. These chemicals are unnatural for our body so it’s harder to digest.
Another well-kept secret in the industry: instant noodles are made by first deep frying the noodles in palm oil at high heat, so they are high in calories, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and sodium.
Now you know why you can literally crunch on uncooked instant noodles right from the packet and it’s actually tasty. Try doing the same with uncooked spaghetti — you’d be able to tell that there’s a whole lot of difference!
The flavor sachet that comes with every pack of instant noodles makes the whole thing come alive. Things like guanylate and inosinate — artificial flavorings — can deliver that shiok umami flavor, but they are also very high in sodium.
In fact, the different types of sodium, coupled with MSG, chalks up to up to 2,000g of sodium per single serving of instant noodles.
A closer look at the ingredients of Maggi’s Chicken Flavored Sachet:
Chicken Flavour Sachet: Salt, Flavour Enhancers (Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate), Sugar, Maize Starch, Flavourings (with Milk & Soya), Chicken Meat (3%), Soya Sauce, Palm Oil, Chicken Fat (2%), Leek, Onion, Garlic, Seed Powder, Acid (Citric Acid), Turmeric.
These “flavor enhancers” and “flavorings” also are chemical-laden and contains preservatives that are difficult for our body to digest and break down because they’re not real food.
Studies also showed that women who eat instant noodles frequently (twice a week) have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
It’s your health at stake here. The next time you grab a pack of instant noodles to satiate those hunger pangs quickly and conveniently, try these to make your meal more healthful and nutritious:
Four easy steps to make your Maggi Mee instantly healthier
1. Toss out the water you use to boil your instant noodles
Because there’s quite a fair bit of chemical additives in the noodles, it’s much healthier to discard the water used to boil your instant noodles and drain thoroughly. In this way, you’d also reduce the palm oil used to fry and process the instant noodles.
So, the next time you get lazy and just slurp up the noodles with the soup you boiled them in, know that you’re basically drinking chemical and oil laden water… and well, that’s just nasty.
2. Cook the broth; add veggies!
After rinsing the pot you’ve used to boil the instant noodles, use it to cook the broth. You’d be surprised how tasty the broth can be just by adding vegetables to water! The key is to add the right veggies here.
Specifically, tomatoes, carrots and onions can give the broth a delicious sweetness that’s both yummy and nutritious. Tomatoes and carrots belong to the red-orange veggie category — which we should aim to eat six servings of foods in this group per week. They help lower cholestrol and improve blood circulation.
Mushrooms are also a delicious addition and must-have in any healthful diet. Rich in B vitamins and potassium, mushrooms are linked with antioxidant and cancer-fighting properties.
Explore adding in your favorite veggies and get a yummy broth that works for you. Tomatoes, carrots and spring onions require a fair bit of chopping though, so you’d need to factor in a bit more time to prep your instant noodles.
Pro tip: If you’re really pressed for time, skip the veggies and the chopping and — try cooking a flavorful ikan bilis broth. Just grab a handful of ikan bilis, throw them into a pot with water and boil for 15 minutes — and there you have it! A deliciously flavorful ikan bilis soup to pair with your Maggi Mee. You can purchase dried anchovies at any nearby supermarket easily enough.
3. Add meat for protein — and crack an egg!
If you can get your hands on fresh chicken meat, try adding it into your instant noodles for a treat. Rich in nutrients and protein, you can also decide to shred it, slice it or chop it up — entirely up to you. And don’t forget to crack an egg into the broth for added protein. It’s also much tastier — eggs and instant noodles are a droolworthy combo, if you ask me.
4. The devil is in the seasoning: toss out the flavor sachets
Whether its Maggi Mee or Indomie, these flavoring sachets are loaded with much chemicals and preservatives (they still need to do their job of making the instant noodles tasty four years down the road). Just read the ingredients and you’d know that stuff’s probably going to harm your health.
A full sachet of premix flavoring easily contains up to 1,700mg of sodium, which is already 90% of an adult’s recommended daily sodium intake. Studies have also linked excessive consumption of sodium to things like high blood pressure and stroke.
And there you have it — if you can’t live without your instant noodles, these are the four ways to make your next Maggi Mee meal healthier and more delicious.
It’s perfectly okay to indulge in your favorite instant noodles occasionally, but if you’re eating them on the regular as part of your staple diet, that’s a recipe for disaster.
So eat in moderation — even amidst a pandemic. Even if CB 2 does happen, there’s always fresh food readily available for purchase at supermarkets. Stay safe, take good care of our health and together let’s be #BusybutWell.
The ach editorial team is based in Singapore and we’re here to give you real tips and resources on how to lead a life that is #BusybutWell. Holistic well-being for the mind, body and spirit is the name of the game. Join our exclusive ach club for a dose of well-being straight to your inbox weekly.