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The Asian Noodles Americans Are Crushing on Right Now
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
March 4, 2024

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Americans consume 5.95 billion pounds of noodles each year.

Asian noodles are popular among young adults in their 20s and 30s.

The noodle market is projected to continue growing in the coming years.


Noodles – whether they’re straight or squiggly, thick or thin, served chilled or in a steaming hot broth – Americans are crazy for them. For years, noodles simply meant pasta to most people in the U.S. But lately, our growing love affair with Asian cuisine has delivered a new slate of trendy, crave-able noodle types. Discover which noodles are the most popular and how to incorporate them into your own menus to bring new life to an old standby.

From the intriguing springiness of ramen noodles to the delicateness of rice vermicelli, the satisfying chew of udon, and the playful appeal of squiggly knife-cut noodles, Asian noodles offer a vast range of distinct textures and flavors. Their stories reveal the secrets of their burgeoning popularity and illustrate the diverse influences shaping America’s food scene.

Americans’ appetite for noodles is substantial – to the tune of 5.95 billion pounds of them consumed each year, according to Grandview Research. The report predicted a market growth rate of nearly 4% per year through 2030.

The stunning variety of Asian noodle dishes means that you could easily make a new noodle recipe every meal for a month without repeating yourself. And as if you need an excuse to eat a whole lot of them, March is National Noodle Month. Take the opportunity to slurp all the noodles – from the ones you’ve just heard about on TikTok to those that are already family favorites.

Tracing the Noodle Revolution

Much of the modern noodle mania can be traced to Momofuku Ando, the man who invented the world’s first instant noodles in 1958. His instant chicken ramen was an immediate hit with customers who were dazzled by the magic of a tasty and nutritious meal that could be prepared in two minutes flat.

First celebrated as a satisfying and affordable meal, instant ramen was embraced by college students and budget-conscious families alike. Then, in 2004, David Chang opened NYC’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, elevating ramen to previously unimagined gastronomic heights.

Like most trends, the growing appreciation of ramen and other Asian noodles is being driven in large part by young adults, people in their 20s and 30s who have a bit more spending power than they did in college but are still watching their food budgets. “They wind up eating more upscale versions of the foods they ate in college like pizza and ramen,” Chef Noah Michaels told Symrise at their recent Ramen Invitational. Increasingly fast-paced lives, rising food costs and increased availability of Asian products are also driving the trend.

Diverse Asian Noodles

Twenty years after David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar helped change ramen’s image from a cheap fast food to a trendy food phenomenon, Americans have their choice of a dizzying array of Asian noodle dishes. Influencers have taken to social media to show off their favorites and inspire home cooks. One trend, dubbed TikTok Ramen, has them upgrading instant noodles by adding their own sauces and toppings. Using pantry staples like soy sauce and garlic, the final dish is a piping hot plate of springy, chewy noodles in a savory sauce, reminiscent of Japanese mazemen or Indonesian mi goreng.

And it’s not just super-simple TikTok recipes that home cooks are experimenting with. Rice stick noodle recipes, for example, are increasingly popular. Take Vietnamese fresh rolls or summer rolls. To make them, quick-cook rice noodles are bundled, along with herbs, vegetables and protein, in a translucent rice paper wrapper – a great meal choice for anyone on a gluten-free diet.

Hokkien noodles are another example of a versatile and delicious dish that’s having a social media moment. Similar to Chinese chow mein or Filipino pancit bihon, it’s a stir-fry of thin egg noodles fried with meat or seafood and vegetables in an umami-rich sauce. It can be prepared in under 30 minutes and in just one pan, which makes it a perfect option for home cooks.

Versatile soba noodles are made from naturally gluten-free buckwheat, a superfood that Whole Foods recently predicted will be one of the top 10 food trends of 2024. Eaten hot or cold, soba noodles are a delicious way to enjoy the many health benefits of buckwheat.

Spotlight on Knife-Cut Noodles

If you think making noodles is as simple as mixing flour and water, you technically wouldn’t be wrong. But, as the recent meteoric rise of squiggly noodles illustrates, some noodles are far more than the sum of their ingredients. Knife-cut noodles, or “dao xiao mian,” have surged in popularity since Trader Joe’s began selling a quick-cooking, air-dried version. The style of noodles isn’t new – A-Sha Foods has been selling a version of them in the U.S. since the 1990s – but once they hit TJ’s shelves, the internet was all over them.

These popular noodles are made using a mechanical process, but they’re meant to be eaten like the traditional Shanxi-style knife-cut noodles that are painstakingly made by hand. Trader Joe’s Squiggly Knife Cut Style Noodles, as well as a Momofuku-branded version made by A-Sha, are quick to cook, and they come with their own convenient and easily upgradeable packet of sauce.

The Future of Asian Noodles in America

The wildly popular knife-cut noodles dominating TikTok aren’t just a blip. A glance at industry trends shows that Americans can’t seem to get enough of Asian noodle dishes. Indeed, the noodle market is projected to continue growing over the next few years, largely thanks to noodles’ status as affordable and convenient staples.

So, what Asian noodles are you making next? While you’re experimenting, you can noodle over the fact that Momofuku Ando attributed his long life – living to the ripe age of 96 – in large part to a daily diet of the instant ramen he invented.

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