Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
Instant noodles. The saving grace of college students, commuters, and salt fiends worldwide. Growing up in suburban California, I had my own love affair with packaged Top Ramen and Maruchan noodles (chicken flavor for life), but it wasn't until much later that I realized they were just the tip of the iceberg.
Take A-Sha Noodles for example. Though not the supermarket behemoth that the above brands are, A-Sha is an undeniable cult favorite, with a 100-year-old recipe that owes more to culinary tradition than mass production practices, and partnerships with everyone from Momofuku to Hello Kitty and NBA star Duncan Robinson.
Not only is A-Sha the #1 most popular noodle brand in Taiwan, but the brand’s claim to fame is delivering a much healthier, more nutritious alternative to other noodle brands -- and that's what grabbed my attention. Anything that's healthier and more popular is clearly doing something special.
THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
Good food comes down to good ingredients, and in the case of processed snacks, less is always more. While leading dry noodle brands have ingredient lists that stretch on for days, A-Sha's product is made up of three things: wheat, salt and water. No unpronounce-ables, no artificial flavors, and no preservatives in sight.
Once the dough is made, the noodles are cut into their distinct shapes: tainan (the thinnest noodle), mandarin (a traditional medium noodle), or hakka (the widest and flattest of the bunch). Instead of being fried or frozen, they then undergo a unique 18-hour air drying before being packed with plant-based protein. Clocking in at 11 grams a serving, A-Sha is protein-rich enough to offset any carbophobia you might have.
With all these noodle sizes to choose from, as well as sauces like sesame scallion, spicy fennel and Ma-La chili, the question becomes where do I even start? I know because that's exactly what I asked myself. Lucky for us, A-Sha recently launched its 12 Days of Noodle gift set, a 12-pack of Mandarin noodles with three different sauces, taking the burden of decision right off my shoulders. Into my cart they went -- along with two other best-sellers -- and within a few days, my noodle cup runneth over.
All in, I tried four products: the three Mandarin-style varieties inside the 12 Days of Noodle set (Original Soy, Spicy Soy, and Onion flavors) and the thicker Hakka-style noodle with Chili Sauce ($8.99). Unboxing the gift set was a blast, thanks to the colorful illustrations covering every square inch and the way the noodle sets are packed right to the brim. The side of the package gave super clear instructions, and with a cook time of 3-4 minutes, you can whip up a bowl with a moments' notice.
Though "dry noodle" is right there in the brand name, I'll admit I was surprised that the instructions called for draining off all the liquid and using only the relatively small sauce packet to coat the noodles. Having been used to brothier instant ramen, as impressed as I was with the flavor -- that Chili Sauce packs a punch! -- I was missing the warmth of a good soup.
The great news is, these noodles are incredibly versatile. Once I realized just how much room I had to play around, I started adding them to stir frys, and other leftovers in the fridge to make a more substantial meal. In fact, so many home cooks opt to incorporate the noodles into recipes rather than eating them solo that A-Sha sells several "noodle only" varieties ($18.99/box). But for my money, the sauce packets make a great addition to any preparation, with the Onion flavor especially saving time on mincing and dicing.
Through it all, the hero remains the noodle. Since the recommended cooking time leaves things on the al dente side, every bite has real texture to it. Where most instant noodles are nothing more than a vessel, a bland sponge designed to soak up other ingredients, these noodles have a subtle wheaty flavor that sets them apart. Considering the bevy of other noodle options in Taiwan alone, A-Sha's #1 standing is a pretty ringing endorsement -- and having tried it myself, I definitely see why. With a low price point, almost no effort required, and greatest-hit bundles for the uninitiated, A-Sha makes a strong case for any noodle lover to give them a shot.
5 MORE REASONS TO LOVE A-SHA NOODLES:
- Need Some Inspo? A-Sha compiles crowdsourced recipes featuring the brand’s noodles, so there's no shortage of mealtime ideas at your fingertips.
- Win Big: Just a few years ago, A-Sha landed a spot in the Top 10 Noodles of the World, the only Taiwanese-style ramen to do so.
- Yes, Chef: Celebrity chef David Chang is so impressed with the product, especially his signature collaboration Momofuku x A-Sha, that he serves it in his restaurants.
- Crunch Crunch: A-Sha also sells the perfect companion item, to be enjoyed on its own or crumbled up as a garnish: seaweed snacks. Seasoned with puffed black rice and almond, they're as flavor-packed as it gets.
- Low Fat, High Flavor: Despite how rich and unctuous the sauces are, a serving of A-Sha Noodles is always in the single digits for grams of fat -- usually unheard of in the world of snack foods.