[Contents updated on January 25, 2018]
You must have encountered one of those “Fire Noodle Challenge” videos while surfing the web. Buldak Bokkeum Myun, which is commonly referred to as Fire Noodle, is an instant noodle product from South Korean food retailer Samyang Food. As they’re notorious for its insane spicy level, challengers across the globe, including those from BuzzFeed and Thrillist, tried the ramen and shared their painful moments, which went viral for quite a while.
Most of the flavors used in Fire Noodle Challenge videos are either the original or the “Nuclear” one, which claims to be twice as spicy as the original. Due to their global popularity, Samyang Food made more varieties of Buldak Bokkeum Myun and here, we tried all five flavors in the market, excluding two limited edition flavors: the “nuclear” one and the seasonal “cold noodle” flavor. Unfortunately, most flavors were available as a 4-pack and I had no guts to finish all 20 packets before their expiration dates, so I tasted the cup noodle versions for three flavors.
The original flavor comes with a noodle block and two small packets, one for the sauce and another for the seaweed and sesame toppings to be sprinkled on top of the noodle. I personally didn’t think the topping does anything to the taste, except that it makes the ramen look less harmful.
I haven’t noticed the sweetness of this flavor previously, but as I compared it to the following flavor side by side, the sweetness really stood out. Thanks to this, you can endure the spiciness, until it kicks in once after you swallowed the noodle.
Tastes so much better with a fried egg on top.
This one was originally released for the export purpose targeting the Chinese market only, but as it went viral on social media, Samyang recently released in Korea as well.
I was reluctant to try this flavor because of rumors that it’s the spiciest flavor. Apparently, however, it’s just as spicy as the original flavor (I think it’s for the numbing Sichuanese pepper that made the rumor grow).
The smell of Sichuanese pepper is very distinctive, noticeable even while you’re cooking it. Compared to the original flavor, the Mala one lacks the original’s sweetness. However, it doesn’t have the delayed spiciness that remains in your mouth for a long time. If you like Sichuanese food, you will find this flavor attractive.
Tang refers to soup-like dishes in Korean cuisine. As its name implies, this flavor is cooked with broth, unlike all the other flavors.
This one comes with two sauce packets, both of which are to be added when the noodle is all cooked. The liquid sauce tastes similar to the red sauce in the original flavor. What distinguishes Tang from other flavors is the powder sauce, which gives a rich taste in the broth.
Also, the noodle used for Tang flavor is noticeably thicker than others, which I think goes well with the broth. The broth grows thicker and stickier even while you’re eating it, because of the potato starch contained in the noodles – which is good, except that the broth will be almost gone when you’re only halfway done with the ramen.
If the Mala flavor targets the Chinese market, I guess this one is for the Indian market. I don’t have much to say about the curry flavor because it blended flawlessly.
In terms of the spicy level, I think it’s not as harsh as the original one. Highly recommend this for leisure, not for a challenge.
I guess Samyang released it because so many people cook Buldak Bokkeum Myun with eggs or cheese on the top, but it was a huge mistake.
The cheese powder used in it is way too sweet (it tastes just like the one used in Ritz cheese sandwich crackers) and it hardly blends with the ramen. If you want the taste of cheese in your fire noodle, please add a real cheese to the original one instead of eating this.
Just like cheese, adding cream to Buldak Bokkeum Myun is a popular way to make the notorious ramen more enjoyable. This newly released limited edition, which was released to celebrate the sales of 1 billion units of Buldak Bokkeum Myun, appears to be created based on the popular recipe people use to ease up the spiciness – Buldak Bokkeum Myun Carbonara.
Similar to the Cheese flavor mentioned above, this product contains two packets of sauces – one liquid and one powder. The powder adds a creamy flavor to the spicy ramen. Although Carbonara and Cheese flavors look similar to each other, the Carbonara one somehow tastes like an enhanced version of the former dishonor.
It has the similar level of sweetness to Cheese flavor, but without the disturbing pseudo-cheese taste, the ramen tastes much better. The decreased level of spiciness also helps one enjoy the product more pleasantly.
Spicy Level: Original = Mala > Tang > Curry > Cheese = Carbonara
Taste: Tang > Carbonara > Curry > Original > Mala > Cheese
Extra – Fire Noodle Almonds
The Mala flavor was available online only, so I visited Samyang Food’s website, where I found this interesting product.
When I first tried it, it was after I’ve tasted all the Buldak Bokkeum Myun, so I thought it wasn’t spicy at all. However, when I had the remaining last night as I was looking for some nibbles for beer, it caught me off guard.
Each almond is coated with a glaze of spicy sauce, which is not as spicy as the ramen but still pretty distinctive. The spiciness of Fire Noodle and almonds go unexpectedly well.
By Heewon Kim