Aubergine

Premium ramen floods LA Korean markets

October 23, 2015
A customer browses the instant ramen section inside a Los Angeles Korean supermarket. (Park Ji-hye/Korea Times)

A customer browses the instant ramen section inside a Los Angeles Korean supermarket. (Park Ji-hye/Korea Times)

By Park Ji-hye

Premium instant ramen is the latest craze in Los Angeles’ Korean grocery stores.

Beginning with Shin Ramen Black, an “upgraded” version of the iconic red-packaged noodles, a series of higher-priced, better-quality products are shedding ramen’s image as the cheapest, but unhealthiest option around.

John Yoon, manager of Galleria Market Northridge, said newly introduced premium-grade ramen have been consistent hits with consumers.

“Increasingly, businesses are including regional specialties in new ramen in an attempt to gain consumers’ trust in quality,” he said.

A brand currently on the market include Pulmuone’s “Nature Is Delicious” series, which offers ramen with 90 percent less fat content than other options.

Pulmuone USA Director Sean Kim said ramen in the series — such as one of its jjambbongs, which offers real Tongyeong oysters — uses quality ingredients for a more authentic taste.

“We’re hoping to get rid of ramen’s image in the U.S., which is as a cheap college dorm food, by also developing U.S.-specific ramen,” Kim said.

Nongshim’s Zha Wang, a jjajang ramen offering thicker noodles, has fast become a market favorite since its U.S. introduction last month.

“We’ve gotten such high interest from Korean Americans here that we’ve doubled our supply,” said Kevin Chang, Nongshim America marketing head.

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