by Jupin Wu & Amelia Tan from WhatIF Foods on October 6, 2022
WhatIF Noodles first hit the market back in May 2020.
Despite the challenges of launching in the midst of the pandemic, we went ahead and 4 different coloured noodles and flavours. Other than being differently coloured, they are also nutrient dense and do not contain the same amount of fat like the usual deep fried instant noodles.
How did we do that?
When we first started, we were already all about asking the WhatIF questions. What makes instant noodles so comforting, even though it contains an average of 20% of palm oil and load of sodium and MSG? Why do some people need to eat these instant noodles every night before they sleep? Why do noodles need to be deep fried? Why do people not like baked or air-dried noodles? What makes instant noodles so comforting, even though it contains an average of 20% of palm oil and load of sodium? It was a constant challenging of assumptions in the industry that nobody really thought of anymore.
When we looked at the instant noodle problem, we questioned, why are instant noodles so unhealthy, yet, more than 100 billion portions of them are consumed worldwide every year? We decided to challenge the accepted industry norms.
Here was our challenge question:
WhatIF we were to “reinvent” the process of manufacturing instant noodles that the world has been using since 1958?
We asked ourselves, why do instant noodles have to be dehydrated using deep frying to extract the moisture? We started looking for solutions in the food industry and even beyond the food industry to find inspiration. There was sun drying, contact drying, fan-drying, oven drying, baking….all sorts of ways that we could get rid of the water in the noodles.
In 2015 and 2016, the air fryer started to make its rounds in stores. Everyone was getting into this cool new kitchen applicance, that could fry chicken without oil, and we knew people that used the air fryer for EVERYTHING, even for frying eggs! And we started to think, how could we build on this air frying concept, make it better, and scale it industrially to air-fry noodles?
With that, we started to tinker around in the lab with a simple rolling pin, and dough, and a bunch of trusty air fryers from a variety of different brands.
We knew that it would not be sustainable to scale it up this way (or we’d be having a factory of thousands of mini air fryers), so we searched for, and worked with engineering partners who were ‘air’ technology experts, who borrowed and combined the best of different drying industries, to create this new Noodle Air Frying Technology, which we then patented!
The best thing was how we could collaborate with many different partners, some of whom were experts in the noodle industry, and some who were experts in other fields, to challenge the basic fundamental assumptions – like what if… we took the deep fryer entirely out? What if we stopped using troughs of oil that would have to be topped up continuously frying dough into noodle blocks?
We also asked, with our new air frying technology, how do we created that yummy fried aroma and sensation, that people come to love and feel comforted with? And we also added on a new innovative process, using all natural ingredients, to help us all get reminded of our favourite fried aromas and flavours, when you cook and taste our noodles.
On top of that, we asked ourselves, what if we make them more nutritious, now that we’ve taken a huge chunk of fat out of the equation, how could we increase the protein content, how could we increase the fiber and satiety (making you feel fuller for longer) when you eat these noodles, so you feel all satisfied and comforted with a bowl/plate of these yummy awesome goodness?
Once we had solved for the technology of how to make the noodles, the nutrition aspect of how to make them more REplenishing than conventional instant noodles or ramen, we also had to think of the REstorative or REgenerative aspects. How do we add REgenerative crops and also keep the chewy-ness and springy-ness of the noodles?
Over the years, we did lots and lots of question asking, and it was a continuous improvement process, but today, we are proud to have these noodles out in the market, because of all the thinking and great minds that went into this! Today, we have production lines that are first of its kind in the world, that no longer deep fries noodles, but yet can create a noodle that still tastes fried, AND is nutritious and restorative to the earth. If you haven’t yet tried it, do try the fruits of our labour!