Indomen: Blurring the Line between Instant Noodle and Instant Ramen

INDOMIE: BEST INSTANT RAMEN?

I completely agree that Indomie is the most delicious instant noodle. What surprises me is that LA Times awarded it as the most delicious instant ramen in their Instant Ramen Power Rankings. But I, just like the food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson, don’t care about how on earth LA Times categorizes it as ramen as it is actually instant noodle, because it tastes really good, anyways.

HOW INDOMIE GETS ITS PLACE IN RESTAURANTS

The popularity of the Indonesia’s leading instant noodle brand is probably beyond imagination of its producing company, Indofood, especially the growing amount of “warung Indomie” or Indomie food stalls in the country, simply described as noodle stalls using Indomie as their noodle base.

In the beginning, Indomie stalls were rather simple just like how “warung” should be. Either in the shape of wagon or hut, Indomie stalls serve these noodles exactly the same way as you cook them yourself with very limited varieties, such as additional poached egg, corned beef or veggies. They sell pretty well, though, and suitable for those who want to to eat cheap (Rp. 5000 or $ 0.30 per bowl) with familiar taste. Especially while hanging out in the middle of the night far from home.

Entrepreneurs see this as a great business opportunity. To win the heart of consumers, they create fancier version of “warung Indomie” in shop houses and develop totally brand new soup and spice recipes. Despite the restaurant look outlets, they still call themselves “warung Indomie”, applying the golden rule: using Indomie noodle, no others.

EYE-CATCHING INDOMIE STALL

Not long ago, I was looking for a Japanese ramen restaurant at Kosa Kasablanka, a shopping mall in Kuningan area, South Jakarta. Nonetheless, there was a restaurant on LG floor managing to grab my attention, called Indomen, with its eye-catching design.

indomen

From the font type of the 3D Indomen logo until the use of red and blue colours in furniture and decoration remind me of a Superman comic book. The main counter’s façade is the combination of Japanese ramen shop and local Indonesian “warung” style, shown by the use of wooden counter and colourful stickers of food and drink list with images, that nearly cover the entire windows.

indomen

indomen

There are some interesting parts when you take a closer look at the illustration surrounding the outlet, from local version of super hero until some words of joke or parody.

illustration

Finally, all those unique elements dragged me to Indomen and I officially stopped searching any Japanese ramen on that day.

INDOMIE RAMEN

At first, I assumed that Indomen means Indomie men, or people who love Indomie. Yet, having asked about its frequently requested menu, the waiter simply said, “Indomie ramen.” Ha! Now I get it. Indomen stands for Indomie Ramen.

The ramen version of Indomen is divided in 2 types, spicy and non-spicy. The spicy menus, as usual in many Indonesian restaurants targeting younger consumers, use provocative names, such as “ranjau” (landmine), “nuklir” (nuclear), “gila” (crazy). Of all those challenging names, “ranjau” is the most preferred one because it has everything in it, from chicken chasiu (chicken in Chinese food style sweet red sauce), meatball, chicken skin skewer, homemade chili and egg. There are 5 levels of spiciness, from 1 the mildest to 5 the hottest.

For those who can’t even stand level 1, like me, just get the non-spicy options, such as “telur asin” (salted egg), original, creamy milk and “bakso” (meatballs). I chose creamy milk, which is like the original soup but mixed with milk.

In seconds, I forgot that what I had before me is Indomie instant noodle. The presentation was so Japanese ramen look, from the sliced chicken that tasted like teriyaki, hard-boiled egg with medium done yolk, until the hooked spoon that could hang in the edge of the bowl. The only thing that was absent is the seaweed on the side of the bowl, just like how it was pictured on the menu.

indomie

Basically, creamy milk is the modification of the original version of umami soup with milk and hints of sweetness. It was pretty good, unless you mind the slightly sweet soup, and one of the best sellers for the non-spicy Indomie ramen.

I didn’t think that Indomie noodle will do great for ramen, but in fact, Indomen proved me wrong.

OTHER THAN INDOMIE RAMEN

Suppose you feel like trying other than Indomie ramen, Indomen offers Indonesian style fried noodle, from “sambal matah” (Balinese style chili), “saus rendang” (Padang style beef in coconut sauce) to “keju telur” (egg and cheese). There’s no harm to try the street style rice dishes, such as the customer’s favorite “ayam geprek mozarella” (spicy smashed chicken with mozzarella cheese) and some toast bread, where ovomaltine cheese oreo is the most preferred one.

Customization of existing dishes are possible, thanks to the additional topping options, from sunny side up, “rendang”, “sambal matah”, to cheese starting from Rp. 5800
($ 0.45) per plate.

What if heavy meals are not your choice? No worries. Light snacks, from “sate taichan” (chicken skewers), chicken skin skewers, popcorn chicken, french fries to calamari fritters are available. Even some are served with choice of flavours, such as chili, mozarella cheese and barbecue.

LYCHEE YAKULT

lychee yakult
lychee yakult
lychee yakult
take the Yakult bottle off and pour it on your drink

It is pretty common that Yakult, the Japanese probiotic milk drink brand, becomes one of the main mocktail ingredients, and Indomen is not an exception. My favorite Yakult drink concoction is lychee, as it brings refreshing and sweet taste simultaneously, harmoniously. It costs me Rp. 24.800 ($ 1.50) per glass and I think it’s worth it.

There are 12 categories of drinks you can choose, among others fresh juices, local tea, Italian soda, Yakult and sparkling soda, starting from Rp. 9800 ($ 0.70).

indomen
drink illustrations

INDOMIE SHOULD BE AFFORDABLE

The other golden rule of “warung Indomie”, no matter how you want to bring it to the next level, is this: it has to be affordable!

indomen
eye-catching menu cover design

I spent about Rp. 60.000 ($ 5) for creamy milk Indomie ramen and lychee Yakult, which is still considered normal in shopping malls, but a bit pricey for instant noodle. FYI, Indomie ramen is the most expensive menu at the restaurant, which is almost Rp. 30.000 ($ 2) per portion. Other than that, you can get the lowest main course starting from Rp. 12.800 ($ 0.90), like the original fried Indomie. Thus, you can have it your way to reach your budget.

Overall, the experience I got at Indomen opens my mind that creativity is endless and rules are made to be broken. Nothing wrong with Japanese ramen made of Indonesian instant noodle. If it’s mouthwatering, so what?