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The Great Instant Noodle-Off

We made a guide to the best instant noodles in Sri Lanka.

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If you grew up in Sri Lanka, chances are you went through a Maggi phase at some point in your life. If you're a college student who's moved abroad you're probably in that phase right now. It is everybody's favourite fast food here, and once Prima joined in, the supermarket stalls were filled with different kinds of instant noodles to pick from. But how to decide?

Now you have a guide and, honestly, you owe us one. We can't believe we ate all these instant noodles. You can see from the sad to smiley faces below how each noodle made us feel.
# Noodle Brand How We Felt
12 Prawn Prima 1-really-sad-small
11 Kurakkan Prima 1-really-sad-small
10 Cheese & Onion Prima 2-sad-small
9 Masala Prima 3-neutral-small
8 Curry Maggi 3-neutral-small
7 Devilled X-Tra Maggi 3-neutral-small
6 Chicken Hot N Spicy Prima 3-neutral-small
5 Hot & Spicy Prima 4-happy-small
4 Devilled Kottu Maggi 4-happy-small
3 Chicken Maggi 4-happy-small
2 Chicken Prima 4-happy-small
1 Devilled Chicken Maggi 5-really-happy

Really Sad Noodles

12. Prawn Flavour (Prima)

1-really-sad
 prima prawn 1  prima prawn 3
This is wheat flour (most are) with salt, sugar, shrimp flavour (whatever that is) and a bunch of spices. It comes with a dried vegetable sachet which basically adds color. The main thing we noticed, however, was the overpowering smell.

Prima's Prawn Flavour just smells too fishy, and the taste is overly salty and sugary. This made us unhappy. (Rs. 49)

Shifani: "Extremely fishy and gross. No."

Indi: "Smells like the business end of the sea. So bad. Tastes like it smells. Could only have one bite. This actually tastes like a fish market. Which is a bad thing."

11. Kurakkan (Prima)

1-really-sad
prima kurakkan 4 prima kurakkan 5
Prima's effort to feature the noble kurakkan grain actually only lists kurakkan as the third ingredient (after wheat, before red rice). The seasoning tries to village it up with pepper, ginger, chili and shitake powders, but the main ingredients are still salt and sugar.

Prima's Kurakkan smells dusty and strong and tastes mainly of salt. This made us unhappy. (Rs. 55)

Shifani: "Very salty. Smelly. Just no."

Indi: "Smells like the zoo. Tastes like kurakkan covered in salt, which is the worst of both worlds. You get the crappy healthy taste and the crappy unhealthy taste."

Sad Noodles

10. Cheese & Onion (Prima)

2-sad
prima cheese and onion 6 prima cheese and onion 4
Who doesn't like cheese and onions? Sadly this is still mainly salt and sugar with 'cheese flavour' the 10th ingredient and onion the 14th.

Prima's Cheese & Onion tastes barely like cheese and nothing like onion. In the end it was mainly just salty and we were sad. (Rs. 48)

Shifani: "NO CHEESE AND ONION. LIES AND DECEPTION. Also salty."

Indi: "Tastes like salt. No onion, only the slightest hint of foul artificial apocalypse-ration cheese."

Neutral Noodles

9. Masala (Prima)

3-neutral
prima kottu mee masala 2

This does contain masala ingredients like coriander, cumin, tumeric and fenugreek, but for us it didn't quite jive with the noodles. The overall impression was a resounding 'meh'.

Prima's Masala is vaguely true to its name but not overall impressive. If you like these flavors normally, give it a go. It left us unoffended but unimpressed. (Rs. 48)

Shifani: "Undefined taste, MEH."

Indi: "Smells like samahan on the stove. Definitely doesn’t taste like masala. Another taste with no specific character."

8. Curry (Maggi)

3-neutral
maggi curry 4

MSG NOTICE: We'll get this out of the way now. MSG (INS 621) is not bad for you. Countless medical studies have shown that it is safe. And it's delicious. Like anything else, eat in moderation.

Maggi's Curry uses MSG, which gives it a good savory umami hit, but the curry flavors are somewhat unbalanced. (Rs. 47)

Shifani: "Undefined taste, MEH."

Indi: "Meh. Confusing taste. Not curry, not chicken, not carrot. Strange experience."

7. Devilled X-Tra (Maggi)

3-neutral
maggi-devilled-xtra-2-crop maggi devilled xtra 2
You get what it says on the tin here - X-TRA! SPICY BLAST. This is the the most aggressively seasoned packet, including both oil and sauce. It's also the most expensive at Rs. 60.

Maggi's Devilled X-Tra is a strong, spicy and, for us, overpowering experience. If you want the most extreme noodle experience available, this is it. (Rs. 60)

Shifani: "Strong smell. Spiciest. Not so tasty, too much of seasoning."

Indi: "Smells aggressive. Comes on slimy and gross, then a good hit of spice. The spiciest of the lot. Looks like Sri Lankan rock band hair."

6. Chicken Hot N Spicy (Prima)

3-neutral
prima kottu mee chicken 4

This calls itself chicken but there's no real chicken taste in it. It uses MSG (INS 621) to boost the savory flavory but the whole combination never really rises to the instant noodle happiness.

The Chicken Hot N Spicy is neither chickeny nor spicy. It looks and tastes kinda plain and our sample had leaked in the package. This is OK but there are better options. (Rs. 48)

Shifani: "Plain, no chicken taste, too salty."

Indi: "Looks bland, like it has no seasoning at all. Sickly sweet, salty and the packaging was faulty in ours (oil leaked)"

Happy Noodles

5. Hot & Spicy (Prima)

4-happy
prima kottu mee hot and spicy 2

This packet doesn't pretend to be connected to anything in the real world, it is just 'Hot & Spicy'. The ingredients are salt, sugar, chili and MSG. Plus some other stuff, but this isn't pretending. This is classic instant noodle.

Prima's Hot & Spicy is a sweet, Chinese style instant noodle. Might be over-sweet for some, but it delivers what it promises. (Rs. 48)

Shifani: "Very sweet and very spicy. Similar to twirly Maggi texture."

Indi: "Very sweet. Longer noodle. Tastes Chinesey in its own way."

4. Devilled Kottu (Maggi)

4-happy
maggi devilled kottu 7

For what it is, a rather unhealthy meal substitute, this is good. It has a punchy amount of flavor (MSG and, somewhat randomly, soya sauce, pulav, and 'Asian Wok Flavour'), however, we were surprised that there's peanut in this. Indi is allergic but had no lasting ill-effects that he could separate from the rest of the experience. Must not be much. They should have a warning though.

Maggi's Devilled Kottu has no real resemblance to kottu, instead being a Chinese take on noodles. Which - in its own blunt way - works. (Rs. 49)

Shifani: "Smells and tastes quite spicy, and sweet. Stronger odour and taste."

Indi: "Smells and looks unhealthy, like it’s oilier than it is. Or maybe it is that oily. Has a sweet and rich taste. Good amount of spice which builds up. Strangely, not much of a smell at all."

3. Chicken (Maggi)

4-happy
maggi chicken 6

We're on to the classics. You can't really go wrong with chicken noodles. This one ups the savory with MSG and a bit of soya sauce.

Maggi's Chicken is, as mentioned, a classic. You won't be disappointed but it is a compromise. A bit too salty/savory to actually taste light and not as punch-in-your-mouth flavorsome as the oilier options. It does deliver classic Sri Lankan noodle satisfaction. (Rs. 48)

Shifani: "Tasty, good seasoning, MSG ftw."

Indi: "Visual has flecks of carrot and green. It’s not too salty, nice umami hit of MSG. Still fundamentally gross, but good for what it is."

2. Chicken (Prima)

4-happy
prima stella chicken 6

Stella!. Sorry. The queen of Prima's Stella line, this is an interesting one. Contains something weird called 'Nature Identical Chicken Flavour' and MSG, but what makes it stand out is the use of non-dairy creamer.

Prima's Chicken is a creamier version of the chicken noodle classic. It's got a thicker noodle and a full taste. It ain't bad. (Rs. 47)

Shifani: "Prima noodles are generally longer, slightly thicker than Maggi. Creamy, tasty."

Indi: "Thick noodle, almost creamy sauce. Bit salty"

Really Happy Noodles

1. Devilled Chicken (Maggi)

5-really-happy
maggi devilled chilli chicken 1

maggi devilled chilli chicken 4

This one was our favorite. It uses chicken flavour (gluten, soya and egg), which we're not sure actually qualifies as chicken, but it tastes like chicken. Besides that good amount of MSG, chili and onion seasoning, plus oil.

Maggi's Devilled Chilli Chicken: was our number one. To us it struck the right balance between simple and aggressive. It actually tastes like chicken and has a satisfying amount of spice for the Sri Lankan palate. For our money (Rs. 49), it's the best instant noodle experience.

Shifani: "Smells and tastes strongly like chicken despite not having any chicken (sorcery). Spicy. Two thumbs up."

Indi: "Has a sweet and rich taste. Good amount of spice which builds up."




Discussion

Maggi is the pioneer of the instant noodle movement - they've got that - but Prima came in with a whole lot of varied stuff on the shelves like Cheese & Onion flavour and Prawn flavour and, of course the cheerleader/jock of the noodle world, Kottu Mee. So who's better?

The Chicken Category

Maggi Chicken is probably the most popular purchase at the supermarket. Can't complain about this one - signature hit of MSG, not too salty, good for what it is. Neither Maggi nor Prima gave off much chicken flavour.

Prima (Stella Chicken) and Maggi taste completely different. Prima noodles are generally longer and thicker as opposed to the twirly short strands of Maggi. This particular dish was creamy and thick, not so oily, and didn't taste so blatantly instant-junk-food as the rest. We enjoyed this and considered it one of the best of the lot.

Winner: Prima

The Spicy Chicken Category

Maggi Devilled Chilli Chicken is a great choice if you want chicken flavoured instant noodles. There's the strong smell and taste of chicken in this one without there actually being any chicken (sorcery), it's spicy and not too oily. This tasted great and is another best on our list. Prima Kottu Mee chicken was actually a let-down - it tasted relatively bland, didn't have chicken flavour in it, and was too salty (also the packaging was faulty in ours - leaked oil).

Winner: Maggi

Sweet & Spicy

Both Maggi (Devilled Kottu) and Prima (Hot & Spicy) in this department delivered - the dishes tasted and smelled spicy, and were more similar in texture than the other comparisons. The noodles come out darker and look ominous in the pan after seasoning. A good choice for spicy fast food, though it's quite sweet too, so you might not want to eat too much.

Winner: Tie

The Heavyweight Title

Maggi Devilled X-tra is hands-down the spiciest instant noodles on the shelf. The taste and odour is very strong though, almost pungent, so this is only for the hardcore.

Prima Kottu Mee is the only instant noodles on shelves, as far as we know, that offers a variety in a usable cup, although less weighty and more pricier than the rest. You can boil it in the cup itself and it comes with a fork.

Winner: Maggi

Conclusion

Too much instant noodles is bad for you (we figured this much after downing so many variations of it). But it's undeniably tasty and a dream come true for those of us who need to eat but don't want to cook. Prima has more 'variety' as in different kinds of packets on the shelf, but overall Maggi is more consistent when it comes to tasting good. Still, a few Prima things like the basic Kottu Mee cup and the Stella Chicken have their merits.

Noodle Data

We sampled 12 different packets.
Name Brand Price Weight Extras
Curry Maggi Rs. 47 80 g
Chicken Prima (Stella) Rs. 47 80 g Veg
Chicken Maggi Rs. 48 79 g MSG
Chicken Hot N Spicy Prima (Kottu Mee) Rs. 48 80 g Oil
Cheese And Onion Prima (Kottu Mee) Rs. 48 80 g Oil
Hot N Spicy Prima (Kottu Mee) Rs. 48 80 g Oil
Masala Prima (Kottu Mee) Rs. 48 80 g Oil
Devilled Chicken Maggi Rs. 49 81 g Oil
Devilled Kottu Maggi Rs. 49 81 g Oil
Prawn Prima (Stella) Rs. 49 90 g Veg
Kurakkan Prima Rs. 55 85 g Veg
Devilled X-tra Maggi Rs. 60 81 g Oil, Sauce
Please note that these are JUST OUR OPINIONS. We're probably the only people to endure the sheer sodium shock of trying every instant noodle option at once, but if you disagree, please comment below.
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