Fancy Instant Noodles: Momofuku Vs. Trader Joe's

Comparing two artisanal-looking instant noodle brands with very different price points.

If you follow any food or restaurant accounts on Instagram or Facebook, celebrity chef David Chang has probably popped up in your ad space. He's been selling wavy knife-cut noodles via the Momofuku brand, a grocery extension of his popular restaurant group of the same name.

On the surface, the noodles are intriguing: They're air-dried, not fried, and are made in a partnership with A-Sha Foods of Taiwan. While they cook quickly, the noodles are a cut above the ramen you'd get in a conventional instant cup.

"They're flavor-packed like the dishes Momofuku is known for," the packages in muted colors promise. What's more, you don't have to order them online; your local Target probably has them. I found them on sale last week only minutes from where I live, not a plane ride away, like Chang's restaurant empire.

But Chang doesn't have a lock on wavy noodles. For the past few months, Trader Joe's has been touting its own variety, which it calls Squiggly Knife Cut Style Noodles. "These squiggly, knife-cut noodles are resplendent with ruffly edges and air-dried for 18 hours to create a delightfully chewy dining experience," the packaging declares.

You could cook either kind up, serve them to your guests, or nosh on them yourself, and if you like spicy noodles, you'd be satisfied. But they aren't completely alike. So, which are better—the expensive gourmet variety, or the house brand dupe?

Momofuku Tingly Chili Wavy Noodles

I bought this flavor because I like applying chili oil to a range of foods, especially pizza. Other flavors of Momofuku noodles include Soy and Scallion and Spicy Soy.

Price: They were on sale at Target for $10.19, normally $11.99. For that, you get five packages of noodles with sauce packets, a total weight of 16.75 ounces. That works out to $2 per serving.


Appearance: The noodles are rather uniformly cut, looking like pretty ribbons.

Cooking time: The package says four minutes. That was too chewy for me, so I added a minute in order to make them more pliable.

Sauce: The sauce had the viscosity of chili oil, maybe a tad denser. You have to mix the noodles well in order to get the sauce to adhere to them. Even so, some sauce lingered at the bottom of the bowl.

Trader Joe’s Squiggly Knife Cut Noodles With Soy and Sesame Sauce

Price: $4.99 for four packs with sauce packets, at a total weight of 13.4 ounces, or $1.25 per serving.

Appearance: The noodles are squiggly with ridges, but haphazardly cut—something I would not have noticed if I hadn't tried the more uniform Momofuku version.


Cooking time: The package says four minutes. Again, I added a minute.

Sauce: Medium thick. It sticks nicely to the noodles and was easy to mix in.

Verdict: if you are looking to save money, the Trader Joe's version will suit you just fine. I liked the quality of the Momofuku noodles, but I preferred the Trader Joe's sauce. You can enhance the flavor of each by adding a complementary topping, like one of Bachan's Japanese BBQ sauces or some salsa macha. Although the Momofuku brand positions itself as more artisanal, these instant noodles are a relatively affordable proposition in either case.