Back in 2014, I lived in South Korea for four months, taking a semester abroad in participation of my university’s student exchange program. While I really do consider it one of the best experiences in my life, living alone in a foreign country tested my creativity when it came to hunting for meals. I stayed in a dorm that prohibited cooking, so it was either A.) dine in the dorm cafeteria, B.) get takeout from a restaurant or go out and eat there, or C.) resort to instant convenience store food.
Most weekends, I was too broke to grab nice meals at restaurants, so I simply walked over to the trusty GS25 right beside my building to buy some microwaveable rice, chilled sandwiches, triangle kimbap, and of course, ramyeon. You can only imagine how healthy I was back then.
Of course, being a big cheese fan at the same time (apparently, Koreans are too, considering how they put cheese in practically every dish they’ve got other than their noodles. But that’s another story to tell, another article to write), I couldn’t help but try the multiple variations of cheese ramyeon that they have stocked in groceries and convenience stores. There’s a lot more out there, but here the ones I tried out and liked.
[A tiny disclaimer: I am in no way a recognized foodie nor a connoisseur of cheese. I am merely a cheese-loving woman who loves putting weird things in her ramyeon. Have you tried spraying whipped cream on your noodles? You totally should.]
Ottugi Cheese Bokki
Rating: 3 manchego slices out of 5
Ottugi’s Cheese Bokki is actually just macaroni and cheese, except it’s made with ramen noodles instead of macaroni. Don’t mistake this for a soupy meal and always remember to drain the water before mixing in the cheese powder (somebody stupid, a.k.a. me, didn’t read the instructions beforehand)! It’s definitely a unique mac ‘n cheese experience, but a bit too sickening to eat if you have too much of it.
Ottugi Bodul Bodul Cheese Ramyeon
Rating: 4 manchego slices out of 5
I’d only tried the instant cup version of this so I’m not sure if cooking the packed one over a stove might make it any better. But I loved this so much–the cheesy broth was light and smooth and the noodles were satisfyingly chewy. Best part was that the hint of spiciness was just right. I found myself furiously trying to hunt cups of these down during my last trip to Seoul.
Paldo Cheese Ramyeon
Rating: 3 manchego slices out of 5
Maybe it was the way I’d cooked it at the time, but Paldo’s cheese ramen is basically the most standard cheese ramen you’re gonna get. An interesting thing about it is that the cheese and spice packets are separate, allowing you to control the amounts and customize your bowl. I feel like this would be a lot better with more cheese (but then again I say that about everything). Throw a slice of Kraft cheese in there and it’d probably be 5-star instant noodle goodness.
Samyang Spicy Cheese Hot Chicken Ramyeon
Rating: 2 manchego slices out of 5
Ah, Samyang. Yup, it’s the same brand behind all the spicy noodle challenges you see on Youtube. I don’t know why I tried their spicy cheese chicken ramen; maybe it was because of my inclination to anything with the word ‘cheese’ on it. Maybe I’m just a masochist. But the deed has been done. A lot of people actually love these noodles, but I’m personally just not a fan of anything too crazy. Feel free to try it once in your cheese-loving life regardless of the wild spice levels. It definitely has an interesting hot chicken taste. However, the cheese was a bit too light–nothing that can’t be changed through grating some more into your bowl.
Samyang Cheese Curry Ramyeon
Rating: 3.5 manchego slices out of 5
Finally, something from Samyang that won’t kill you. I love mixing cheese into my curry so I was pretty excited to try this out. The broth of this was quite thick compared to the others (true to its curry aspect) on this list and the curry meshed very well with the cheese. There’s even some bread crumbs in the cup that you can sprinkle on. This makes a nice light lunch or dinner and would taste even better if you add eggs or small slabs of beef or chicken into it.
By Denise Fernandez
Art by Isabel Drilon