Gourmet Cooking With 23thorns

I must confess to being a little taken aback. In my last post, I mentioned two minute noodles. Without any explanation. Sorry.

I try to be careful about this. If I am using words or concepts that I know are uniquely South African, I try my best to translate or explain. If that’s too tricky, I just avoid them.

This is why you will never read my absolutely fantastic post about the time I took 2kg of kudu biltong to a friend’s braai by mistake. He had asked me to bring the wors, and thinking he meant droewors, I decided to go for biltong instead. He actually meant boerewors. It was hilarious. We still laugh about it today. Luckily his wife had made enough sosaties to sink a battleship, and there was pap, so the braai turned out OK.

For those of you not from here, that was all in perfectly acceptable English, all found in English dictionaries and none of it slang. We just, like most countries, have some things that are uniquely ours. I did not think that two minute noodles were one of those things. Apparently they are.

And so, in the interests of educating the world, I’m going to tell you about two minute noodles. I’m even going to teach you how to cook them. Who knows, if that goes well, I may even teach you how to braai a sosatie! Yes, good people, you are seeing the first and very probably last in a series of posts I will call “Gourmet Cooking with 23thorns”!

Two minute noodles are the go-to food for the unwashed masses. And children of all classes. The unwashed masses like them because they cost four Rand a packet. That’s about fifty US cents. Students live on them, and if, like me, you become alarmed about where all your money has gone about two thirds of the way through the month, you can survive on them until payday. Children like them because they aren’t very good for you.

The gold standard for two minute noodles is a brand called Maggi’s Two Minute Noodles.

Beef flavour. It's like eating a steak with a quarter of the cholestrol and four times the melamine.

Beef flavour. It’s like eating a steak with a quarter of the cholestrol and four times the melamine.

These are the Rolls Royce of two minute noodles. The benchmark. All two minute noodles consist of a dried out cake of stringy Chinese noodles. That’s standard. But there’s also a sachet of flavouring, and that’s what sets Maggi’s apart. It’s got monosodium glutamate in it, just like a five star Chinese restaurant! But that’s not all. It also has; E621, E627 & E631 (flavour enhancers), E330 (an acidity regulator), E501, E466, E466, E339, & E500 (stabilisers, making Maggi’s one of the most stable foods on the market!), and E150 & E101 (colourants. Yes, someone has worked very hard to achieve a washed out grey colour!)

But that’s not all! That little sachet has been irradiated. Irradiated! Truly, this is a meal for the nuclear age! You won’t find that sort of thing at some crappy organic market! Not unless the hippies have somehow built themselves a backyard reactor.

Are you salivating yet?

Are you salivating yet?

My favourite, though, is a brand called Mewo. Because with Mewo, you get three sachets!

Not a vegetable. No matter what the packaging says.

Not a vegetable. No matter what the packaging says.

There’s the standard bag of flavouring, with all its little numbers, but that’s not all! There’s a bag of oil too! Unless it’s a little older. Then it’s a bag of rancid butter. And there’s even a bag of vegetables!

So much more bang for your buck. And if you don't use all of the oil, it makes a great moisturiser.

So much more bang for your buck. And if you don’t use all of the oil, it makes a great moisturiser.

Or so they say. I suspect it’s a bag of those children’s toys that you throw into water that expand to 400% of their original size.

Fresh from the good earth. In Nanking. Two years ago.

Fresh from the good earth. In Nanking. Two years ago.

Mewo is always a bit of a gamble though. It can be dangerously unstable, and the acidity is completely unregulated.

Enough boring details. Let’s get cooking. First of all, ignore the instructions on the packet. They may make good noodles, but these people are philistines! They will tell you to bring a pot of water to boil, throw in the cake of dried noodles, add the sachets, and boil for two minutes. Have you ever? That’s not how you treat fine food!

I’m going to share with you the proper recipe. As in all cooking, preparation is key.
What you’ll need:

1 packet of two minute noodles.

1 bowl.

1 kettle of boiling water.

The process:

First, bring you kettle of water to boil. While this is happening, and before you open the packet, smash the noodles into tiny fragments with your fist. This will allow you to eat your noodles with a novelty teaspoon.

Next, open the bag and pour your noodles into the bowl.

Serve them dry as a tasy bar-snack.

Serve them dry as a tasy bar-snack.

Add your sachet of irradiated chemicals. Some people prefer to add the irradiated chemicals after adding the water, but I feel that adding them beforehand startles the chemicals into full wakefulness, enhancing the flavour and the mild narcotic effect of the monosodium glutamate.

If you turn off the lights, the flavouring glows in the dark. Beat that, organic market people!

If you turn off the lights, the flavouring glows in the dark. Beat that, organic market people!

Pour in the water while it is boiling vigorously. Don’t make the rookie mistake of simply covering the noodles. Those babies are going to swell like an angry puffer fish. Fill the bowl to the brim and cover with a plate.

Jamie Oliver doesn't teach you this stuff.

Jamie Oliver doesn’t teach you this stuff.

Wait two minutes.

Drain the water by holding the plate firmly against the bowl and turning upside down over the sink. This is going to send a stream of near boiling water gushing over your hand. Man up. Gourmet cooking isn’t for drama queens.

Serve. With a novelty teaspoon.


That, of course, is just your very basic recipe. One of the greatest things about two minute noodles is their versatility. There is just so much you can do with these things.

There’s two minute noodle soup:

Boil the noodles for an extra ten minutes and you can drink the whole lot through a straw.

Boil the noodles for an extra ten minutes and you can drink the whole lot through a straw.

Not the greatest for kids, but perfect for adults who are using two minute noodles to replace food.

There’s the two minute noodle salad, for the health freaks out there:

A great way to get your child to eat their greens.

A great way to get your child to eat their greens.

Two minute noodles with egg:

If your child doesn't eat this, they can take it to school for show and tell as a bird's nest.

If your child doesn’t eat this, they can take it to school for show and tell as a bird’s nest.

Two minute noodles with cheese:

Not recommended if your chcild is lactose intolerant. Or cannot digest plastic.

Not recommended if your child is lactose intolerant. Or cannot digest plastic.

Two minute noodles with sausage:

A great way to get your child to eat pig's lips.

A great way to get your child to eat pig’s lips.

The list is as long as your imagination!

Putting a meal together with two minute noodles.

A plain bowl of two minute noodles makes for a perfect quick snack. And a wonderful meal for children when their mother isn’t home. When their mother is home, things are a little more complicated. But two minute noodles still form the backbone of many a meal. Like chicken noodle surprise.

Chicken noodle surprise.

Serves two children.

What you will need.

Two succulent skinned chicken breasts.
We try to go for free range chicken, and not eat it too often. Here in sunny South Africa, we battle to enforce laws about not shooting each other, so food safety laws are pretty far down the list. The chicken is pumped so full of hormones that if you give too much of it to your kids the girls hit puberty at five and the boys grow breasts.

One large carrot.

Not irradiated. Unless you live in Chernobyl.

Not irradiated. Unless you live in Chernobyl.

One carrot may not seem to be a lot for two small children, but those of you who have actually attempted to get any sort of vegetable inside a child will know that one is more than enough. You can use a store bought one, but I find it’s best to grow your own. Not only is it healthy, it’s a wonderful educational opportunity. The kids can ignore you as you plant the seeds, fight over the hose and use it to spray each other as you tend your crops, and then injure themselves with a spade come harvest time.

Two cherry tomatoes
Again, this may not seem like a lot, but bear in mind that no-one actually eats cherry tomatoes. Not even adults; unless they are filled with self-loathing and have some sort of personality disorder (eating cherry tomatoes is the grown-up equivalent of cutting). Again, it’s best to grow your own, but bear in mind that this will involve standing in the garden with a tennis racket throughout the growing season (the birds ‘round here all have personality disorders, and are filled with self-loathing).

Two slices of watermelon.
Try to ignore any rumours you might have heard about the largest and most succulent watermelons having been grown down in the sewers. If you find any dried bits of toilet paper stuck to the outside of your watermelon, relax. I’m sure it was just used as packing material.

Two packets of two minute noodles.

One kettle of water.

The process:

Beat the unopened packets of noodles into submission before opening and pouring into two bowls. Add the sachets of irradiated flavouring. Place on one side.

Just look at all those tasty vegetables!

Just look at all those tasty vegetables!

Begin to cook the chicken breasts. Steaming is always a healthy option, but I prefer to use George Foreman’s Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine, because retired heavyweight boxers are second only to medical doctors in their knowledge of healthy nutrition.

While the chicken is cooking, carve the watermelon slices into two pairs of lips. Remember that if, like most responsible parents, you have told your children that eating watermelon seeds causes appendicitis, you will have to remove the seeds.

Place on the plate.

Not creepy at all.

Not creepy at all.

Scrape off the outside of your carrot and cut into long, thin strips. If you’re not in the mood for this, you can just julienne them.

And I still have most of my fingers.

And I still have most of my fingers.

Place three strips of carrot on either side of the plate as eyes.

Maybe a little creepy.

Maybe a little creepy.

Your chicken breasts should be ready now. Place one on each place as a nose.

You should now have two recognisable faces looking back at you.

Definitely creepy.

Definitely creepy.

Round them off by slicing the cherry tomatoes in two and placing them on the carrot “eyes”, and chopping up the remaining carrots to use as hair.

Even if they don't eat their supper, your children will have some pretty unique dreams.

Even if they don’t eat their supper, your children will have some pretty unique dreams.

Voila! A healthy, fun meal that should give the children a smile as well as an energy boost.

Turn on the kettle, take the food through to the children, and serve!

After 45 minutes of tears, sulking, whining and complaining (The children will probably be a little unhappy, too), take the untouched chicken dish back through to the kitchen.

The kettle should still be hot. Turn it on to bring it back up to the boil. While it does so, throw away the cherry tomatoes and the carrots, and eat the chicken.

Pour the boiling water over noodles and wait two minutes.

Serve with a novelty teaspoon.

A good meal is all about presentation.

A good meal is all about presentation.

82 thoughts on “Gourmet Cooking With 23thorns

  1. As someone who is a miserable cook, I truly appreciated this advice. :))))

  2. mollysue says:

    The illustrations of the variations on a theme are hilarious! I came back because of an old link to the Afrotheria post, looking to see what’s next. In a strange twist of fate, I had already intended to make 2 Minute/Ramen/Pot Noodles for dinner … from scratch. It’s crazy talk, but I live in Italy and I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is forbidden, along with Mac&Cheese/Kraft Dinner. The Japanese do original ramen up a treat. But it takes longer than 2 minutes and almost never glows in the dark.

    • 23thorns says:

      Years ago I watched a Japanese art movie centred around ramen. It looked awesome. If I remember correctly, it’s one of their fast foods, like McDonald’s, only healthier, and biodegradable.

  3. Very funny! I have to admire anyone who can write a whole blog post about two-minute noodles. Health nuts here in the USA also sneer at our Ramen Noodles. But hey, sometimes you just need a little extra sodium! 🙂

  4. lizzbitt2 says:

    Nice job, I laughed all the way thru reading this.

  5. medley of me says:

    REALLY enjoyed this.

  6. I never knew that so much can be written about and commented about Maggie! Amazing flight of thought.

  7. Those are real words and real foods? I wonder if Lizzie from Top Chef used them during the competition?? I wonder which American food words are equally mysterious. Cheetos?? Doritos?? Snakens??? American cuisine = Other Countries’ Delicious Food plus Unhealthy Snacks.

    • 23thorns says:

      i read about pop-tarts and hot pockets all the time, without having too firm a grasp of what they are. I’m guessing that you don’t find them down in the organic food section.
      And what’s a s’more?

  8. hudamcgyver says:

    I thought only Malaysia got 2 minutes Maggie Mee!

  9. Maggi noodles are universal, backpackers live on them!
    Allthough they only take 2 minutes to prepare I have found myself eating bits of uncooked noodles sometimes, while waiting for the rest to cook…
    This may sound disturbing, but a friend of mine that works in a kindergarten, actually had her kids mix uncooked maggi noodles with melted chocolate. Once cooled down, I tried it and it was actually quite nice.
    Being Dutch I understand some of the things you speak of, although typically South African. Please share your wors-braai-biltong stories!!

  10. Sid Dunnebacke says:

    Oh, my goodness! I came here compliments of Lyle Krahn, and now I understand why he sent us all here. Brilliant! Although, having eaten a bit (or 400) of the US version of same while in college, my blood pressure is probably still reeling from all the salt.

  11. Justin says:

    Ahh yes, good old Maggi noodles!

  12. narf77 says:

    Mi Goreng is our go-to 2 minute noodle (another similarity that Aussies and Africans share…we both know a good 2 minute noodle when we see one 😉 ). Mi Goreng must be uber deluxe because it has 5…count them “5” seasoning bags! 1 for glow in the dark flavour powder, one for chilli sauce, 1 for kecap manis (some sort of extra sweet soy sauce…can’t be having something in one of the sachets contain no sugar now!), 1 sachet of oil with lumps. Obviously Orangatan killing palm oil but lumps? LUMPS? I try to ignore the lumps and get to the last sachet that contains fatty shallots…unrecognisable as the vegetables that they once were and now merely fatty crunchy salty non-descript things that are so addictive that they make crack cocaine look mild. A most excellent meal and surely a foray into a bout of food blogging if ever I saw one…shameless sir! But I guess if that retail position doesn’t work out…

  13. markgelbart says:

    I knew what you were talking about. In America they’re called Ramen Noodles. I’ve never eaten them. I’m sure they have way too much salt.

    I know how annoying it can be to feed little kids some times. When my daughter was about 9 she had a neighbor friend who used to come over and stay most of the day. I often fed both of them lunch. One day, all I had for them to eat was 1 hot dog and 4 chicken nuggets. They both wanted the chicken nuggets and would not compromise. So I had to cut the hot dog in half and give them each 1/2 a hot dog and 2 chicken nuggets.

  14. erin says:

    This was pretty amazing. Also, you reminded me that I haven’t eaten two minute noodles in about seven years, since the darkest depths of my student poverty. Do you have Indomie mi-goreng (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indomie_Mi_goreng) there? They’re apparently the bees-knees of two minute noodles, but I’ve only had them once and felt like I was going to die from MSG poisoning.

    (PS – thanks for the ‘like’ on my post!)

  15. Thank you for this.I shrieked with laughter! I agree with you Mewo is the best. I have yet to try it with pig’s lips!

  16. poetatete says:

    Very funny… Long ago, when I bought them regularly, I would see “Oodles of Noodles” on sale for as little as 10 for a dollar (in the U.S.). They were a great, quick snack for my little ones. I liked the beef, but I also liked the shrimp flavor.

  17. We’ve nominated your blog for an award (or two, or three…), if you accept them. If not, just consider it a token of our esteem! 😉 See our post at http://windagainstcurrent.com/2013/01/13/award-appreciation-we-thank-our-readers-for/

  18. I was absolutely rolling on the floor, laughing. So delighted to have discovered your blog, thanks for finding me. Can’t wait to hear more about honey badgers and barbecues, too…

  19. psychofab says:

    i believe there is a version of this for everywhere. Here it is Ramen. I put them in burritos with cheese and some chicken.

  20. Ian says:

    Dude, last time we went to the bush all we took was large slabs of meat! Now you tell me you can do noodles in 2 minutes?

  21. Amanda White says:

    How on earth can you make a post about 2 minute noodles worth reading???Yet somehow you did and ..I did!!!
    Sorry i accidently unsubscribed from you the other day ..I’m sure you were really offended…back on board now though and so glad not to be missing ‘the cookery show’.

  22. […] This is reposted from a blog 23thorns […]

  23. ewehouse says:

    Yesss!!! I LOVE Maggi Mee! It tops my list of favourite insincere food!! http://ewehouse.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/5-of-my-favorite-insincere-food/
    Oh but I like how your version was so sincere with the happy faces and all. Heehee…

  24. cateberlin says:

    I’m only interested in the novelty spoons.

  25. blowingoffsteamandmore says:

    Ah, yes. Ramen noodles. Every college student’s dream meal and the shining star of the MSG world. If I never eat another package again it will be too soon! Great post though. I am still interested in braai and kudu biltong!

  26. That made me laugh! I had no idea there were so many things one could do with two minute noodles! 🙂 As well as Pot Noodles (just add water to the pot they are sold in) we have packets of noodles called Super Noodles, which are similar to your two minute ones, I think. I will look at them with fresh eyes next time I walk past them in the supermarket. 🙂

  27. viveka says:

    What a brilliant … post – now I understand why I don’t like them … *smile

  28. Heather says:

    lol…I can’t believe you made a post out of noodles… 🙂

  29. Allow me to reblog this one please!
    I LOVED it!

  30. I have reposted half of this on my blog and provided a link for those brave enough to read the rest. It will appear tomorrow. I never realised, as a chef, that boiling water was considered a culinary skill; I will add it to my CV as I do it rather well myself.


  31. mariekeates says:

    As someone already said, just like Pot Noodles we have in the UK but with all the garbage already added. My son loves them but I’m pretty sure I should have had him committed some time ago 🙂

  32. They’re 2 minute noodles here in Australia. We too have the Maggi brand but as kids, we much preferred the No Frills Brand from Franklins Supermarket. Same thing though.
    As adults (before we had kids) we found the gourmet brand locally in an Asian supermarket. They came in a little plastic bowl with a lid and wrapped in extra plastic. The noodles also came with the 3 sachets PLUS a bonus one of chilli powder. Stupidly we made the mistake of adding the spicy oil AND all the chilli powder. NEVER AGAIN! Mostly we just stuck with half the spicy oil at most.
    With kids that react to preservatives though, 2 minute noodles have been a very rare occurrence. I know, mean mummy!
    Thanks again for another brilliant post. And I to eagerly await another gourmet cooking blog post.

  33. polarflares says:

    I enjoyed the photos. I also prefer the noodles with the extra packets. We don’t have that grey gun powder spice pack here in Anchorage. They put that on the roads here to stop ice.

  34. Kylie says:

    Top Ramen!

    Must melt a slice of wrapper cheese on top 😉

  35. Nylabluesmum says:

    We have ‘Mr.Noodles’ here in Canada & they are much like your noodles there!!!! I must say you sure go thru alot trying to feed your children!!!! hehe!!! I too LOVE cherry tomatoes…..oh wait I WAS diagnosed with a ‘purrsonality’ disorder….hehe,,,,
    I used to love eating the noodles with soy sauce added to the flavour packet…muchroom my fave & a bit of butter & sometimes sweet curry powder…..I used to add cooked sausage or beef weiner……alas when I was diagnosed with Elevated Blood Pressure I had to wave Goodbye to the 2 minute noodles…..that was BRUTAL I can tell you!!!
    Your lovely post brought back fond memories of 2 minute noodles; have a bowl for me please!!!!
    Sherri-Ellen in withdrawals in Canada….

  36. wonkafonka says:

    OMG, this made me laugh so hard. Well done.

  37. dste says:

    As mentioned above, here in the US, they’re called ramen noodles. Best friend of poor college students everywhere!

  38. Hank. says:

    I wasn’t really sure how 23thorns could present something more deeply disturbing than a fashion post and a meditation on the assorted frogs and horny toads of the lowveld, but, as they say here in Seattle, voilà! You have done it. I feel as if I now have the motivation to begin that fast I was thinking about. Thank you, MSG!

  39. lylekrahn says:

    You boiled a lot of water in this post. Great insight into a two-minute noodles which I was surprised you had in South Africa. It is a universal food.

  40. I would like to give a shout out to the tomato-lovers of the world. I am your wife. I am one of them. I do not have a personality disorder. Apart from that, way to go. You’re a genius in the kitchen!

    • 23thorns says:

      Maybe we should talk about this. Just know that you will always have my love and support. With time, we will get you on to green peppers. And then maybe even normal people’s food.

  41. Harold Rhenisch says:

    “I may even teach you how to braai a sosatie!” Oh, please do!

  42. lnzskp1 says:

    Thanks! While I was pretty sure that 2 minute noodles were ramen noodles, I’m glad you provided additional information – with pictures. Will you be continuing the cooking series? I would like to see pictures of kudu biltong next.

    • 23thorns says:

      Cooking maybe. Kudu biltong, hell no! That would involve shooting a very large animal, skinning it, cutting it up into strips the size of your forearm, and hanging them up in a tree. Noodles are more my speed.

  43. Is there really anyone who can’t work out what 2 minute noodles are?! Here in the UK we have pot noodle – very similar but I think they’ve already added the msg.

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