Cooking

Maggi Alternatives

9:00 AM


If you are India based, and haven't been living under a rock, you know that Maggi's instant noodles have been banned in most of the country. Wether the claim of lead are legit or not, I salute the ban. As, let's not forget it, Nestlé has also been slapped with providing misleading information.

Something that the Swiss giant is no stranger to (they should have been slapped when they came up with that Taste Bhi, Health Bhi line)
Simply put, Nestlé is a highly unethical company. One that went as far as declaring that access to water is not a basic right people have...access to WATER, of all things!
A company that has for a long time weaselled its way into developing market creating products to target them specifically, proof being the infamous Noodles ( they do not exist in Switzerland, only in India and Malaysia). They made a history of weaselling their way into markets they consider third world country, my grand ma has a 50's promotional board game that will attest to that.

Now tell me that you aren't just a tiny bit happy to see them being under the earth and fire of one of the market they must have considered a third world nation, easy to exploit.
India, I applaud you, and please keep going at this fraudulent multinational with all you've got.

That this ban hurts the company is real good. The problem is at they sank their claws deep, so deep that in India, the noodles have become synonymous with a quick fix comfort food with no equal, a tiffin's favourite and a hungry student's staple with no perceived equal other than other brands of instant noodles.

So, what are your alternatives to a quick fix, comfort food, and tiffin options now that the Yellow Giant has been slayed?

Well, as I said, we don't have Maggi Noodles in Switzerland. Instant noodles were always imports from Asian brands. Tasty, but more expensive than a 500g pack of pasta that would make 5-6 meals.
The ultimate student's food in my homeland is good old fashioned Italian pasta, in all its avatar. And there are quite a few : macaroni, tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne, fusili, farfalle, tortelini...most of these are available in India and most small shapes of said pasta cook in 5-8 minutes (Maggi claims it takes 2 but let's face it they only taste good after 4-5 minutes of cooking).
Pasta is a super versatile food, pretty much as versatile as rice (with the same nutritional value). Pasta can be tossed with whatever fresh veggies you have on hand, the sky's the limit, you can boil them in a water flavoured with masala, or a good old chicken stock,mor a vegetable stock. They can be topped with tomato sauce, or any sauce you are willing to buy or make from scratch. You even have many "one pot pasta recipes"all over the Internet, where all you need is a large pan of water and 15 minutes of your time.
Heck, pasta can be eaten cold, as a pasta salad, which makes them a very good option for a tiffin meal. One of Ishita's favourite by the way.

Pasta not your thing? Well, it's not like noodles didn't exist before the instant variety came along. After all, Marco Polo has been rumoured to have brought back the recipe for pasta making from his travels to China.
Noodles have been an Asian staple for centuries. And, most cook faster than Italian pasta due to their small size.
Take your pick from the oh so popular Haka Noodle, Japanese udon and soba noodles, or the Thai rice noodles, or even the cellophane rice vermicelli. They are all available in India if you know where to look, and all of them cook in about 4-5 minutes (the same time it take for that Maggi crap to actually become tasty). In the case of the rice vermicelli, you don't even need to have them on the stove, place them in a bowl of hot water and soak for 2 minutes (Now THIS is a real two minute noodle people!)
Like Italian pasta, they are all versatile to a fault:

Steam them, toss veggies, add sauce, spice them up, stir fry them, add them to your soup, eat them hot, eat them cold, the only limit is your imagination.


Sure, none of these options will beat the 10-15 rupees a pack of Maggi. But, unlike them, are all much healthier, contain no insane amount of fat, and leave you in charge of the seasoning. When it comes to food, cheap stuff usually means unhealthy stuff. Rest assured of that.

And, if you still crave instant noodles, there are many other brands that haven't been banned just yet.

21 comments

  1. Anonymous9:51 AM

    When the Maggi controversy blew up, it was like breach of trust for all Indians. Its like an old friend has cheated you. Many grew up eating Maggi and have fond memories of it. Many roadside dhabas and hotels thrive on Maggi. In cold climates where food is scarce often a pack of Maggi comes handy. There are eateries who serve only different varieties of Maggi.

    We never ate Maagi that much neither was I swayed by the rage that Maggi created in India in early 1980s. It just burst on to the scene like a meteor. Ofcourse, in our family thinking about buying such food was blasphemous.

    A few years ago there was a controversy that popular soft drink has pesticide traces in it. However, it died down. Then worms were found in Nestle's popular chocolate brand. There was lot of firefighting and it was managed.

    The hardest hit are students or young people on rent who have little time to cook. For them Maggi was the staple food because it was easy to cook. They don't know where to look for an alternative. As far as alternatives are concerned, dalia, poha or upma would do but will they children eat is the question. These definitely take slightly more time to cook than Maagi. The question is whether children are willing to eat them.

    Now, I have heard that the Government is checking other brands of packaged food also. I have a feeling that almost all packaged foods have chemicals as preservatives especially the instant food types. The so called herbal products also have chemicals because anything natural cannot survive without the use of chemicals if produced on a mass scale. The alternative is fruits and vegetables. Fruits have artificial ripening agents and vegetables/grains have pesticides. On top of it, the air we breath is polluted beyond limit. There is end to this. The good thing is that consumers have become more aware but they still don't know what to look for it a packaged food because of the technicalities involved.

    In the west there is accountability, people own up their mistakes. It a product is defective the company is quick to replace it as I have heard. In India, awareness is less and also people really do not know where to go. You can pursue such matters only when you are either passionate about the cause or you have the resources. Most people have neither of the two burdened but the problems of day to day life.

    Apple

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    1. See Nestle is a Swiss company, that refuse to be held accountable despite all the fault placed on them, it is just that like all big multinationals they look for gullible markets were they can impose themselves with little resistance.

      Now, as far as the whole "kids willing to eat alternatives". One thing I have been horrified to see in India is how much power kids have on their parents nowadays. In my home it is eat or get lost. No ifs no buts no nothing. If Ishita is too picky to eat something that means she isn't hungry. And kids don't starve themselves on purpose, the instant adults buy into this fear, kids are winning.

      I got the same deal as a kid, heck I think I even got it worse because my mom would pack the leftover from said plate and serve them to me again at the next meal. If it was because I was really not hungry, it would come back reheated, if she had to pack it because I threw a fit and put a drama act, it would be put back on my plate at the next meal cold. The choice was mine :-)

      Nestle took advantage of the fact there was no quick fix food on the market back in the days. They hyped their product a lot. But even their 2 minutes cooking claim is false. It takes twice that time to get said noodles to be soft and palatable. A thing that non instant, non flash fried, traditional Chinese noodles do just the same. What mad the noodle so attractive in India was a ferocious campaign from their part, and a very addictive taste maker, that I am convinced contained MSG all along. They just took advantage of the fact that India had no regulations regarding packaged food in the early days to get away with it.

      As I said in the blog post, Nestlé has a long history of doing such things in "third world" countries. Back in the 50's when they aquired Maggi, they promoted the label heavily in colonies. My grand ma has a board game that proves their propaganda. Said board game was distributed in Switzerland, it was a basic snake and ladder type board. Except you went along with the Maggi man on a tour of Africa, speeding up the board when you could catch a convoy, being held up for a few turns on certain squares because you were solving a famine distributing Maggi soup powder to remote villages in Africa. This was to tell people in industrialised country that Maggi, and Nestle were good benefactors doing good things in poor countries...quite a propaganda!

      More recently Nestle has been known to send sales rep in Africa, dressed as nurses to push infant formula samples on people. Never mind that water might be an issue, they go indirectly telling women that their formula is better than breastmilk simply by misleading people into believing that the person distributing sample is a healthcare provider.

      As I said, very very very very happy to see India react the way it is reacting right now toward Nestle, and hopefully toward other big brands found guilty, and I am sure we are now in a situation where the pandora box has been opened for good.

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    2. Anonymous12:12 PM

      It was the same in our home too but nowadays we want to be the friendly cool parent. The generation which suffered under obsessive parents and ofcourse "socialist poverty" vowed that they will be behave differently when they are parents. Nowadays, a new drama has started among young people to demeans everything that is old. Old bollywood songs crap, traditional food crap, why because peer pressure prevent them from acknowledging anything good about past. Just because you cannot dance on an old song, it is crap. The belief that this is the best time and nothing existed before is so stupid. On top of it, the continuous culture from 1947 to 1990 has been thrown into the dustbin of time. There are no traces left, no reference points, as if those decades never existed. If we did not preserve our past, how do you expect the youth to respect it. That is why, the youth fail ot join the dots like we do. They fail but never accept that they have failed as they have been taught by their parents never to accept their mistakes. I shudder to think when these kids grow up and have to take decisions of national interest, what will happen. They are culturally and intellectually illiterate. Not that their parents are any better. I will choose a biased but informed politician anytime over a woolly eyed stupid culturally naive youth who knows nothing about the country. We have a lot of these these days all over the internet who practically know nothing but claim that everyone is either corrupt or stupid. They are driven by their intense hatred for all things Indian.

      Today children want to behave like adults. They have been stimulated through media, internet etc. but don't know what to do with the information. There are all dressed up for party with nowhere to go. The stuff they carry is mind boggling at their age. It is funny to see little children turning music buffs with ear phones plugged in, doing nothing but indulging in gossip or horror of horrors, taking selfies. In our time, evenings were for sports and nothing else. Perhaps, loitering and gossiping about their budding high school romance is much more interesting than kicking a ball or a game of badminton. Who wants to get all sweaty and breathless??

      It does not help that apartments have little spaces for play and with the cars zipping around, it is extremely dangerous. I am afraid that today's generation will not only not know what sports it but also look down upon physical labour associated with sports. As it is, dignity of labor is not there in India.

      In our times, children were the extensions of the parents with now individuality. Now, they have a mind of their own which is good. Some of them are doing rather well also. However, the general population is gravitating towards stupid things which they think are important. Change is not always for the better.

      Apple

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    3. I think the kids who were born in the 90's in Switzerland fall into the same category :-( Switzerland like a good part of Europe was fairly socialist too, not to the extent of the communism seen in the Eastern block, but until the second half of the 80's there wasn't much in matter of foreign brands going around. I probably belong to the last generation whose early childhood was not brand dominated, and definitely the last generation that grew up without a computer at home, these started becoming somewhat affordable and thinkable in the 90's and I remember, getting my own first Windows capable PC was a big deal, I remember buying mine in a generic brand on sale with some of the savings in my child saving account after my mom agreed to sign a permission slip to withdraw some of that money. I had to wait until I was 20 to get an Internet enabled one and my mom made me pay my internet bills :-) and like all from that time I would go online after 10pm when the dial up charges were discounted. I doubt kids nowaday even give much thought about the cost of their mobile phone data plan :-)

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    4. On the parenting front, my husband and I realised that we belong to a rare breed of parents that actually think parents aren't there to be their children's friend, there are a few like minded parents in my neighbourhood, parents who think raising kids is a serious business and not surprisingly they are also the parents that insist on their kids being outdoors as much as possible after school. We aren't many, but we exist :-)

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    5. Anonymous2:52 PM

      I was surprised by the remarkable similarities between Europe and India in the 1980s. I guess it is America which is the mother of consumer culture that we know. India has followed exactly the same trajectory as that Europe as far as development is concerned. If you get things easily then you are most likely not to appreciate it. I saw my first computer in a computer institute and thought the CD is a wonderful thing. I was also fascinated by internet. That was the time of early Windows operating system.

      About Maggi masala and MSG, I was very fond of the masala. It always seemed to be unlike anything I had tasted. Very artificial more like chemical but very tasty. Now, I understand the real reason behind it.

      Apple

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    6. MSG is a ver addictive substance, and many are allergic to it. Which is why lying about it is really bad. On top of everything, it should not be consumed by children under one years of age, and I am sure it should be regulated after that. So Maggi being a children's favourite and containing more than the permissible levels of MSG was already bad enough, not even having the decency to mention it on the label and put a health warning even more.

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  2. I do wonder about lead & other heavy metal (arsenic, cadmium, nickel) contamination in ALL food products in India. Not just 'processed' food. Milk, rice, veg, fruit, wheat, -all of it.
    It only stands to reason that if you grow food in contaminated soil with contaminated water all while being exposed to the most polluted air on the planet- you are going to get 'polluted' food.
    Pesticide residue is only part of the problem, heavy metal contamination from every from car exhaust to industrial waste is a HUGE issue in India.
    What is happening to Swiss brands?
    "Swiss" used to stand for high quality!
    Nestle's 'mission statement'
    "Nestlé is the world's leading nutrition, health and wellness company.
    "Good Food, Good Life' is the promise we commit to everyday, everywhere – to enhance life by offering tastier and healthier food and beverage choices at all stages of life and at all times of the day."
    PFFFT!
    I was talking to my uncles in the US who are all either dairy farmers or teach dairy science & processing at university level. According to them Nestle used to set the 'gold standard' in food safety, dairy processing & sanitation, but apparently that ceased sometime in the 70's.
    Nestle's chocolate products were always crap. I always found it odd that a Swiss company would make crappy chocolate.
    Nestle's just gotten too big & needs to focus, IMHO.
    I think Nestle's dairy & baby formula product division should 'break off' & return to concentrating on standardized, quality dairy products- but I'm certainly not in charge of the largest multinational food and beverage company in the world.
    In the meantime buy Nepal's Wai Wai noodles! They're halal & we need business since the earthquake(s) scared all the tourists off!

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    1. I don't think the lead in Maggi is Nestle's fault at all, and yes I am certain that other packaged food have the same problem.nas you said, it comes from the pollution, when people will stop treating every water bodies as a communal dustbin, things will improve too.
      What Nestle is guilty of is misleading advertisement and claims. The concealing the MSG is a big deal, and before that claiming that Maggi was tasty and healthy due to the added protein and calcium. And apparently releasing new flavours of noodle without the approval of the FSSAI.

      It is a company that has completely lost its way. It was still a renowned standard in the 70's and early 80's in Switzerland, a group that had brands you could trust. After all, even Maggi which they bought in the 40's was a company that found a way to minimise slaughter house waste making stock cubes that would also make the life of the modern housewife a tad bit easier as well. Making one's own stock is ridiculously time consuming and doesn't even preserve well without a freezer.

      I never saw or probably looked at Nestle chocolate in Switzerland, we have way too many small brands and supermarket brands that taste awesome to look for a big multinational company option. I remember tasting it in France and UK, and of course India, and yes it tastes like total crap. Between Nestle, and Cadburry, Cadburry is better tasting. Though in India, I seriously think Amul is now emerging as a winner when it comes to chocolate. The Swiss citizen has spoken and given her seal of approval LOL

      Amul's varieties of dark chocolate are especially good, I wonder what took them so long to come into that segment.

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    2. Anonymous8:12 PM

      there was a green revolution some times in 1960s which was a gigantic effort by indian scientists with help from outside. It made the country self sufficient. It also introduced the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. I suspect decades of using them has taken its toll on soil. combine this with unseasonal rains, droughts etc you have a situstion where farming is less lucrative leading to farmer suicide. Maharastra is one of the states where these incidents are frequent.

      Government us doing its bit to popularize organic farming, drip irrigation etc. but it will take some effort to address agrarian crisis.

      I saw on tv that chinese farm productivity is more than india and per capita income of farmer is more. Quiet impressive.

      apple

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    3. The pesticide and fertiliser definitely took its toll on the soil. Many of them are banned in the US and in Europe but are still used in India. All that stuff goes into the soil and in underground water sources and rivers.
      The heavy metals issue comes from airborn pollution, factories pollution, and sadly from puja material dumped in water bodies. In Mumbai the level of pollution in lakes, rivers and the sea is very high after The immersion of all the Ganesh idols, and the Durga idols a few weeks later. Sadly, the idols made with plaster of Paris and painted with toxic paints are cheaper so people buy these instead of environmentally friendly ones. Not even realising that all that toxic paint and plaster ends up straight back in the food we eat in the future.

      I think what India is facing right now is the result of a rapid economical growth for which it was not prepared adequately. It all happened so fast they didn't get a chance to assess the danger and risks and come up with regulations in a timely manner. In all sectors.

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  3. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Inspire of other brands Indians swear by maggi all the time!. I guess its because the only other option years ago was top ramen and people didn't find the same comfort in it as they found in maggi. Many grew up with it and hence give them an expensive and a dufferent flavour of instant ramen they will toss it aside for their beloved maggi! Honestly i dont blame them. I prefer other brands too since top ramen's tamato and masala are good. Also the nissins cup noodles too are quite tasty but a bit pricier than the packet ones. Other brands of ramen like smith Jones, sunfeast, ching's, I wouldn't go near them with a ten foot pole!

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    1. The reason why Maggi holds such a dear place in the heart of people is because it is one of the first foreign brand to enter the market massively in India. They did market it very well too. As I said, the noodles of said brand do not exists at all in Switzerland where the label Maggi is from. Instant noddles don't have much of the appeal they have in India in Europe. I only remember seeing Nissin, and an obscure brand of Chinese import back home. And they were all costlier than Italian style pasta which never even made them that much appealing to students the way it does here.

      In the past I tried tasting as many variant of the instant noodles that are present on the market in India. Smith and Jones taste God awful, China's is ok but not great, and su feast is as usual a low quality product from ITC.
      I'd say the best instant noodles alternative to Maggi are Wai Wai, Koka and Nissin be it their Top ramen or cup noodles. Like you, I think all the other ones are not worth touching.

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  4. There should of course be no compromise on healthy food. That way it is good the government has acted tough.

    Quality levels are very poor in India, for various reasons. I only wish the FSSAI - which is now in limelight - looks everywhere else too and cracks down on people who are dishing out unhealthy food.

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    1. I read and article recently that put into light the lack of adequate laboratories and the shortage of lab technicians to run those tests on a large scale. It should be a wake up call for India to promote careers home rather than see most of its scientists, engineers and doctors run to greener pastures abroad too.
      The FSSAI is a young body, it is the first big scale food controversy they are put to investigate. I hope they do step up to the plate and enforce more stringent food safety measures and crack down on offenders.
      I think this time is the first time we are seeing a huge outcry regarding food safety. Hopefully the hype doesn't die down. It's not just big brand packaged food that should be on the radar, those awful fruit ripening techniques, and the milk adulteration also have to be addressed asap.

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    2. Anonymous3:41 PM

      I love noodle/pasta salads! The options are endless. After getting introduced and used to Indian spices my taste buds are rejecting the continental style pasta. But who says pesto should be done only with pine nuts or noodle dishes should be seasoned with sesame oil! I experimented with Indian herbs and spices and I was so shocked with the results. It tastes just as good. Different dressings, sauces, vinegars, oils, even the veggies or meat can be used according to our likes.
      As for that dumping huge ganesh idols in water bodies I'm against the whole thing. I was alarmed to find that apart from Mumbai even Hyderabad does that whole process of huge idol making and dumping it! At least mumbai is surrounded by sea but with the few water bodies in Hyd and the only good lake(read pond) has to bear the brunt of it. I've learnt that it takes huge cranes and intense amt of labour to dump them in the lake. Not to mention throwing incense coconuts and other trash along with the idols. Try talking sense into them and they'll start a riot. The Bengali's pollute their own water bodies by dumping durga idols into it!

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    3. Exactly, the seasoning options are endless and anything can be done with pasta and noodles. Heck the traditional Italian sauce Arabiatta is spicy.

      The beaches of Mumbai are a very sad sight after the Ganesh immersions. Lots of rubbish, half dissolved idols, broken diyas, tinsels and foiled gets washed back on the shore. Then it's starting all over again for Navratri. It doesn't matter how much awareness the authorities raise, the same story unfolds every year. Some of these idols are so huge I even wonder if they ever dissolve completely, and how many of them are cluttering the sea bed.

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  5. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Try Sunfeast Magic Masala and its other versions. Much better than Maggi. I stopped buying Maggi much before the controversy because of these. At least there is no controversy about Sunfeast noodles!

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    1. I never liked sunfeast either. I rarely have instant noodles, when I do, I go for the Koka brand these days, because their chicken variety, unlike the Maggi one tastes good, and they have the seafood flavours I liked on the occasion I felt like eating these noodles in Switzerland. Maggi was really not my favourite either, way too starchy.

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  6. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Maggi packets are back on the shelves. Yay! Despite many other brands like koka, wai wai,Top ramen, mama Indians will always prefer maggi as their comfort food. I think it's because they've had it since childhood they have many memories attached to it. That is something we expats will never understand. I used to not like maggi but now I actually love it. Also I'm slightly understanding as to why Indians have this maggi shaped hole on their hearts. :-)

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    1. I actually like Koka better than Maggi :-) But yeah my Husband has grown up on Maggi noodles so for him it will always have a special place in his heart. My favourite Maggi flavour was the chicken noodles before they decided to change the taste maker to make it spicy and add bits of dehydrated chicken to it. I like the masala maggi too, but not as much as I liked the chicken one. I wonder how long Maggi will take to re-introduce all the other flavours they had before the ban, for now it really only seem to be Masala noodles that came back and nothing else.

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