Join us as we go beyond the label with food brands that we love at Martie. For our first feature, we called up Thuong Tan, founder of The Noodelist - premium plant-based instant noodles. Read on as she takes us through what it was like to start a business during the pandemic, and what sustainability means to her. Plus, how to make her favorite noodle recipe! Get your hands on these delicious noodles, here.
What is your motivation behind The Noodelist?
I was spoiled by my mom who is such a great cook and always made (and still does) homemade Vietnamese noodle soups (there are more than just ‘pho’) when I was in Finland. I was “kicked” out of mom’s kitchen for nibbling the food before it was half ready :P so I never learned her art of cooking. Then I found instant noodles as my quick substitute (not comparable to homemade but at least it’s noodles with broth).
Then in 2014, during an MBA marketing class in Shanghai, I had my first thought about “premium instant noodles” since I was studying luxury branding.
I returned to Silicon Valley and kept thinking about the concept of “premium instant noodles”. And to my surprise, all of my closest friends were not eating instant noodles anymore (due to lack of nutritional values). So in order to get them to join me, I created Instant Noodles 2.0, now Noodelist so I would no longer have to eat my lunch alone. And, I get to share the taste of #InstantHappiness and the feeling of instant joy with the rest of the noodle lovers.
The Noodelist - what a fun name! Tell us about how it came to be!
I tried different versions before Renne, our designer, came up with “I AM the Noodelist. What does it mean to be a Noodelist then?
Since soft-launching, some people have asked me what’s the symbolic meaning behind the name and logo? Maybe the logo is a compass pointing North towards the best noodles? Nice one, love it!
But my response is this: wear whatever hat you want to become. Whether it’s Noodel-IST, Pian-IST or Nobel-IST. And the dot under the N is like a happy mark. Because after a bowl of Noodelist, I hope it will bring a moment of joy and a smile on your face. And as I don’t have a dimple, but have always wanted one - everytime I smile on the camera, I make a fake dimple on my left cheek ;P - just like the logo!
I hope that people find their Noodelist mindset - what they want to become and also, it’s fun eating noodles. I raise my hat for all the Noodelists out there! May everyone be happy & full!
On your website, you talk a lot about Moroheiya? What exactly is that?
Moroheiya is Egyptian spinach.
Moroheiya could be called the king of vegetables (also called Molokhia or Mulukhiyah in Africa and Middle East), a superfood with historic roots in cooking. It is packed with healthy nutrients you want in your pantry as well as your belly. For a vegetable it is loaded with a praiseworthy amount of healthy minerals and vitamins, as well as protein and a flavonoid called quercetin.
- More beta carotene than carrots
- More vitamin B (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B6 (Pyridoxine) and B9 (Folate) and vitamin E than spinach, broccoli or carrots
- More fiber than the three vegetables mentioned above
- And my personal favorite: Five times more calcium than spinach! Hello strong bones!
- And we have read that it was the secret of Cleopatra’s beauty!
How does sustainability fit into your business model?
The taste. The brand. The packaging.
These were the three pillars of how Noodelist was going to reinvent the traditional instant noodles. Doing our best in making Better-For-You and Better-For-the-Planet instant noodle 2.0.
We aim to be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. And we are walking the talk.
- Our 4-pack packaging is recyclable and made with FSC certified materials (FSC promotes responsible management of the world's forests). We are hoping to use biodegradable materials one day.
- Our fulfillment partner is Climate Neutral Certified.
- Our fulfillment and co-packer partners are all in California which reduces the carbon footprint when products don’t have to travel thousands of miles from one place to another.
We are also fans of local entrepreneurs and business and will always choose the local partner whenever possible. It might be a small step but every small choice counts.
Tell us about your experience starting a business during the pandemic?
I always try to think of the positive side of every situation. As they say, with every challenge, it comes with opportunity too. And Noodelist turned out to be one of the lucky ones during the pandemic. Since our products are shelf stable, easy and quick to make and most importantly, delicious too. Noodelist was such a saviour for busy parents and anyone who started working from home who wanted a quick, tasty and healthier meal.
For me personally, I learnt so much during the pandemic. I got to figure out, do and learn every single step and details in the Noodelist product and the process from A to Z. Had to literally roll up my sleeves, put up my delivery cap on and drive and deliver a Noodelist 24-meal Survival Box to customers around the Bay Area. I actually really enjoyed that time. To be able to personally deliver the taste of #InstantHappiness.
We also had to pivot with regards to Go-To Market. Since my original thought was to get Noodelist to all the Silicon Valley techies through their employers and office cafeterias. Then working from home and shelter in place started, so we had to come up with plan B quickly.
What’s your favorite way to make your noodles?
To prevent me from getting hangry (hungry hence angry ;) My cooking has to be a very simple and quick way to make a meal. If I’m making it with boiling water, I would just add whatever leftover from the fridge, usually grilled chicken or Hodo tofu. But if I make it over the stove, I will add in 2 eggs when the water boils. Voila & bon appétit!
One of Thuong's recipes is Shiitake Consommé with eggs
17.6 oz (500 g) water
2 pcs garlic, crushed
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
0.56 oz scallion, chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes
- Boil the broth: water with Bold & Juicy Shiitake soup base together in a saucepan.
- Add crushed garlic, grated ginger and sesame oil.
- Break the eggs separately into their own cups.
- Don’t cook broth anymore, just let it simmer.
- Pour the eggs one by one into the hot broth.
- Simmer the eggs in the broth for 3-4 minutes.
- Carefully lift them out of the broth with a spoon and place on the bottom of the plate.
- Sprinkle coriander and scallion on the bottom of the plate.
- Now bring the broth to a boil again in a saucepan and pour onto a plate.
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