WaiWai

I was planning to write about something else when I got off on a tangent. So why not stick with the tangent  for now?

I began by mentioning that in the new year P and I are consciously trying to be more healthy in our eating choices. We are going to try and eat more local and organic foods if we can, and try to eat less processed foods as well.

Which led me to the tangent… while thinking about much loved processed food. While I might pine desperately for a chocolate bar, I think P would daydream of… WaiWai.

Why WaiWai? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there.

WaiWai is kind of like a Nepali/Indian version of American ramen instant noodles. It is packaged in a similar way although the spices are pre-cooked into the dried noodles instead of in a little spice packet like in the American version. WaiWai isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but considering the list of ingredients is pronounceable by a 3rd grader, maybe Michael Pollan might grudgingly say that it is okay to eat (although there are more than 5 ingredients, and technically, I’m not sure if it would ever rot, uh oh). But heck, we are not ones to judge, P is still a graduate student, and we do the grad-student instant noodle meal from time to time!

WaiWaiThe funny thing about WaiWai is that it seems to have a nostalgic emotional appeal to some of the Nepalis I know, and most definitely for P. He tells stories of how as kids they might pool together a few rupees to buy WaiWai from a street vendor as a snack or for lunch. Or how WaiWai was a much welcomed addition to the bland boarding school food of high school years. It is one of those easily transportable foods that is quick and easy to eat on the go.

So when the Vietnamese grocer around the block from our apartment occasionally has WaiWai in stock (and our caches at home are depleted), don’t be surprised if you see P lugging home a box of 40 WaiWai packets, cleaning out the grocer of his supply.

I certainly ate my fair share of ramen in my pre-P days. So I wasn’t surprised that P enjoyed a good WaiWai every now and then, but I was surprised to see the “snack on the go” way to eat it. Unlike the American ramen which (maybe I’m sheltered but) I’ve only seen eaten in soup form—you know, step 1) boil the noodles for 3 minutes, step 2) add the spice packet, and step 3) slurp up with a spoon—P and his brother U would eat it straight out of the packet. Raw. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Pass the packet, crunch some more. Useful on long car trips, but to me at first, seemingly weird. Ew, raw noodles? How is that tasty?

Now I’ve gotten used to having some WaiWai every now and then, although I think it is safe to assume I still prefer my dried noodles cooked, in soup form or chow mein style. However, for instance, during the Epic Family Visit of 2008, P’s mom wouldn’t venture 10 minutes away from our apartment without  packing some sort of snack to keep us all nourished, and Waiwai was easy. Waiwai packets, bananas, clementine oranges, and bottles of water were Mamu’s favorites.

If you like raw WaiWai, you don’t just have to eat it “on the go”… you can even dress it up if you want, without cooking it. Scenario— guests show up at the door unexpected, you don’t have anything to offer for a snack… (as Mamu would say) “What to do?” Add a little diced onion, chili and coriander, and perhaps a squirt of lemon, to a packet or two of crushed dried WaiWai and you have an instant appetizer. Voila!

So I thought I’d take a moment to share in the WaiWai love. Or maybe I’m just hungry and need a snack… is it dinner time yet?

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12 responses to “WaiWai

  1. I seen/know people who eat Ramen raw. I find that I like Ramen when you heat the water up than pour over the Ramen, it leaves the noddles sightly crunchy. Yum but sooooo unhealthy.

  2. Back in school we used to buy Wai Wai for Rs 10|-, pour some cold water, mix it up with the spices it came with, and eat it.
    It was the cool thing to do.

  3. My husband buys them by the box too. I don’t find them appealing at all…but he’s managed to convince one of our neighbors that they’re best eaten uncooked.

    • While looking on the web for a picture of WaiWai I found this one site where some guy was reviewing all the different instant noodle brands out there, and he gave WaiWai one star and said it was awful. So he mustn’t have been Nepali ;)

  4. I used to eat raw ramen with peanut butter for lunch back in high school!

    Now I stick to properly microwaved-in-water Maggi & miscellaneous brands I see in the Indian grocery aisle. Haven’t seen WaiWai before…

    When I’m feeling “healthy” I eat the Maggi”Vegetable Atta Noodles” (the slogan on the packet is “taste bhi, health bhi” – but the Indo-Chinese flavors with the oil packets remain my favorite.

    • ramen and peanut butter… that’s a new one for me!

      P’s brother U and I once got into a debate over whether WaiWai was vegetarian. He insisted there wasn’t a vegetarian version, and apologized after having me eat some. But the packet had the famous “green dot” meaning veg friendly. U couldn’t believe it was veg friendly, and he started googling all over to check it out, but apparently there ARE veg friendly WaiWai, I’d imagine there would have to be, at least one flavor, with all the vegs in South Asia.

      Now that I think of it, I should have brought WaiWai for lunch. I couldn’t find anything in the fridge this morning so I just brought some random snacks with the hope of eating an earlier dinner… mental note to remember for next time!

  5. Haha my housekeeper used to eat loads of Maggi Mee, since we don’t get Wai Wai in Dubai. But when she went to Nepal or when a friend came back from Nepal, she would aquire many many packets of Wai Wai, fresh dried timur (we only have Chinese here which isn’t as good), adzuki beans, and beef (or maybe yak) jerky. And she would eat loads and loads of WaiWai, sometimes as a snack, other times as a meal.

    • I’m relatively new to timur, but our friend AS uses it in her cooking all the time (and she is an excellent cook), so now I want to get my hands on some, but can’t find it here either. She always gets it from people back home.

      My guess it that your housekeeper would get yak, goat or deer jerky (called sakuti). I think P was telling me the other day that deer sakuti is a big thing back in Nepal. When his brother went home for a visit in December he had his dad prepare some goat sakuti so it was good to go when he arrived.

      I worked in South Africa for a little while, and they have a big spiced jerky (called biltong) eating culture. You can buy all sorts of game meat biltong there–springbok, gemsbok, kudu, etc. I used to get big chunks vacuum packed and bring it back with me as a special treat for P and his brother. My students used to be really confused why the avowed vegetarian would always run to the biltong shop a few days before leaving the country.

  6. It must have been yak. She had no problem eating beef as she was a Buddhist, though. Timur is okay in small doses for me. I remember the first time I had it and my lips went numb. I know ‘weird’ is subjective, but that is probably the weirdest spice I have ever encountered. Weirder than hing and ‘black salt’ (kala namak, which smells like sulfur) even.

  7. I stumbled upon this article after hours of endless search on internet for WAI WAI Noodles made in Nepal. Can you please please tell me where can I find Vegetarian version here in USA…I need HELP…I want that NOODLES…Pls help….

    • americanepali

      We usually buy them at a Vietnamese grocery store a few blocks away. I think some Indian grocery stores also carry them. The “oriental flavor” is vegetarian based on the ingredient list on the back on the package and the green dot on the label.

  8. My husband loves Wai Wai too, he has family in Nepal and I don’t really get it the taste. What I do love from Nepal is the titora, a kind of berry that seasoned with spices and sugar. We bought kgs of it when we visited Kathmandu. I love the sweet/tangy/spicy taste.

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