New KiKi instant noodles a hit

KiKi noodles from Taiwan, touted as healthier than regular instant noodles, sold out in just six days after they were launched in Singapore

A brand of instant noodles made popular on social media by Taiwanese actress Shu Qi has caught the attention of consumers in East Asia, from Hong Kong to Singapore.

Say hello to KiKi noodles by Taiwanese restaurant chain KiKi, which specialises in Sichuan dishes and has nine outlets in the territory.

The noodles are touted to be healthier because they are sun-dried, unlike many other types of instant noodles, which are fried.

They come in two flavours - Sichuan Pepper and Aromatic Scallion - and are available exclusively in Singapore through KiKi Restaurant's local partner KiKi Fine Goods Singapore (kikifinegoods.sg), an online retailer.

Each pack of KiKi noodles contains six individual packets of noodles wrapped in clear plastic with a sachet of seasoning.

KiKi Fine Goods launched the noodles here on Aug 7 and sold out its first shipment of 2,000 packs - 1,000 of each flavour - within six days. The next shipment is slated to be available at the end of this month. Each six-pack bag is priced at $13.70.

Behind KiKi Fine Goods are Ms Sally Tsai, 49, and Ms Karin Chan, 50, who run event marketing company Ideaholic. They used to operate the now-defunct cafe and cookbook store 25 Degrees Celsius in Keong Saik Road.

The duo first dined at KiKi Restaurant in Taipei, in Yanji Street off Zhongxiao East Road, in the early noughties and fell in love with it.

Ms Tsai said: "We love the restaurant, the food, the people - everything about it."

So, two years ago, when KiKi mooted the idea of starting a series of retail products including its noodles, the business partners knew from the get-go that they wanted to be the ones to bring KiKi's products to Singapore. KiKi's pre-packed noodles were launched at its restaurants last October.

In an e-mail in Chinese from Taiwan, KiKi Restaurant's chairman Yuan Kwan Chuan said the group decided to work with Ms Tsai and Ms Chan because they were on the "same wavelength". The group is also looking to expand to other Asian markets.

On the decision to enter the Singapore market, Mr Yuan said: "Singapore is a cosmopolitan and global city. It has a diverse range of cuisines and cultures, and we hope to use Singapore as a platform to take KiKi's food products international."

KiKi Fine Goods plans to make KiKi noodles available in Malaysia and will also bring in the chain's range of other products, such as its spicy sauce and seasoning powder. It is looking to open a KiKi Restaurant in Singapore with suitable partners.

Each shipment of noodles has to go through tests by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration before being allowed into Singapore, said Ms Tsai.

This is in the light of 2013's food safety scare, when some Taiwanese starch products were pulled off the shelves here after they were found to be tainted with maleic acid, an unapproved additive which can cause kidney damage if consumed in large amounts over a period of time.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it now works closely with the Taiwanese authorities to ensure that starch-based food products imported into Singapore are not contaminated with maleic acid.

All such Taiwanese products must be accompanied by a certificate that states that they have been tested to be free from maleic acid.

The AVA said it has not detected maleic acid in starch-based products from Taiwan since 2014.

Diners here are glad to hear that KiKi noodles are safe to eat.

Business development manager June Lee, 39, said: "KiKi noodles have a wonderfully chewy texture. I take it on my business trips overseas for when I crave Asian food.

"The noodles may be healthier, but I will buy them only if they are maleic acid-free and safe to eat."

•Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'New instant noodles a hit'. Print Edition | Subscribe