Instant ramen ‘fire noodles’ are too spicy for this country

Danish Veterinary and Food Administration via CNN Newsource

Hong Kong/Seoul (CNN) — Three varieties of “fire chicken” instant ramen noodles popularized by a viral internet challenge have been recalled in Denmark after they were deemed to be too spicy.

The level of capsaicin found in Buldak Hot Chicken Ramen 3x Spicy, Buldak Hot Chicken Ramen 2x Spicy and Hot Chicken Stew was so high that it could poison consumers, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Capsaicin is a spicy, naturally occurring chemical found in chili peppers.

South Korean noodle giant Samyang, which developed the ramen, said on Wednesday that the products were not being recalled because of quality issues.

It’s “because it is so spicy that it could cause problems,” a spokesperson told CNN. “This is the first time they’ve been subject to (a) recall for this reason.”

The Danish regulator didn’t say whether the recall was prompted by a specific incident. It urged consumers to discard the products or return them to where they were purchased.

Instant noodles originated in Japan but have become a staple across Asia. Samyang bills itself as having produced South Korea’s first instant ramen in 1963, when the country was mired in post-war poverty and needed cheap, accessible sources of food.

Samyang was the country’s third largest noodle maker after Ottugi and Nongshim by sales in 2022, the latest year for which information was available, according to NICE Information Service, a research firm.

Buldak, which means “fire chicken” in Korean, was developed by Samyang’s chief executive, Kim Jung-soo, a housewife who married into the family business and eventually took over. She told The Wall Street Journal in January that she was inspired by a spicy stir fry.

The noodles were launched in 2012 and popularized on social media by influencers touting the “Fire Noodles Challenge.” In March, rapper Cardi B reignited the craze with a TikTok video.

According to taste testers, the original buldak ramen scored around 4,000 on the Scoville scale, which is roughly equivalent to the heat of jalapeños. Some of the new flavors may be two or three times as hot, they have said.