I don’t even remember my first brush with Maggi. When was it first introduced in India or when we became buddies. Ever since I remember, whether tired, back from school, or from sports classes, Ma would be serving a bowl of hot, steaming, Maggi, swimming in a delicious sauce. And not just that, the tastemaker packet was something to die for! We would hunt down the kitchen especially for the packet. Licking off the leftover spices from the packet was clearly the happiest moment of our lives.
Often, as a journalist, after returning from my night shifts at the newsdesk, I would silently cook a bowl of Maggi at 3 am and slurp it down in the privacy of the kitchen darkness, looking out at the stillness of the night, when only my Maggi and I are awake!
Maggi was handed down from my generation to my child’s generation and it served a solution to our every hunger pangs. Even as I am writing this, I am having an urge to slurp a hot-steaming bowl of Maggi.
Not to mention, how I found joy when I discovered Maggi in Indian groceries, No-Frills and other Canadian stores after I immigrated to Canada. My cabinet is always stuffed with Maggi and though the taste here is tad tempered, I am proud to say Maggi has held my hands firmly throughout my immigration battle. Hungry, cold, angry, sad, tired, dejected — Maggi would always cheer us up.
Now to know the same comfort food is in a soup, breaks my heart.
For decades now, Maggi—the two-minute instant noodle brand owned by Nestle—has been an Indian favorite. And for the Swiss multinational, it’s been a critical part of its growth in Asia’s third largest economy. In the last nine years, a May 4 report by Nomura said, the Maggi brand has grown in double digits on the back of expanding modern retail, urbanisation, targeted promotions and consistent innovation.
But earlier this week, Uttar Pradesh’s Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) found monosodium glutamate (MSG) and excessive lead content in some of the Maggi samples they tested. MSG, typically used as a flavour enhancer, can cause headaches, chest pain and nausea.
Four days later, on May 20, the FDA in Uttar Pradesh ordered Nestle to recall a batch of products—dating back to March 2014—after they found that two dozen packets of Maggi contained almost seven times the permissible levels of lead, alongside high levels of MSG.
Nestle, however, maintains that it does not use MSG (pdf) in manufacturing any of its products. Emails and messages sent by Quartz to Nestle remain unanswered.
To learn that all these years I have fed myself and my child a food containing heavy dose of lead scares me. But something in me tells this comfort food is too much of a joy to be tarnished in this battle. Maybe Nestle will introduce a fresh new batch with fresh new flavors and the noodles being in troubled waters will soon fade into oblivion.
Maggi has been a friend to not only children, but also to young men setting out to live on their own for the first time, during hostel days and camp times. If they couldn’t cook anything, they could cook Maggi.
Maggi has also been a parameter for Indian grooms to knowing how to cook. The overly-pampered grooms would joyfully announce that they could cook Maggi, thus winning the hearts of their brides-to-be.
What makes Maggi so special? The answer to this is quite simple. It is the staple food of individuals irrespective of the demographics and geography. Maggi lovers are united from Assam to Gujarat, from the chilly valleys of Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Maggi, in a way, unites India and Indians abroad. I find a lot of Asians too consuming Maggi, after trying all other forms of their own brand of instant noodles.
I personally found hot Maggi relieves me immediately when I am having a cold. And I’ve never had a stomach upset because of Maggi. Why me? Even now, during vrat (fasting) my mother takes “Vegetarian” Maggi soup as she has finds it to be wholesome, delicious, mood-elevating and believes to be not clashing with any of her self-imposed religious restrictions.
Although, on research I find Maggi noodles is made from soy protein using a catalyst enzyme porcine (taken from the intestine of pig)!
Nevertheless, Maggi has passed down three generations and , knowing India, if there is a ban on Maggi, the sale can increase 10-fold. The craving to eat Maggi will aggravate among children and Maggi will be sold in double the price.
And who cares?
Maggi is such a fast-to-cook, good-to-eat solution to all working mothers, such a mood-elevator, and now with all kind of “healthy” options available (Maggi oats, Maggi whole wheat, etc), it is highly doubtful whether the comfort food can disappear from the face of earth.
Now that I have made all of you hungry and drooling and craving for Maggi, here are a few versions of the comfort food I’ve cooked all my life for myself and my child. Enjoy!
Classic Masala Maggi
Keep it simple. The preparation of this remains same with adding water, tastemaker and noodles. There is nothing like having a plain-jane Maggi with the favourite tomato sauce. Nothing in the world can beat this, especially when your tummy demands food at odd hours say 3.30 night. Enjoy.
After making packets of Maggi over the years, we can make it even in our sleep. So now that you have made the Maggi, all you have to do is grate the cheddar cheese cubes or also put a slice of cheese on the hot Maggi. The melting cheese on the noodles is the best sight and trust us, it tastes like heaven.
Chinese spicy Maggi
The love for Maggi and home-made Chinese food is nothing new to us. So while making this avatar of Maggi, you will need to do some frying and tossing of vegetables. Take spring onions, carrots and toss it up with garlic-ginger paste. Add Maggi noodles with the tastemaker, put some water (less compared to the usual recipes) and the yummy noodles are ready to eat.
This has to be one of the commonly loved variations of Maggi. Add finely cut tomatoes and one or two eggs in Maggie and Whoa, one the finest delicacies is on your plate. One can also try making a proper bhurji-Maggi. Prepare the Egg Bhurji and toss it up with Maggi.
If you are tired of chewing the long strand of Maggi and instead want to gulp it down, you should make yourself soupy Maggi. This also works when you have a cold. Add extra bowl of water in the usual preparations.