Chop Chop Offers a Healthy and Original Spin on Instant Ramen
The frozen noodle company is bringing delicious, plant-based meals to Texas while expanding what it means to be Asian American
Chop Chop, an Austin-based fresh frozen noodle company, is making bold Asian flavors easy to attain in Texas.
Chop Chop packages East Asian and Southeast Asian delicacies to be prepared at home with the same ease of a classic instant ramen packet. With their four flavors, Tom Yum, Korean BBQ, Tokyo Curry and Penang Curry, the brand offers a diverse set of options from Thai, Korean, Japanese and Malaysian cuisines.
Co-founded by Eugene Lin and Steve Har, Chop Chop was born from the desire to make Asian street food more accessible to Americans. Lin is Taiwanese-Canadian, Har is Hong Kongese-Australian and both have spent a great deal of time living in various parts of Asia, making both of them very familiar with the many faces of Asian cuisine.
On top of their nomadic existences, each also has distinctive career histories, with Lin working mostly in finance and entrepreneurship and Har working as a graphic designer. The duo met through their work and collaborated on projects for two other companies, before deciding they wanted to venture into something that was completely their own. They chose to explore their shared love for Asian cuisines, specifically the noodle soups they devoured throughout their upbringing and many travels.
“The core value of what we represent is that we live and breathe street food,” shares Har. “For us, the main thing is to be honest. We’d eat Asian street food everyday for the rest of our lives if we could.”
With the idea to bring beloved East and Southeast Asian recipes to the U.S., the classic bowl of ramen had to be modified to accommodate the American way of life. Trips to the supermarket are more commonplace than picking up a hot meal from a vendor down the road. This fact, combined with the brand taking flight during the pandemic, helped bring forth the idea to make a product that offers an at-home eating experience.
“We saw an opportunity since there just wasn’t enough good Asian food in the supermarket space,” says Lin. “Chop Chop is in that space now to further the development of Asian American food.”
The meal itself is an enhanced version of the instant ramen we all know and love, reflecting something that feels more true to the experience and flavors of Asian delicacies than what is typically represented in grocery stores. The best part is the preparation is no more complicated than preparing your average instant ramen: simply add water to your frozen meal and heat it up in the microwave or on the stove. Immediately, you can appreciate the freshness of the ingredients, with a restaurant-like aroma, colorful broth and fresh-cut vegetables.
“We’re representing not just the flavors and textures of street food but the concept itself,” says Har. “My most memorable experiences have come from some combination of street food, cheap beer and good company. That’s how it started.”
Part of the innovation and appeal of Chop Chop is their interest in health and sustainability. The team prides themselves on bringing high-quality ramen to people’s homes without additives or preservatives, along with offering 100% plant-based recipes.
The changes that the noodle company is making to well-known Asian dishes fuels the ongoing discussion of what it means to be “authentic.” Those who hold conservative attitudes towards food may take issue with the removal of animal products from the original recipes or adjusting spice levels to appeal to a wider audience. However, this struggle to represent both tradition and modernity is a regular aspect of representing multiple cultures.
“Chop Chop is, in many ways, a reflection of how our experience as Asian-Americans has been as well,” explains Lin. “It’s ever-evolving and messy. We’re very much in the middle of these inter-cultures.”
Straying from the status quo is a theme of the brand, and exploration of their merging identities is encouraged. Just looking at their Instagram, you’ll find a bio that reads “Fresh from the United States of Asian America,” and a grid that displays images of Asian American icons like Karen O, ramen-related memes from Asia and photos of the food itself. Chop Chop represents fun. It’s not too serious and it’s not claiming that there’s any correct way for Asian American cuisine to be.
“We’re constantly challenging what authenticity really means and what being an Asian American means and represents,” explains Har. “I don’t think authenticity means standing still and just replicating something that is traditional to a culture because there’d be no growth in that case and everything that we know and love would not exist today if it did. What Chop Chop tries to do is find that inspiration, distill the essence of what that thing is and then look to our present environment — what is local to us to help us shape that evolving vision.”