Why The A-Sha Noodles Founder Left His Fortune 100 Career For Ramen - Exclusive

A-Sha Noodles CEO Young Chang has an impressive resume. He attended business school at the University of Southern California before working with household names such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and IBM. Why'd he leave it all for ramen?

It wasn't an automatic decision on Chang's part after a family member purchased a noodle factory in Taiwan. Instead, he told Mashed in an exclusive interview, that family member pursued him for three years before he "bit the bullet." The food business wasn't his calling, but he admitted that's something that helped him build the A-Sha Noodles brand that you can now spot in stores all across the country, partnering with iconic characters like Hello Kitty for one-of-a-kind noodle collabs.

"I will admit that [I] and my partner, we are not from the food business. We don't have tens of years at PepsiCo or Nestle. We are fresh in this industry. I think that was one of our advantages, because we thought about food very differently from traditional businesses. We thought about it from a branding and marketing [perspective], and more of a ... whole disruptor thing. We want to do things differently, and we are different because we're not from this industry. We're changing everything," Chang said.

Reinventing the ramen wheel

A-Sha Noodles and Young Chang are reinventing ramen in a few different ways. Beyond coordinating A-Sha Noodles' many collaborations that have introduced the brand to a whole new audience, Chang is also pushing the envelope and challenging consumers' preconceived notions of ramen, both through tradition-inspired quality and through unique new offerings like star-shaped ramen.

A-Sha Noodles uses a 100-year-old noodle recipe that results in air-dried, no-MSG, high-protein noodles. Chang explained, "Instead of trying to create a new type of ramen, we're taking an old recipe that's 100 years old from Taiwan, and we're introducing it to the world. I feel like food from back then, from back in the day, was a lot healthier than what it is today. We have a lot of built-in things that natively are part of our product, like the air-dried factor and no MSG. All those things that people want, they're already in our product, so we didn't have to change it too much." 

He adds that the recipe uses real, simple ingredients, including flour, salt, and water for the noodles, and soy sauce and sesame oil for the base sauce.

While A-Sha Noodles is keeping things simple with a century-old recipe, it's also trying new and innovative techniques, as can be seen with its meteor noodle. Shaped like a star, the noodle boasts a 3D shape that provides a new mouthfeel while "gripping the sauce differently," Chang said. "Pasta has so many different shapes and sizes, but ramen noodle is always ramen noodle. Why is that the case? The ramen noodle is made very similarly to pasta, so we can do different shapes as well," he added.

You can experience the meteor noodle for yourself, in A-Sha Noodles' new BT21 Collection, rolling out in Target throughout October.