When it comes to eating, Americans and people around the world love meals that are quick and convenient. Whether it’s at a fast food restaurant or something thrown in the microwave, there’s plenty to choose from in the quick and easy meal category.
The problem is that the vast majority of these products are unhealthy. Take something like ramen, the 3-minute noodle dish that’s everyone’s go-to choice for something fast and filling. The immensely popular dish is consumed in staggering numbers, with about 98 billion servings eaten annually, which amounts to approximately fourteen and a half packs consumed for every person on earth each year.
Cheap and tasty? Yes. Healthy? Absolutely not. With its high sodium content and the fact that ramen noodles are incredibly high in fat, with a single brick containing around eight grams, four of which are saturated fat, the filling noodle dish is pretty high on the list of things that are unhealthy.
We all hear enough to know that saturated fat is the worst, artery-clogging kind of fat, and excess amounts will spike your cholesterol. Based on a 2,000-calorie dietary standard, eating a full ramen pack fulfills around forty percent of your daily value for saturated fat. And then there’s the approximately 1,560 grams of sodium per pack, which is more than half of your FDA-recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg per day. Ramen noodles also usually contain tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum industry byproduct used as a food preservative. It’s not digestible and has zero nutritional value, and it’s used to preserve the noodles, which is why the shelf life for ramen products can be years. In other words, those noodles we find so tasty are fried in unhealthy fats, and if the sodium doesn’t get you, those artery hardening fats will. Eat enough ramen and you’re on your way to high blood pressure, circulatory issues, and lousy digestive health and, at the very least, some potential for weight gain.
Which is why Jimmy Trinh decided that he would come up with a healthy alternative to the ramen packs that are consumed in such volume, something that was also quick and tasty but also very healthy. In this case he decided to create quick and healthy versions of his mother’s classic pho recipe. After a lot of work experimenting with many forms of noodles and combinations of flavor profiles, and even some eco-friendly packaging, Jimmy Trinh this year has given birth to a new tasty, convenient and healthy version of the Vietnamese classic. Introduced at the Natural Products Expo West this year, Trinh’s new instant line of pho, called Naughty Noah’s Vietnamese Pho Noodles, are vegan, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and just plain delicious. They also use only organic spices and ingredients, and healthy coconut and avocado oils in six different flavor combinations with the sassy descriptions like Original Beast, Holy Hot Pepper, Victory Veg, Don’t Be a Boar (their pork knock-off), Chicka What and Curry Masala. With Naughty Noah’s Vietnamese Pho Noodles there’s a tasty offering for everyone. The product line was so impressive, in fact, that they were selected as one of ten best new vegan products (out of 3200 entries) by Veg News, The world’s largest vegan news magazine, at Natural Products Expo West.
The path to the creation of Noah’s Noodle wasn’t an easy one and to tell the story completely we need to tell the story of Jimmy Trinh and his family. In 1979, Trinh’s parents decided to leave Vietnam and come to the U.S. Members of the family split into two parties traveling on two boats and after a stop in Malaysia, pirates hijacked the boat carrying his mother’s family members and the boat and family members were never seen again. It was a tragedy that the remaining family members never recovered from. “When I met Jimmy and we talked about the immensely difficult, but brave travel to the shores of the USA in search for a better life, I knew that a movie was in order. Not only Jimmy’s life story is empowering, but it also is inspiring to those who will see the film and walk away with the single most important message: “ You CAN do it!”
Arriving in Southern California, Trinh’s family settled in as best they could, but had a hard time adjusting to their new home, taking menial jobs to make ends meet. “My mother had no formal education, as her parents didn’t allow her to go to school,” Trinh explains.
When Trinh was five, his parents divorced and his mother began working two jobs while raising her sons. Trinh’s mother eventually remarried and the family saved up enough money to buy their first house in 1992. There Trinh’s mother started an at-home reweaving business, and by then had added two daughters to the family.
“When my sisters were born, I was charged with a lot of domestic duties around the house, including cooking,” Trinh says. “That’s where my culinary inspiration came from. It all came from my mother’s teaching. I would help her prep and sometimes prepare a complete meal for the family. Finding traditional ingredients for traditional Vietnamese dishes were hard to come by in those days, and sometime we needed to travel thirty minutes to get the ingredients we needed for our family meals, ”adds Trinh.
Eventually graduating from high school, Trinh enrolled at San Diego State University planning to take classes in engineering. “In the Vietnamese culture you’re expected to be one of two things – either a doctor or an engineer, so I decided to take up engineering since I really loved math,” he says. Truth to be told connecting with Jimmy was an immediate attraction of the minds since I was a math fan myself. But, there is something more: Jimmy is personable and profoundly smart. He is unstoppable and that determination clicked with me.
Eventually graduating with a degree in engineering, Trinh did some post graduate work, but it was a trip to Europe with his brother that really opened his eyes to new possibilities. “That trip to Europe was a real revelation to me,” Trinh says. “It made me aware of so many different cultures, and the food was amazing.”
Prior to another formative experience, Trinh nearly drowned when attempting to swim across a lake with water temperatures in the high thirties. “A friend of mine said ‘let’s swim across the lake, so I took the bait and dove in and when I was about half way across I looked back and saw that he was still on the shore. I panicked and went down several times. I thought that was going to be it, that I was going to die right there, but a couple happened to be walking along the other shore and the guy jumped in and saved me. I still don’t know who he was to this day, but that was a gift that made me grateful for each day of life I have had since then.”
Trinh’s mother, being entrepreneurial, had started a real estate business in 2002 and asked Jimmy to join her, which he did and a brother also came into the family business. That was successful until 2007, when his mother foresaw the crash in the housing market and decided to get out. It was a transition point for son Jimmy, who decided he wanted to go to culinary school, which his mother was opposed to. “Which now seems odd, because during my first year of culinary school my mom opened a pho restaurant right next to the campus at the University of California campus in San Diego,” Trinh says.
Doing the research and looking for a way to get out of his local environment, Trinh decided that The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, America’s, – and the World’s, – foremost culinary academy, was the place to go. His application was accepted and Trinh began courses in March 2008.
“I wanted to expand my horizons and get out of California, The CIA (brief for The Culinary Institute of America) also has a campus in Napa Valley, but I wanted to attend the original school, which is across the country from California,” Trinh explains.
New York turned out to be a fortuitous choice, as it was there that Trinh met his future wife. “A month before I had been lying in my dorm room wondering what direction my future would take, and I had a feeling that somehow I would end up with someone in the medical field, maybe a doctor. And a month later my wife-to-be shows up. She had come to New York for a friend’s birthday party. I knew Linda, a friend of my now wife and we all decided to meet at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill for dinner. I got introduced to Nikki, who I found out worked at Wal-Mart as an optometrist and we clicked and I kept in touch ever since. ”
During his tenure at the CIA, Trinh’s culinary program required him to attend an internship/externship prior to Graduating from the CIA in Hyde Park in November of 2009. Trinh opted to serve for a restaurant in London at Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant, The BoxWood Cafe while being well out of his comfort zone, he found that the cultural difference and his formal training weren’t a good fit. He also worked at some Michelin-starred restaurants in New York to refine his skills and expand his experience.
Shortly after graduating in Nov 2009, Trinh returned to California and Nikki had returned to her home in Houston. “I would visit her every month, flying out as the relationship continued to develop, but the airfare began to add up and in March of 2010 I decided to move to Houston,” adds Trinh.
“I tried the restaurant scene there, but that wasn’t a good fit either,” Trinh says. “Coming out of the top culinary scene maybe my expectations were too high, so I decided to go back into the real estate business, eventually bringing my brother in and working across a wide range of territory including California, Texas, Colorado and Washington.” Later, – in December of 2010, – also was significant for another reason, as it was then that Jimmy Trinh gave a surprise proposal, back in NYC’s Central Park.
Then, in March of 2013, in support of his mother and her restaurant, Trinh attended the National restaurant Association trade show in Chicago, which was where he was introduced to the concept that Chipotle was using for its upscale fast casual business model. “When I saw that, I thought we could adapt that concept of ‘a build your own order’ to the pho concept, since there are many ingredients that can be incorporated into the soup base,” Trinh explains. “So when a space became available next to my mom’s restaurant, that’s what we decided to do. I told my brother in May of 2013 that I was retiring from the mortgage business for good.”
In December of 2013 Jimmy moved back to Houston and started thinking about starting a family. In January 2014 he and his wife went to the doctor’s office to discuss the options for having a child and were shocked to find out that Nikki was pregnant. Their baby, it turns out, had been conceived on or around Christmas of 2013. Son Noah Edison was born on September 25, 2014, nine months to the day of conception.
There was another series of fortuitous possibilities that Trinh believes began with the lessons learned from classes he took from a company called Landmark Worldwide starting with the course named The Landmark Forum . “The Landmark Forum taught me to resolve differences that stood in the way of key personal and professional relationships in my life, lessons that led to me talking to my mother and stepfather and expressing apologies and forgiveness, which help heal these relationships,” Trinh explains.
“Those breakthroughs with my stepfather and mother gave me a sense of clearing and an ability to create anything I wanted with my life. I created the possibility of having a family and it happened. Since our son was born in 2014 I have been working on the Naughty Noah project. When I knew we were pregnant, that’s when the seed of an idea was born.”
Another part of the impetus to create the company that was to become Naughty Noah’s Noodles was the fact that Trinh had been struggling with his weight. At 5’7” and 180 lbs. he carried more weight than he knew was healthy, and an awareness gained at culinary school had made him aware of what he was putting into his body.
“I knew I had to stay away from processed foods and began using healthier foods whenever I could and began to regenerate along with revive my body with healthy Vietnamese food. I went to the best options possible, using non-GMO, organic ingredients and that awareness was a pivot away from my old lifestyle to a healthier and more youthful way of living,” Trinh says. “And I began to drop the weight, eventually losing 35 lbs. and in 2014 I began to think of ways to bring a healthier version of Vietnamese cuisine to the masses. And that’s how the concept of Naughty Noah’s Noodles was born.”
During the interview I was truly impressed with Jimmy’s commitment to weight and health issues. He is determined and strong.
As a testament to being healthy and an inspiration to Naughty Noah’s brand, on April 2 2017, Trinh completed his first HALF IRONMAN Triathlon Race, with a staggering 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run. Within only 2 weeks apart on April 22, 2017 Trinh committed to a vegetarian diet for 2 weeks leading up to the full IRONMAN Triathlon, which involves a 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike and a full 26.2 mile marathon run!
Naughty Noah’s concept also included painstaking analyses of the types of ingredients that would be, among the healthiest available, and also when combined, would provide the satisfying tastes and mouth-feel of the traditional beef-based recipes he had handed down from his mother. The initial batches were subject to a number of focus groups, with the goal always being to approximate the original recipe, experimenting with bean noodles and then a variety of rice noodles until they finally found the right noodle in the second year of development (2015).
“By that time we were in the fifth iteration of the recipes using avocado and coconut oils with a slight amount of organic molasses to simulate the original meat-based flavors, ” Trinh explains.and with a very clean and vegan formula.
When he was into the fifth version of recipe refinement, Trinh went back to the focus groups and also to his mom’s restaurant and polled random people to do some blind taste tests, along with a couple of competitors. ‘We had a 70% improvement rate from the early taste tests, and we also asked them to fill out surveys and had a huge upswing in preference for the flavor profiles and taste, the texture of the noodles, awareness of GMO products and how much they would pay for the product. My mom took all the surveys out onto the patio and just went through them all, she was very intrigued with the development of the Naughty Noah’s noodle product line.”
“Then we concentrated on the development of the packaging. I wanted something unique, with some charm and personality that was also environmentally friendly. And our timing was perfect, as one of the suppliers had just introduced a 20 oz. microwavable and recyclable cup that was exactly what we were looking for. It’s also dishwasher safe and more expensive, but we were willing to go with a more expensive cup to get a better overall product.”
Another reason Trinh decided to go with the 20 oz. cup was to empower the consumer to add to the basic pho recipe if they so desired. With healthy, clean base, to work with, if the consumer wants to add a protein in the form of beef or chicken or even vegetables they can do so in the larger serving size cup.
“We wanted to do something completely different in the noodle category,” Trinh explains. “We wanted to be fun, unique and attractively designed and build a brand that stood out in the field. So we created a narrative that was fun and a little sassy, and it was something that coincided with the pride and joy in our lives, the birth of our son Noah.”
Much of the work in developing Noah’s Noodles was spent in developing the right combinations of ingredients. After finding the proprietary rice noodle that met everyone’s expectations, the next step was developing the flavor profiles based on clean, healthy, organic ingredients. Three of the flavors use avocado oil and three use coconut oil to get the correct balance and mouth-feel to simulate the best home pho recipes. These are unrefined oils, clean and organic, and Trinh says he is continuing to evolve the formula for future production runs that will reduce the caloric and sodium contents.
“The goal now is to get Naughty Noah’s Noodles to every consumer who might like a high quality, tasty and healthy noodle, says Trinh. “Our testing tells us that even kids from 2-8 years old love these noodles. That goal means we will have to penetrate the ramen market and make our noodles the only real healthy alternative in the quick noodle category.”
“Of course we would like to be able to partner with great organizations like Whole Foods and other organic markets, but also see ourselves becoming available in mass retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Safeway and other large retailers here and internationally. And the exciting thing is, at the Expo in Anaheim we had all of those people interested in our products line. And we also had the U.S. military come up and talk to us; they seemed very excited about what we were doing.”
Yes, it’s an exciting time for Naughty Noah’s Vietnamese Pho Noodles. Only a few months after their launch the company is now positioned to become a major player in the high consumption, quick noodle product category. What began as the seed of an idea at a Chicago food trade show some three years ago may now become one of the biggest food introductions in 30 years, and has already been cited by Veg News as one of the most promising products of the year. The future looks very rosy indeed for a company whose goal is to disrupt the ramen noodle business.
And partners, he indeed found! Atlantic Publicity, our media communication company, is planning the future and paving the way. Naughty Noah’s Noodles has caught my interest. Having been referred to as a media mogul myself I feel we are a good match with Jimmy for a number of reasons. The platform of Youthful and Ageless™ itself is a high performance next generational digital branding 2020 magazine that has been and will continue to be in the news. With our support the efforts of raising funds for the production and distribution of the noodles has just gotten so much easier. Once a company can prove a presence and awareness on the market from a trusted media source distribution is much easier.
I have full confidence and trust not only in Jimmy, but the product as well. I tried it myself and this is a dish to remember and love. I can still feel the feeling I had while I was tasting various flavors. I believe that once people learn about it, and I am here to make that sure, they will not want to live without it. It is just too good to be true therefore it is true! As the exclusive publicist to Jimmy, I can say that he is going all the way. I have no doubt. He is a fast unstoppable train down the hill. We both are on a fast track and I love that about the brand and Jimmy. We are family.
Nick Mysore, Brand Guru (“Got Milk”; “Healthy Choice,” etc…) has recently partnered with us ( Youthful and Ageless ) and I feel that our team spirit will make sure that Jimmy has all he needs to get this amazingly healthy and convenient dish off the ground. It keeps you healthy, and youthful. Noah’s Noodles is currently seeking more working capital and none of us will stop until Naughty Noah’s is successful.
Not only the noodles are something to remember long after you have tasted them, but it comes from a man who is trustworthy, true to his words and leads by