Mie rebus (boiled noodles) at a warung in Puncak : classic breakfast of taxi drivers, students, and other people in a hurry
Indonesians love noodles for the same reason American students do: they're wicked cheap. The price of rice has gone up 30% in the last year for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with. The price of noodles has remained stable at 5 to 10 cents a package.
Instant noodles are like an invasive plant: they drive out native staples. Here they supplant rice; in Mexico they're replacing tortillas. This gives nutritionists migraines because ramen is about as bad as it gets: it's full of starch, calories, fat and not much else, leaving a double-whammy of malnutrition and obesity in its wake. The noodle companies have responded by fortifying some of their products with vitamins, but I'm a little dubious about that.
I do have to say, though, that Indonesian noodles are much more fun to eat than their American counterparts. Naturally they come with the traditional flavoring powder made of MSG and what my family calls "chicken squeezings". But that's not all! They also include one or more of the following: chili sauce, powdered chili, onion- or chili-flavored oil, the iconically Indonesian sweet soy sauce, and crunchy fried shallots to sprinkle on top. There's even a new kind that has little "dumplings" in it -- which is fine if you think of dumplings as tiny rectangles of cardboard.