Saturday, December 09, 2006

Uni-President - Tung-I Instant Ramen Noodles

These are definitely the most unique instant noodles I have ever had. There is no specific flavor assigned to these, they are just "Instant Ramen Noodles" with a picture of a Merlin-esque wizard looking through a telescope. Weighing in at a miniscule 40g, these are a really tiny pack of noodles but could work well as part of a larger meal.

The back of the package contains Uni-President's slogan, which is "A Kiss to the Spirit of the Future". These particular noodles are released with several different space themed cartoon images on the packaging like astronauts and planets. I happened to pick the wizard looking through the telescope, but I assume all the different space-themed noodles have the same contents. The amount of noodles is absolutely tiny, but that was OK because I was eating some leftovers with the meal.

As you might expect, there is no distinctive flavor to these, as no particular flavor is even suggested by the packaging. It tasted a little bit like garlic and salt, but nothing was overwhelming. The noodles themselves were quite good. Like most Taiwanese noodles, they were extremely soft and flavorful. The noodles had almost a nutty flavor to them which I think comes from being fried in palm oil. All in all, these noodles were pretty good, but could only serve as a small piece of a bigger meal. I did really enjoy the packaging, though!

Uni-President - Tung-I Instant Ramen Noodles - 5.5/10

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nissin Demae Rice Vermicelli - Spicy Flavor

A few weeks ago, I was sorely disappointed by the Nissin Demae Ramen - Spicy Flavor. These are quite similar to those so I was a little wary going in. The Nissin Demae Ramen had just not been spicy at all and lacked much flavor at all. But I have had good success in the past with Nissin Spicy Flavor noodles so I was willing to give this type another try. The packaging is very similar to the packaging for Nissin Demae Ramen, even down to the little cartoon boy carrying a box of noodles.

This pack of noodles is different because it is vermicelli instead of ramen. Vermicelli is a very thin strand of rice noodle that is amazingly absorbent. Because of their huge absorbent properties, these 65g of noodles seem to fill you up more a little bit more than they should.

Unlike the Ramen variant of these noodles, this pack became nice, red and spicy. There is not much flavor to these except for the heat, but that is expected since they are labelled as "Spicy Flavor". The vermicelli tend to stick to each other which is a little annoying, but hardly the fault of Nissin. If you try to pick up a few bite-sized strands to eat, chances are the whole ball will stick to it and get pulled out of the soup. After experiencing these, I can only surmise that my previous negative experience with the Nissin Demae Ramen - Spicy Flavor must have been the victim of a packaging mistake and lacking the hot oil packet.

Nissin Demae Rice Vermicelli - Spicy Flavor - 8.0/10

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Samyang Foods Cup Noodle - Hot Beef Flavor

I don't usually buy the instant noodles that come in disposable packaging; I think it is just a waste from an environmental standpoint. But once in awhile I'll buy one if it looks interesting enough. In this case, my curiosity was piqued by the fact that these are made by Samyang foods, one of my favorite Korean noodle brands.

Unlike most American noodle cups, these contain a flavor sachet under the lid that you need to open up and put on the noodles. I'm guessing that this is so they can package it with a different flavor sachet and instantly change flavors.

The noodles inside bear little resemblance to those found in the "brick" style instant noodles made by Samyang Foods. These are much thinner and less flavorful, much like the noodles found in Nissin Cup Noodle or Maruchan Instant Lunch. Quite a disappointment because I was hoping that they could replicate their tasty noodles in this cup form.

The flavor definitely reminded me of Samyang's other offerings. Unlike those, this had a bunch of chunks of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). I don't really like TVP because it just tastes unnatural. But I guess they decided to include it just to be more "beefy". While the flavor of the broth was pretty good, the noodles themselves and the inclusion of TVP ruined this experience for me. From now on, I'm going to stick to Samyang in "brick" form.

Samyang Foods Cup Noodle - Hot Beef Flavor - 4.0/10

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nissin Demae Ramen - Spicy Flavor

The Nissin Demae Spicy Flavor is one that I remember fondly from my childhood when my family would purchase entire cases of these. I also remember the fiery bliss of having numb lips and tongue after downing one of these.

The packaging has changed a little bit over the years, but the message remains the same: these things are SPICY. I especially like that they don't try to mask the intent of these noodles as "Spicy Beef Flavor" or "Kimchi Flavor" or anything like that. I am very familiar with Nissin Demae's noodles and they represent the default noodles that I think of when I think of instant ramen.

I was very confused when I made these noodles. They looked nothing like I remembered, which was a sea of red, almost as intense as seen on the packaging. The taste was even more disappointing! It really wasn't spicy at all, and tasted mostly of just sesame oil. I have no idea what went wrong, but I'm hoping that I just received a fluke package or something. I will have to pick up another pack of these sometime and find out for sure.

Nissin Demae Ramen - Spicy Flavor - 4.0/10

Wai Wai - Minced Pork Soeng Kreung Flavour Instant Noodle

As usual, I don't really know what the name of these instant noodles mean, but that didn't stop me from trying them. These are imported from Thailand, so I'm guessing that Minced Pork Soeng Kreung is a Thai dish.

These are on the smallish side for instant noodles, as tend to be the case with imports from Thailand. Thai noodles also tend to be more exotic flavors, which is a sharp contrast with imports other countries, especially Korea.

The noodles themselves were much thinner than the typical instant noodles. They tasted quite good and reminded me of mifun noodles, although these were made with wheat instead of rice. The broth flavoring consists mostly of onion and spicy oil. It was quite good, although I thought it was a little bit too oily. I was a little surprised that these turned out to be spicy, but not disappointed because I rather like spicy instant noodles.

Wai Wai - Minced Pork Soeng Kreung Flavour Instant Noodle - 6.5/10

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Samyang Foods - Leebaikyang

It's hard not to notice these noodles on the shelf with their flaming red packaging. Made by Samyang Foods, the Leebaikyang noodles are imported from Korea and are graced by a trio of jolly musicians on the package. I have no idea what Leebaikyang means, but I have had good success with Samyang Foods in the past, so I decided to try these noodles. Judging by the packaging and where these noodles come from, I would guess that they are probably spicy hot with not much other flavor.

Like all their other products, Samyang noodles are very chewy and need to be cooked a little longer than the average ramen. However, I feel that they also tend to be tastier with a little more flavor as well. They definitely have more substance and will fill you up better.

As I expected, these noodles turned out to be just like every other one of Samyang Food's spicy instant noodles. The spiciness is very strong and has a tangy chili powder flavor. There's a nice amount of scallions and dried shitake mushrooms to add some variety. Nong Shim and Samyang are certainly battling it out to win the Korean hot and spicy noodle battle. Their products are so similar and redundant that I cannot really tell them apart. But they happen to be one of my favorite styles so I am not going to complain!

Samyang Foods - Leebaikyang - 8.0/10

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mr. Kon - Hot Beef Flavor

I am familiar with the Mr. Kon brand that produces microwavable Chinese pastries such as turnip cakes and scallion pancakes. I assume that this brand of instant noodles is associated with the same Mr. Kon, although you can never be sure with the flaky trademarks of Chinese and Taiwanese imports. I do know that Mr. Kon noodles are one of the most popular brands in China. Also, those microwavable pastries were always pretty good so I figured this pack of noodles would be worth a shot.

The first thing that stands out on the packaging is the fiery red broth. That stuff looks like it might have come out of a volcano or something, but it is certainly inviting to someone who likes spicy things. The flavor of the noodles is helpfully written in Spanish, in case you can't read English nor Chinese. Interestingly, these noodles contain 196% of your recommended daily value of sodium.

I was a little disappointed that my bowl of noodles didn't have the same molten look as shown in the packaging. But they definitely pack a spicy punch. There are even little slices of red chili peppers to kick it up a notch. One thing I liked about these noodles was that you could still taste the beef flavor rather then having the whole thing be overwhelmed by spiciness. There was nothing particularly special about these noodles but you can't really go wrong when the spiciness is overpowering all other flavors. It was a little bit too salty for my taste, so maybe they could scale back a little bit on the 196% RDV of sodium!

Mr. Kon - Hot Beef Flavor - 7.0/10

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ken's Ramen - the Deliciousness is in the Details

Ken's Ramen (Ken's Noodle House)
1 Brighton Ave
inside the super88 building
Allston, MA 02134
Closed Wednesdays

Nothing beats a chilly Boston evening than eating a hot bowl of noodles. On a recent Saturday night, we had no trouble getting a table at Ken's Ramen. The menu is pretty much unchanged from when I visited earlier this year. There are four or five standard ramens with a clear (salty), soy sauce, or miso broth for around $7. Extra toppings and noodles are available for a few dollars more.

On this trip, we ordered the two specialty ramens. The noodles in the specialty ramens are supposedly imported from Japan, hence the higher cost. The Sapporo specialty ramen is a miso-based broth with egg, roast pork, scallions, corn, bean sprouts, and seaweed.

The other specialty ramen is a clear (salty) broth with similar toppings.

Although the specialty ramens are more expensive than the standard ramens, there are many more toppings to partially justify the additional cost. The ramens are beautifully presented, which heightens the overall experience. The variety of toppings, the intense and fragrant broth, and the texture of the noodles were all very satisfying. We did not taste anything particularly special about the imported noodles, but perhaps we needed a standard ramen for comparison. I would have liked for the meal, particularly the toppings, to be served at a slightly higher temperature.

How does Ken's Ramen compare to Sapporo Ramen in Porter Square? The standard portion size at Ken's, while still a satisfying meal for one person, is significantly less than the gut-busting bowls one gets at Sapporo. However, the quality of the broth and toppings at Ken's far outmatches the run-of-the-mill fare at Sapporo. The artful presentation of the meal at Ken's helps complete a balanced and harmonious ramen experience.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tung-I Instant Spicy Beef Flavor Noodle

This particular brand of ramen was a staple in our household growing up. I think the packaging has changed a few times over the years, but the important stuff inside has stayed the same. They are a good example of Taiwanese noodles, which tend to have thinner, more deeply fried noodles.

The picture of the cow on the cover of the packaging is quite disturbing. He looks like he's got mad cow disease or something! But there is not actually any meat inside, so I wasn't actually that disturbed.

I really like the flavor of these noodles. They are savory and spicy and go well with the noodles. There are plenty of carrots and scallions to add a change of pace. The broth is not nearly as spicy as the Korean alternatives, but is still fiery enough to give your lips a tingle. Overall, this pack is definitely recommended.

Tung-I Instant Spicy Beef Flavor Noodle - 8.5/10

Cup Noodles - Salsa Picante Shrimp Flavor

After sampling Maruchan's Lime Chili Flavor With Shrimp, I decided to experiment with Cup Noodles analogous flavor. The packaging is remarkably similar to the Maruchan brand and I would have a tough time telling them apart if I wasn't impeccably trained to recognize the packaging of instant noodles.

Although Nissin is a Japanese company, the Cup Noodles line found in the US are designed and manufactured within the US. The true imports from Japan are found under the brand name Nissin Demae. The Nissin Cup Noodles are similar in a lot of ways to the Maruchan Instant Lunch line. They come in a styrofoam cup and are filled with cheap inferior quality noodles. But they are really easy to make as all you need to do is add boiling water and wait a few minutes. So, for the uber-lazy, they are really quite convenient.

In a lot of ways, these noodles were similar to Maruchan's. The noodles themselves have little taste and are annoyingly thin. Overall, the flavor was not nearly as good as Maruchan's. The lime flavor was there, but tasted more like vinegar than citrus. So although they look like twins, the Maruchan version is far superior. With all that said, if you have an opportunity to avoid American made ramen, by all means take it!

Cup Noodles - Salsa Picante Shrimp Flavor - 4.5/10
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Maruchan Instant Lunch - Lime Chili Flavor With Shrimp

Amazingly, the Ramen Lovers blog has not reviewed a single American instant noodle up to this point. So at Ralph's last week, I decided to pick up the most disgusting sounding flavor of Maruchan just to prove once and for all the utter crappiness of American ramen. This particular one is Lime Chili Flavor With Shrimp.

Maruchan's headquarters is just a stone's throw away from my office in Irvine, CA. Surprisingly, Maruchan has become immensely popular in Mexico, which may partially explain their headquarters' location in Southern California. This particular flavor may be designed to appeal to Mexican tastes, as it contains Lime and Habanero chili, both of which are commonly found in Mexican cuisine (and not in Asian cuisine).

The Instant Lunch line of noodles comes with their own styrofoam cup, so all you need to do is fold back the lid and pour some boiling water in. The biggest strike against the Maruchan brand is the cheap inferior noodles they use, and this one is no exception. They are extremely thin and completely flavorless. I guess Maruchan doesn't realize that good noodles can actually enhance the experience.

I was shocked by how good the broth turned out. They certainly lived up to their billing, being extremely hot and spicy, yet with a strong flavor of lime as well. The dehydrated shrimp were a nice touch, instead of being disgusting as I had expected. As with most Maruchan instant noodles, there is a pleasantly high amount of vegetables. Overall, these had a very good flavor, but I wish the noodles themselves matched up to the surprisingly flavorful and potent broth.

Maruchan Instant Lunch - Lime Chili Flavor With Shrimp - 6.5/10

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Maggi - Tom Yam Flavour

From the makers of the ubiquitous Maggi sauce comes these noodles. Even though Maggi is owned by Nestlé, these noodles are imported from Malaysia. I had very high hopes for these, considering they came from a reputable brand and Tom Yam flavour seemed like a good idea at the time.

As a disclaimer, I have never had Tom Yam soup before, but I have heard great things about it from friends. Wikipedia describes it as a "hot and sour soup flavored with fish sauce". Hmm, maybe that should have been my first warning sign. Sour and fish flavored things usually don't come off well in instant noodles. The additives to these noodles consisted of a powder pack and a sauce pack filled with a dark brown thick sauce.

Looks innocent enough from the picture, right? But what you don't see is the pungent and noxious sour taste of this broth. These noodles are hot and spicy but are also disgustingly sour. To make matters worse, there is a strong fishy taste on top of everything. Maybe I just don't like Tom Yam soup, but I think these noodles are just plain bad. Maggi should stick to making sauces!

Maggi - Tom Yam Flavour - 0.0/10

Nissin Demae XO Sauce Seafood Flavor

As this ramen blog has established, the Nissin Demae ramen line is typically mediocre with cardboard-like noodles and very little flavor. Nevertheless, I decided to the XO Sauce Seafood Flavor out of curiosity. What is XO sauce?

The ramen comes with three packets - a soup base, "oil", and a brown paste. The soup base has some dehydrated green onions that plump up nicely in the soup.

The noodles were definitely the typical Nissin Demae noodles - I could identify these in a blind taste test I think. The broth tasted quite strongly of the artificial seafood flavor common to instant ramen and the oil provded a nice creaminess to the meal. However, I'm still not sure what XO sauce is - it tasted somewhat garlicky. Nevertheless, this is probably my favorite of the Nissin Demae ramens that I've tried so far.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ve Wong Noodle - Vegetarian Flavor

"Vegetarian Flavor" and "Instant Noodles" are not words that should go together, but I bravely picked this one up from the local 99 Ranch Market anyway. It's made by Ve Wong, which is a noodle company based in Taiwan.

As you might expect, the powder packet contained a fair amount of dried seaweed and carrots which magically plumped up when water was added. The weird thing that there were some TVP chunks as well. TVP stands for "textured vegetable protein" and is used as a cheap meat substitute. But why would they be including it in something that was meant to be vegetarian flavored anyways??

The only way I can think of to describe these noodles is that it is a spinach soup. In other words, not very good. I wasn't expecting much from these noodles, and they certainly didn't deliver much. But at least it didn't repulse me like some shrimp or crab flavored noodles. From now on I will be sticking to noodles that taste like meat, hot & spicy, miso, udon, etc...

Ve Wong Noodle - Vegetarian Flavor - 3.0/10

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nissin Demae Miso Flavor

Sometimes you're just not in the mood to set your mouth on fire or consume an entire 120g ramen. In those times, Nissin Demae is a good reliable brand that will provide a tasty meal in a manageable portion.

The miso flavor comes with two spice packets. I'm not sure what the difference is between the two, since they are both brown powders. Nevertheless, the result is fragrant and flavorful. It doesn't taste anything like miso - but since when were ramen flavors supposed to taste like how they are advertised?

The picture on the front of this ramen shows veggies and meats. The miso flavor would definitely be a great base upon which to add toppings. The packets lack dried veggies, such as green onions or carrot flakes, that provide needed color and texture to many other ramens. But on the whole, this is a thoroughly solid ramen that should be a staple in every Ramen Lover's pantry.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nong Shim - Chapagetti

Here's a flavor that's pretty different than the standard instant noodles that you find. It is based on a common Chinese and Korean dish called Chajang Myun. This dish is traditionally served with ground beef or pork and a slightly sweet sauce made with black bean paste. I am not really a fan of this dish, but I was curious as to what the instant noodle version would taste like.

"Chapagetti" is certainly an interesting name for these noodles. I guess they are trying to say that it is a blend of Chajang and Spaghetti...? These noodles have a little different cooking instructions than what you usually see since they are not supposed to be served with soup. You must boil the noodles in water and then drain them and add tablespoons of water and add the sauce packets to create the sauce.

These noodles came in the convenient circular brick form, although this convenience was largely lost since the cooking method required independent boiling. The circular brick is really only helpful when you can cook the noodles in the bowl and not have to drain them.

Strangely, the sauce came in pellet form but dissolved easily enough in the water to form a very dark sauce. The flavor was surprisingly mild. It definitely tasted like the right kind of flavor, it's just not as strong as I am used to getting when this dish is homemade or served in a restaurant. I won't be buying this again because it just wasn't that good. Nong Shim is a quality brand, but don't go for this one!

Nong Shim - Chapagetti - 5.0/10

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mi Hai Cua - Crab Flavour

Here's one that I picked mostly for the weirdness factor. The Mi Hai Cua brand is imported from Singapore and this particular packet is crab flavoured. The picture on the cover is not particularly appetizing, showing two uncooked blue crabs (they turn red after they've been cooked). Despite previous bad experiences with Unif-100 and Kung-Fu shrimp flavored ramen, I was willing to give this one a shot, mostly just to see what it was like.

Well, the good news is that the seafood flavour wasn't very pervasive. However, the bad news was that the seafood flavour was pretty much nonexistent. I won't say that these noodles were bland, but they certainly lacked distinction. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the other two Shrimp Flavored ramen that I have had before, although this one didn't have as much fishiness as those.

Overall, it was not something that I would throw away, but it was definitely not something I would buy again either. The flavor was certainly not bad, there was just really no flavor besides MSG and salt in here. My advice is to stay away from all seafood related flavors unless they are hot and spicy as well!

Mi Hai Cua - Crab Flavour - 2.5/10

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Samyang Ramen

I have been trying a lot of Samyang's offerings recently, specifically Sogoki Myun, Sutah Ramen, Kimchi Ramen, and Pojangmacha U-Dong. But this one has the special privilege of being named after the company: Samyang Foods.

The packaging reminded me of a box of Tide detergent but I didn't let that stop me from trying it. No surprises on the almost every other Korean ramen in the world, there is a big block of noodles with a spice packet and a dried vegetable packet.

The steam from the broth fogged up my camera lens! But let me tell you, this was quite a tasty ramen with plenty of heat yet plenty of flavor as well. I especially liked the shitake mushrooms included in the veggie packet. You don't see that very often for some reason yet they add a lot of potent bursts of flavor to the whole package. This is quite similar to Samyang's Sogoki Myun, Sutah Ramen and Kimchi Ramen but comes together a little bit better. Very satisfying and deserving of the Samyang name!

Samyang Ramen - 9.0/10

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Myojo Chukazanimai - Soy Sauce Flavor

Well, this one was quite different from anything I've ever tried before. I suspect this is what Japanese instant ramen is really intended to be, but I can't say for sure since I've never been to Japan. But I suspect Nissin is a bastardized and mass produced version of what the Japanese consider instant ramen.

The packaging here is noticably different than the usual instant noodles. The Myojo Chukazanimai comes in a thin and flat package. As I opened it, I was definitely expecting something different than the usual experience. The biggest difference between this one and other instant ramen is in the noodle quality. Myojo Chukazanimai's noodles were much chewier and flavorful then the usual fare. In fact, they reminded me quite a lot of the fresh ramen I have had at various restaurants...which is a good thing, of course.

The soup had strong flavors of soy sauce and onion. There was a slight hint of sesame oil as well. I felt like the soup's flavor was too strong, but I know a lot of ramen restaurants serve soup that is just as strong as this stuff. This was the closest approximation I have ever had to the fresh ramen that is served in a restaurant. So if you like that kind, you will probably like this kind too!

Myojo Chukazanimai - Soy Sauce Flavor - 6.0/10

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Unif-100 - Shallot Beef Flavor Noodles

Even though I've been previously burned by President Unif-100 noodles, I managed to forgive them for that travesty. After all, it's very difficult to pull off a Shrimp flavor that doesn't taste like aquarium water. Shallot beef flavor, on the other hand, should be a much easier flavor to design. Just add some salt and beef flavoring and you're set.

No real surprises with this ramen. It's a little bit spicy to cover the fact that there isn't much flavor there besides salt. The flavor packets consist of a powder packet, a packet of scallions and cabbage, and a flavored oil packet.

Overall, this was a decent soup but I prefer the competitors such as Ve Wong's Peppered Beef Flavor which is rather similar to this one but tastes a little better. My biggest beef (pun intended) is that the Unif-100 noodles just aren't very tasty. This will be a flaw that will affect them across all their product lines.

Unif-100 - Shallot Beef Flavor Noodles - 6.5/10

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sogoki Myun - Beef Flavor

The packaging of this reminded me very much of the Kimchi Ramen I had a few weeks ago, which was also made by Samyang Foods. I guess you could say they are part of the same family of large Korean instant noodles with relatively basic flavors.

These noodles turned out to be much spicier than I had anticipated. It's not quite up to the heat level of Shin Ramyun, but it definitely has more kick than you might expect from the packaging, which gives no hint that it might be spicy inside. I guess these Korean packages don't need to indicate spiciness, since pretty much all Korean instant noodles are spicy. The exception is the Chajung Myun varieties.

Couldn't really taste any beef flavor because the heat from the broth overwhelmed the taste. Overall, these were decent simple noodles that didn't do very much to distinguish themselves in my mind positively or negatively.

Sogoki Myun - Beef Flavor - 7.0/10

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ve Wong Noodle - Pork & Chicken Flavor

I am much more familiar with Ve Wong's Peppered Beef Flavor, but I couldn't resist picking this up when 99 Ranch Market had a Buy One, Get One Free sale.

As you might expect, the noodles in this pack are identical to those in the Peppered Beef Flavor. The Ve Wong noodles come with a good quantity of seaweed, cabbage, and carrot which add some nice variety and texture to the noodles.

I wonder what genius at Ve Wong decided to combine pork and chicken into the same flavor. Well, it kind of works, in that the soup is very savory and definitely meat-flavored, although the meat's identity is a little bit obscure. The noodles are pretty tasty and are pretty thin and soft, as is typical of Taiwanese instant noodles. Overall, these noodles are worth a try if you are into a savory meat flavor without any spiciness.

Ve Wong Noodle - Pork & Chicken Flavor - 6.5/10

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