Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paldo Korean Noodle U-Dong Flavor

Made By:  Paldo Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Preparation:  Stovetop & Range
545 calories (2284kJ) per package

Sold online at AsianFoodGrocer

Our next selection from the latest Ramen Box is this Korean take on a Japanese Udon soup.  I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about trying this one:  I love the traditional Japanese mentsuyu flavor as in Nong Shim's Japanese-Style Udon, Maruchan's Akai Kitsune Udon/Midori no Tanuki Tensoba, and others.  However, I've complained quite recently about the apparent Korean penchant for dousing things in chilies until they drown the other flavors.  The Ramen Box pamphlet does say this one is "Mild," though, so I will be cautiously optimistic--even though that cartoon chef is back, and even brought a strange little sidekick with him this time.

Inside the package, we find a packet of powdered Soup Base, a packet of "Frying Soup Base" which appears to be our dried veggie mix along with some little rice crackers, and a block of thick round noodles.  Preparation is standard for Korean noodles:  We bring 550cc of water to a boil, add the contents of the packets to the water, and then simmer the noodles in the broth for 4 minutes.  Just that easy, it is ready to serve!  I do notice the relative lack of angry red color in the broth, which helps me maintain my optimism.

And my optimism is rewarded; these are pretty good!  The broth does have (as advertised) a mild chili heat, but it doesn't overpower the broth, which has a nice light soy-mirin-seafood flavor.  It does seem like a lighter-flavored version of the mentsuyu, more along the lines of the Okinawa Soba we just had than some of the others mentioned above.  While the noodles can't really compare to fresh-packed udon, they do stay nicely firm and have a good flavor.  Even toward the end of the bowl, although the chili heat did build a little, it was at a nice level compared to the rest of the flavors in the bowl.
I would definitely have this one again! :D

(I still don't trust that little chef mascot, though.  In the immortal words of a former US president: "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.")

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Myojo Okinawa Soba

Made By:  Myojo Foods Co. Ltd.  [Japan]
Preparation:  Saucepan & Range
400 calories per package

Available online via Amazon

Today for lunch, my wife and I are having our first noodle from the July Ramen Box!  Naturally, I gravitate straight toward the Japanese ones first, and pull out the Okinawa Soba.  I'm looking forward to them!

The package has fairly simple contents:  We have the block of wide-cut  pale noodles, a packet of a soup base, and a much smaller packet of chili powder.  We are supposed to boil 500cc of water (about 2 cups), add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes, then stir in the soup base and transfer to our bowls.  Unlike most other noodles that include a chili powder component, this one is meant to be used as garnish; it is not pure chili powder but is a version of Japanese shichimi togarashi [seven-flavor chili powder] which is milder and includes things like orange zest, sesame seeds, and seaweed flakes.  So, we dust the top of our noodles with our pepper garnish for color, and we are ready to serve!

I have to say, I really like this one!  The flavor definitely reminds me of the Japanese 'mentsuyu' flavor as in the Midori no Tanuki Tensoba or Japanese-Style Udon noodles, although it seems a bit lighter and cleaner in flavor.  I think the broth might be more anchovy based and a little less of the seaweed-and-smoked-fish 'usual' dashi flavor, and based on the color, there is definitely less of the soy sauce element.

Despite the name, the noodles are not really soba noodles, but are actually closer to an udon noodle; they are a bit slippery, soft yet not soggy, and have a light and clean flavor that pairs with the broth well.  The fact that they are based on udon and not soba may or may not be surprising, depending on whether or not you knew that "real" Okinawa Soba was made with udon-like noodles, or whether you had to find this out on Wikipedia afterwards.

While I think I still prefer the deeper flavor and the 'true' soba noodles from a Tensoba, this one is quite nice and I would definitely enjoy having more of these!  The "serving suggestion" picture on the front shows additions of braised pork belly, green onion, pickled ginger, and something that looks like mushroom but might be fishcake slices; that seems like it could be fun excuse to buy more of these.  :D

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ottogi Sesame Flavor Ramen

Made By:  Ottogi Ramyun Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Preparation:  Saucepan & Range
490 calories per package

Available online via Amazon

For dinner tonight, we had the last selection of the instant noodles from the June Ramen Box!  My sweetie recently told me (while we were having the Sapporo Ichiban Shio Ramen that included the sesame seed topping) that she enjoys the flavor of sesame, so I am hoping this will be a hit with the entire Ramen Butterfly household.  The back of the package promises that the included Egg Block will also deliver "the rich flavor of roasted sesame," so that sounds promising.

The noodle block is a brighter yellow color than usual, and there are three included seasoning packets:  There is the dry soup base packet, the aforementioned "Egg Block", and a small packet of bright orange sesame oil.  We bring 500cc of water to a boil, then we add the soup base, egg block, and noodles and cook for four minutes.  After transferring to a bowl, we add the small amount of sesame oil and stir.  We also notice that the square Egg Block seems to have completely disappeared, so apparently instead of being a Block, it was supposed to disperse and become part of the broth.  In any case, the noodles are ready to serve!

I have to say, I am starting to get bored with the oppressive spice level of most Korean ramyuns.  It's not that I can't handle spicy food, either; I mean 'oppressive' in the sense that all the other flavors which are supposed to be present get oppressed by the large amount of chili heat.

This ramen is unfortunately a prime example:  The package doesn't even mention anything about being spicy, and it promises "rich flavor of roasted sesame."  The Ramen Box pamphlet does mention the "spicy level" is Medium, but also reassures us that this "offers a balanced taste of nuttiness and spiciness" and that the "addition of the egg block adds a savory taste to the broth."  What do we have instead?  Yet another slight variation of Shin Ramyun.  It's a shame, because the tiny hints of the subflavors that I can pick up seem like they could have been interesting, if they weren't too busy being oppressed.
My wife was even less impressed by the level of oppression, and added some American cheese to tone down the heat.  Unfortunately this didn't do anything to liberate the alleged sesame and egg undertones, and instead just turned it into some mediocre nacho cheese soup.

For the record, the noodles have a firm and slightly slippery texture, and remind me of the 'udon' style noodles from Neoguri et al.  However, I'm just adding that to the list of ways this could have been interesting but chose not to be.  I don't imagine I'll be buying this one. :\

Monday, July 27, 2015

Unboxing The Ramen Box: July 2015

The third Ramen Box has arrived!  This one has some pretty cool stuff in it:

Our bonus item of the month is a pair of "Stache Sticks", which is one of those silicone 'training-wheels-for-chopsticks' things, shaped like a moustache so children of all ages can use it as a clever disguise between bites.  I might have preferred something a little girlier, but we will probably use it. We also get our button-of-the-month (this one is stripey), which I'll put on last month's tote bag with the other two, and the informational pamphlet.

We have an interesting selection of noodles this month!  There is an Okinawa Soba noodle soup from Myojo, what seems to be a Korean take on Japanese udon noodle soup from Paldo, as well as some Bibim Men, also from Paldo, which are spicy noodles meant to be served cold.  Finally, for the 'fun' entry, there are packets of Just Nu:dles from Nong Shim, which are noodles with no seasoning packets, intended to be used for purposes such as making sandwiches or pizza crusts, or crushing up onto salads.

This month seems like another good value!  I'm excited to try all the products (even if I'm a little intimidated by the Bibimmen), so reviews should be forthcoming soon.  So far, The Ramen Box seems very recommendable!  :D

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sapporo Ichiban Shio Ramen

Made By:  Sanyo Foods of America [USA]
Preparation:  Saucepan & Range
480 calories per package

Available online via Amazon

This morning, we decided it was high time we had some ramen noodles again!  This is the second product from the June Ramen Box, and even though I expressed a little bit of disappointment that a "domestic" noodle would make its way into the Box, it does seem like it could be a 'breakfast noodle' kind of thing.  We'll give it a chance.

Inside the package is a block of fairly standard looking instant ramen, a 'soup base' packet, and also an included packet of sesame seeds for garnish.  Preparation is standard for 'domestic' packet noodles; we boil 2 cups (or 500cc) of water, boil the noodles for 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and stir in the Soup Base.  Finally, we sprinkle the sesame seed garnish on top, and our noodles are ready to serve!

The noodles have a bit firmer texture than I might have been expecting from an "American" ramen, and the broth flavor is also a pleasant surprise.  It tastes very similar to the normal domestic 'chicken' flavor ramen broth, but seems lighter and cleaner-tasting somehow.  It actually reminds me of the broth from the Paldo Kokomen we got in the previous Box, except without the jalapeƱo flavor and heat.  The light sesame flavor from the seeds was a nice touch; I think with a light clean flavor like this, adding sesame oil would be too much, but the seeds work, giving the flavor a little more dimension without any extra 'heaviness.'

I have to say, I am very pleasantly surprised!  I do accept that something doesn't have to be "Americanized" just because it's made in the USA (like many of Nong Shim's noodle products that are manufactured here but are otherwise like the Korean counterparts), and it seems that Sapporo Ichiban is following that standard, at least for this product.  Especially considering that this product should be readily available for a reasonable price, I could see us getting this again.  I'd definitely choose it over the Top Ramen and Maruchan chicken flavors, since both the noodles and the broth flavor are a big step up.  Sorry for doubting you, Ramen Box! :)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

JML Instant Noodle Artificial Stew Beef Flavor

Made By:  Jinmailang Nissin Food Co, Ltd. [China]
Required to Prepare:  Saucepan & Range
523 calories per package

Available online via Amazon

Today we are trying the first of the products from the June 2015 Ramen Box, and we decided to start with our first Chinese noodle,* this Beef Stew flavored noodle from JML (or Jin Mai Lang).  We're also kind of testing the theory that warm beverages and/or soups can actually make you feel cooler in hot weather, since we are having record-breaking heat here in the Pacific Northwest.  (If it works, I am going to have lots of tea and ramen this summer--they aren't predicting any break in the hot and dry weather any time soon.)

The package contains a block of noodles which look maybe a little narrower and lighter in color than average, along with not two, but three packets of seasonings; there is a powder soup base, a packet of dried veggies, and the third one is a seasoning oil, in solid/paste form.  We add the contents of all three packets to 500ml of water as it is coming to a boil, then we cook our noodles in the boiling broth for 3 minutes.  The aroma is quite nice; we are definitely smelling the beef base, but also a 'Chinese' spice--I am thinking some form of the five-spice mix and some ginger.  Anyway, we transfer the completed soup to our ramen bowls, and we are ready to eat!

The broth does have a rather nice flavor!  I am not sure I would completely agree with the Ramen Box brochure that this is 'not spicy', as it does have a little heat to it, but then again it is probably milder than the "Mild" Korean ramyuns that we sampled last month.  Rather, the chili flavor is part of a larger seasoning blend, which I doubt I can describe other than to say it's a pretty good instant version of Chinese beef stew like I might get from a Chinese restaurant.  The noodles are a little thinner and a bit softer than in a typical ramen, but it seems to fit here; it's not that they are 'soggy', just that they are a different type of noodle.

My wife even commented on the cabbage from the dried veggie packet; we were impressed that they seemed to actually retain some cabbage flavor, unlike what we are used to from other products' "Premium Ingredients." We were wondering to ourselves if this product might use actual dried Bok Choy cabbage instead of normal Western cabbage.  There's no way for me to know if that's true or not, but we do know we both really enjoyed this!  Next time I am off shopping for some instant noodles, I might keep an eye out for other JML products to see if they are all as enjoyable as this one. :D

*Technically, I have reviewed a couple of other products that were manufactured in China, but they were domestic brand names and made for the United States market, so to me those don't count for the 'China' category.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Nissin Chow Mein Premium Teriyaki Chicken Flavor

Made By:  Nissin USA
Required to Prepare:  Microwave
500 calories per package

Available online via Amazon

I'm enjoying the fact that recently my wife has had a bigger interest in sharing my ramen and instant noodles with me.  However, that means that I've had to re-think the Ramen Stash, because I had been getting just one of everything, and now I'm wanting to have two of each.  (It's also why I'm appreciating that The Ramen Box sends two each of everything.)
I bought a pair of a few different things when I was at the local Safeway, just to have some more things we could have together, and this was one of them!

This is probably actually a re-review of something I reviewed a few years back, but I've noticed that Nissin has changed the packaging so it looks like the name is now "Chow Mein Premium".  So, I'd like to see if anything besides the package has changed.  The contents had not; we still have straight-cut instant noodles, a liquid sauce, and a package of dried "Premium Ingredients."  {Note:  A second round of these, purchased a couple of weeks later, had the dried veggies loose in the package instead of in a packet, which seems to be the new format.}  Cooking directions are also still the same:  We add the dried vegetables, fill with water to the line, microwave for five minutes (I did nine minutes for two), and then stir in the sauce.

Comparing this to the description in my old review, I think this is the same product as before, just with an updated package appearance.  I will say I think I forgot how deep and enjoyable the flavor was; I was expecting something more sweet and less balanced than what the sauce actually tasted like. They earned a glowing review last time, and now four years later, I don't see why I would change that; in fact, I've managed to be pleasantly surprised by them a second time.  Especially considering the low price and easy availability of these since they are a domestic product, I would easily see myself keeping some of these around. :D

Soup it Up:  This one was probably mostly a no-brainer; we had some leftover restaurant teriyaki (mostly chicken, but some pork as well), so we added a decent portion of teriyaki meat to go with the noodles, along with some fresh green onion and some kizami shoga [pickled ginger] for some bright contrast.  It was delicious, and I could imagine us doing this (or a slight variation) every time we have teriyaki leftovers. :D