Friday, December 23, 2011

Butterfly Bento #3: Leftover Steak

Back to making lunches after a round with a bad winter cold!  Today's bento is some sliced leftover steak on a bed of rice flavored with a little steak sauce (and parsley for garnish), with some snap peas, cheese cubes, and half of a satsuma mandarine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Butterfly Bento #2: Smoked Salmon Sushi

Another work week, another set of hers & hers bento boxes!  This one has nigiri sushi with some smoked salmon slices for topping, along with sugar snap peas, carrots, Havarti cheese cubes, and nuts.  (Mine has wasabi & soy almonds, and she doesn't like those so hers has plain mixed nuts.)  ^_^

(If you're interested in practical bento making, be sure to check out Makiko Itoh's Just Bento blog for all you could ever want to know about the subject!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Safeway Select Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pizza

Distributed by:  Safeway Inc.
Tools Required:  Oven
600 calories per 1/2 pizza

I debated with myself as to whether to include store-brand products like this one, but I decided that Safeway is a national chain, after all, and I imagine there are people who would like to know if the store-branded products can compare with the more-expensive name brands.  Now that that's settled, it's time for the Butterfly to review!

Out of the package, the pizza doesn't look too bad; there is a fairly generous sprinkling of bacon bits and cubes of white-meat chicken.  It kind of looks like there isn't much sauce, but that could just be because it's a white sauce and blends in with the crust.  I preheat the oven to 425°, fix the positioning of the chicken cubes a bit, and bake it for 13 minutes (the package says 12-14).  Let it cool for a bit, and it's time to serve!

The pastry-style "Pizzeria Crust" isn't too bad, although I think the Red Baron crust was better both in texture and flavor.  I think this one could have stood a little extra time in the oven to crisp up, and maybe then the texture would have compared better.  The chicken pieces have a nice "real-meat" texture and flavor and stay tender and moist, and there is a nice balance between chicken and bacon. The sauce, though, seems a bit off to me; it doesn't come across as quite rich enough to be true alfredo sauce, and especially with the black pepper sprinkling, it ends up tasting a bit more like country gravy to me--which makes the whole thing taste kind of like one of those 'breakfast' pizzas.

Overall, I think it did seem like a quality product and a decent value; it might not be quite as appealing as the name-brand Red Baron pizza I tried last time, but it wasn't bad by any means.  I will be interested to try one with a normal pizza sauce for a better comparison.  As for this particular flavor, my sweetie said she liked it, but I'm probably going to try something else next time.  :|

Samyang Cold Ramen with Ponytail Radish (Yulmu Bibimmyun)

Made By:  Samyang Foods Co., Ltd. (Korea)
Also Required:  Saucepan & Range, Water, Strainer, Bowl/Utensils
550 calories per package

Available online at

For today's lunch, I am going to try something completely different--this "stir noodle" style product from Samyang is made to be served chilled (hence the name Cold Ramen).  On the side of the package, it says "Yulmu Bibimmyun," which I'm guessing is a Korean noodle dish of some sort, which this is the instant variety of.  It's also described as a Spicy Radish flavor, so I am expecting the chili heat that is typical for Korean ramyun.  I'm actually a little nervous about this one, I'm not going to lie... but if I didn't want to try it, I shouldn't have bought it in the first place, so here goes!

Inside the package is a block of very pale-looking noodles, and one packet of a deep red seasoning paste.  We are to boil 600ml of water, or around 2-1/2 cups, add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes, then drain them and rinse under cold water until they are chilled.  Then we transfer them to our bowl, add the sauce and toss until mixed well, and it is ready to serve.

I have to say, the experience of eating cold noodles is dramatically different than having hot ones--it's like the difference between a nice hot plate of spaghetti and a cold pasta salad.  The texture of the noodles seems very different; they feel much firmer and chewier, not quite to the point of being off-putting, but almost.  The sauce does have a kind of radish-vegetable flavor going on, but that is all overpowered by the intense heat level.  These are some seriously spicy noodles!  I think I have a pretty good tolerance for the chili heat, but these left my mouth burning for at least fifteen minutes after I was done.  (Even my sweetie commented that I don't normally carry on like that after eating spicy noodles.)  Whew~!

I think overall, I would have to say that these really aren't my kind of thing.  While the fact that they were served cold didn't bother me in and of itself, I didn't really care for the rubbery texture of the noodles, and the spice heat was a little over the top even for me.  I do think that as a cold noodle, they feel more like a summertime thing to me, but if I were to revisit the cold noodle category again in the summer, I think I might try to find something a little less extreme, and give this one a pass.  :\

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My first homemade bento box lunch!

A while back, I was cruising the internet and I ended up looking at Makiko Itoh's Just Bento blog.  My sweetie and I had been talking about trying to make some healthier meals, and I was very inspired by the recipes and meals that she presented.  Yesterday I went to Uwajimaya Bellevue again, and I found some really cute bento boxes on sale--this one was only $9.00!  I ended getting us two boxes each for less than $50.  Last night I made some Japanese rice (which was the best rice I ever made thanks to Itoh-san's easy to understand recipe) and today I put together our first bento lunches!

I made matching hers-and-hers lunches (her bento box is the same style but green); on the left is a bed of rice with some katsuo furikake, and then a good helping of leftover baked salmon from last night's dinner.  I tried to cut out little hearts from some teriyaki nori strips for decoration, and then I just crumbled the rest of it up for topping.  On the right is some sweet cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes, broccoli, and grapes.

I spent about a half-hour this morning putting everything together, but it was a lot of fun.  I'm looking forward to doing more of them soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nissin Demae Ramen Satay Flavor

Made By:  Nissin Foods Co., Ltd. (Hong Kong)
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range, Bowl & Utensils
480 calories per package

Available online through

Sometimes I think I must be more adventurous when I am shopping than I am when I am deciding what to eat.  I picked up this Satay flavor noodle when I was at Uwajimaya a couple of months ago, and I've been avoiding it in the pantry ever since.  It's probably because my first experience with a satay flavor noodle was less than stellar, but it does make me wonder why I bought it in the first place if I wasn't going to eat it.  But today I am feeling adventurous, so eat it I shall!

I was actually a little bit surprised to find two flavor packets included--all the other Nissin products of this style I've seen only had one.  The first is the expected "soup base" packet, and the other is labelled "seasoning sauce" and seems to have some sort of liquid inside.  We boil 500ml (or 2-1/4 cups) of water in our saucepan, add the noodles and cook for three minutes, then add the packets last.  The Seasoning Sauce packet ended up having a grainy brown paste in it, which resisted coming out of the packet; I ended up just tossing the packet in the soup and swishing it around with my chopsticks to get the stuff out.  Anyway, after transferring the soup to a bowl, lunch is ready!

I didn't have to be so worried about trying these; the broth is much less one-dimensional than I remembered from the Mi Goreng Satay.  There is still a strong nutty flavor, but it is much less sweet, and it balances with an undertone that is along the lines of five-spice beef.  While not spicy in terms of chili heat, there is a lot of interesting spice flavors present.  The noodles themselves don't really excite me, but at least they aren't as mushy as the US style.  I am very pleasantly surprised!  I definitely wouldn't mind having these again, and I might not even wait quite so long to eat them next time. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Red Baron Classic Crust Special Deluxe Pizza

Distributed by:  Schwan's Consumer Brands, Inc.
Tools Required:  Oven
750 calories per 1/2 pizza

We had something "quick and easy" for dinner last night, and settled on this Red Baron pizza that I had picked up on sale at Safeway last week.  Even at regular price, this brand is fairly economical compared to some of the more "gourmet" brands like DiGiorno's or Freschetta.  So I'm hoping it turns out to be good!

The toppings sounded good, anyway; this is their Special Deluxe Pizza, which says it has "Two Cheeses, Sausage, Mushrooms, Pepperoni, Black Olives, Green & Red Peppers, and Onions."  (The two cheeses happen to be mozzarella and cheddar, for the record.)  Out of the box, the toppings actually seem to be distributed fairly well, though I did fuss with the pepperoni pieces a bit to eliminate any overlapping ones.  We preheat our oven to 400°, then stick the pizza in straight on the rack and bake it for 19 minutes or so.  I was happy to see that no cheese or toppings dripped onto the oven floor, a common downfall with on-the-rack pizza cooking, so it scores a few points there.  Although the box doesn't specifically say to, I let it cool for about five minutes before cutting.  Dinner is served!

There is a generous portion of cheese(s) included, and although the toppings aren't piled high and deep, there is definitely enough to give a good flavor.  I especially enjoyed the sweet bits of onion and mushroom, but all the flavors blended nicely.  I actually really liked the flavor of the sauce, too; it is slightly sweet, but not too sweet, and definitely not too tangy or spicy like I have had with some other products.  I really enjoyed the texture of the crust!  It is nicely crispy on the bottom without being hard and crusty, and is sort of pastry-like, with a rich buttery flavor.  I have to say I like it better than most of the fancy-pantsy "Rising Crust" products I've tried in the past--those have a habit of coming out too dry and sort of bitter (probably from the rising agent).  I am impressed, especially considering the economical price!  I'll definitely be letting the Red Baron cook for me again sometime. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ottogi Bekse Curry Myon

Made By:  Ottogi Ramyun Co. Ltd. (Korea)
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range
420 calories per package

Next up, I found another curry flavored ramen to try!  This one is made by Ottogi, a company I hadn't previously heard of.  They must be fairly well established in Korea, though, since they have their own U.S. distribution branch.  Unfortunately for them, the main thing that stands out for me looking at the package is their logo--to me the little face looks like a creepy disturbing version of Maruchan's logo.

Trademarked creepiness aside, though, I think the product seems promising; I am looking forward to another curry noodle! Inside the package is a block of noodles that look strangely puffed or aerated, a packet of dehydrated veggies, and a packet of powder soup base.  We add the dried vegetables to 2-1/4 cups of water in our saucepan and bring to a boil, then add the soup base and noodles and cook for four minutes.  As soon as I add the soup base packet, the aroma tells me what kind of curry I am going to be sampling--it smells just like the Japanese-style S&B Golden Curry.  I transfer it to a bowl, and get ready to try it!

The broth has a wonderful flavor of Japanese curry, with flavors of curry spice, onion, and potato.  It is significantly spicier than even the 'Hot' S&B mix, which must be the Korean influence--they don't make many Ramyuns that aren't hot and spicy.  Unfortunately, the noodles are lackluster; they became quite soggy and don't seem all that flavorful.  I greatly prefer the texture of the noodles from Myojo, Nong Shim, or MAMA.  The vegetables, while not that plentiful, are very nice, though.  The onion bits rehydrated nicely and retained a lot of flavor, and the little white squares that I assumed were tofu bits before cooking turned out to be little chunks of potato, which I thought was a very nice touch for a Japanese curry flavor.

Thanks to the broth and the veggies, I definitely enjoyed this soup, though I do wish there had been a more generous helping of those nifty green onion and potato pieces.  The noodles held it back from being amazing, but I would have it again. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Truth in Advertising Special: Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken vs. PF Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken

In recent weeks, I've noticed a particular TV commercial for Wanchai Ferry frozen dinner kits which claims that their Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken is preferred in taste tests over the competing P.F. Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken.  As I said to my sweetie upon viewing this commercial, "I'll just see about that!"
I picked up one of each at the store, so let the taste-testing begin!

Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken

Made By:  General Mills Inc.
Tools Required:  Skillet & Range, Microwave
Additional Ingredients Needed:  2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil, 1/4 cup water
610 calories per 1/2 package

Okay, first up is the challenger, Wanchai Ferry!  I have used their dry box-dinner kits before, but this will be my first time trying one of their frozen offerings.  They seem pretty confident in their commercial, let's see if their product can back it up!

Unlike the P.F. Chang product (and indeed, unlike most frozen skillet dinners I've used), inside the outer package we find several packages containing the components of our dinner:  There is a bag of breaded chicken nuggets, a packet of sauce, a steamer bag of frozen rice, and finally there are veggies (broccoli, carrots, and baby corn) loose in the outer bag.  Preparation is also fairly complex for a skillet meal; first we are supposed to fry the chicken nuggets over medium-high heat in 2 tbsp. of oil for a few minutes until it is browned, then we take the chicken back out of the skillet, turn down the heat to medium, and put in the veggies, sauce, and 1/4 cup of water.  Once it boils, we cover it and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently.  After that, we put the chicken back in the skillet, take the lid off, and cook for a few minutes more until everything is "thoroughly cooked."  Finally, we microwave the rice pouch for three minutes and let it stand for one, at which point dinner is ready to be served.  Whew!  Honestly, that really wasn't that much more convenient than preparing the box dinner.  Hopefully the food is worth it!

After getting the dinner separated into two bowls, the main thing I notice is that it looks like a really small portion.  There is probably around 1/2 cup of rice per portion, and around one cup or less of food.  The sauce actually has a really nice robust flavor; it is sweet yet not syrupy, and it became nicely thick and coated the pieces well.  I am not sure what all that nonsense about frying the chicken separately and taking it out and putting it in was all about, because it sure didn't keep the breading from getting soggy in the sauce.  The veggies are nicely crisp and flavorful.  The rice, on the other hand, is totally unacceptable--not only is the included portion very small, but the grains don't stick together like they should in an Asian dish, and the flavor is dull and mealy.  Overall, even though the sauce has a nice flavor, the unsatisfying portion size and the poor quality of the rice portion ends up sinking this one.  I found it disappointing. :\

P.F. Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken

Distributed by:  Unilever
Tools Required:  Skillet & Range
Added Ingredients Needed:  cooked rice (if desired)
450 calories per 1/2 package (665 calories w/ 1 cup cooked rice added)

And in the other corner, the defending meal, P.F. Chang's Orange Chicken!  I was very satisfied with the other P.F. Chang's Home Menu product I've tried, so it looks like this battle is P.F. Chang's to lose.

This product is a much more traditional skillet meal, both in presentation and preparation:  Inside the package we find a loose assortment of breaded chicken nuggets, sauce chips, and vegetables, which appear to be carrots, edamame {green soybeans}, and water chestnut slices.  Preparation is very simple in comparison to the Wanchai Ferry meal; we simply put the contents of the bag in a covered skillet, and cook over medium-high heat for 12 minutes (or until the sauce gets thick), stirring occasionally.  At the end of the 12 minutes, the sauce still hasn't thickened much, so I uncover and let it simmer a bit more to thicken, reasoning that it will thicken much faster uncovered.  There is no rice included with this product, which might be a point in its favor after tasting what came with the other one, so I also cook some rice in my handy-dandy rice cooker, and dinner is ready to serve!

This portion seems to be a much more respectable size, though part of that is the one cup of rice that I added.  However, even with the added rice, the calorie count is comparable to the prepared Wanchai Ferry meal, and adding 200 calories' worth of rice seems better than adding 200 calories' worth of oil to me.  Again, the sauce has a nice flavor; this one is more spicy-sweet rather than tangy-sweet, though.  I like the veggie mix, especially the edamame, although if there were the baby corn in this along with the other stuff, that would just be perfect.  The chicken might be a little less firm in this one, but it is still appetizing.  Most importantly, once I am finished with the dish, I feel like I have had enough to eat!  I think I preferred the General Chang's Chicken to the Orange Chicken, but I wouldn't mind having this one again either, and now that I've had two good experiences with P.F. Chang's Home Menu, I am even more interested to try the rest of the offerings. :)

The Verdict:
The victory goes to P.F. Chang!  Wanchai Ferry could have been a contender with the flavor of their sauce, but the small portion size and the abysmal rice cost them the title.  Honestly, if they could change the preparation to avoid adding so many calories in oil, leave out that nasty rice, and replace it with more of the other stuff, they would have a lot better product.  Also, I can't ignore the fact that the P.F. Chang meal is significantly easier and more convenient to prepare.

I can't testify as to whether they have taste-test results that show their product is better or not, but--especially considering that the P.F. Chang meal makes me more interested to try the rest of their line, and the Wanchai Ferry meal makes me less interested to try theirs--the Ramen Butterfly Testing Institute hereby finds the advertisement in question to be Completely False.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MAMA Oriental Style Instant Noodles Shrimp Creamy Tom Yum Flavour

Made By:  Thai President Foods (Thailand)
Tools Required:  Bowl, Hot Water, utensils
420 calories per package

(available online through

The weather is getting colder here in Western Washington--we've had frost in the mornings a couple of times, and the rainy seasons have started.  It feels like a nice day to have some warm spicy noodles!  This particular variety has a place in my heart; it is one of the first imported noodles I tried when I made my first trip to an asian market a few years back.  I found it in a large full-meal size instead of the typical 200-250 calorie portions from MAMA, and I am excited to have it again!

Inside the package is a big block of MAMA's dark colored ramen, a plastic packet of seasoning paste, and a foil packet that has pockets for chili powder and dry soup base.  The directions say to put the noodles and seasonings in a bowl, pour 450ml (roughly 2 cups) of boiling water in, cover, and wait 3 minutes.  Because of the larger size of the product, though, it seemed more practical to me to boil the water in a saucepan and put the noodles and stuff in there for the three minutes (removed from the heat and covered of course) before putting it in the bowl.  Same technique, different container, so it should all work out the same.  It looks just like I remember!  (Why do I always happen to be wearing white when I decide to eat soup with red oil floating in it though?  I decided to use protection this time--I put on an apron before sitting down to eat.)

These really hit the spot!  They definitely pack some heat, but I think the flavor is very well balanced between the creamy, tangy, and spicy notes.  Those who do want a little less heat have the option of leaving some or all of the chili powder packet out, although I suspect a lot of the spice is in that bright red seasoning paste too, so I wouldn't count on them to be mild no matter what.  The flavor is very similar to the other Shrimp Tom Yum that MAMA produces, and it probably just comes down to personal preference as to which one is better.  The other one has a little bit cleaner or lighter feel to it, while this one seems more hearty and complex.  Both are very good; personally I think I prefer this one, although I really think I would pick whichever one I happened to find in this 90g size, since I strongly preferred this portion size over the dinky standard size ones.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I hope the store has more than just one of them in stock next time. :D

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bertolli Premium Meal Soup Tomato Florentine & Tortellini with Chicken

Made By:  Bertolli USA
Required for Preparation:  1c Water, Saucepan & Range (or Microwave)
410 calories per 1/2 package

Tonight's dinner is one of these brand-new Meal Soups from Bertolli!  I've noticed them being advertised heavily, both on TV and through coupon promotions.  So when I saw them on sale in the store, with coupon in hand, I couldn't resist grabbing one to give them a try!

Inside the package we find an attractive assortment of cheese tortellini, some nice-sized tomato chunks, lots of spinach, some chicken pieces, and frozen planks of sauce.  We add a cup of water (which freezes everything together into one giant block for a while), bring the soup to boiling, and then cover and simmer for five minutes.  Easy as that, dinner is ready!

The package makes a very generous portion of soup--each serving is around two cups.  The tomato bisque stock is very hearty, with a sweetly creamy, pleasantly herbed flavor.  The spinach and tomato pieces are very soft, as would be expected, yet they don't seem mushy and retain a lot of flavor.  The chicken pieces are surprisingly firm, yet tender; the pasta is soft but has a nice cheese flavor.  I served it with just a slice of homemade bread with butter, and it made a very satisfying meal.  The other flavors don't sound quite as appetizing as this one, honestly, but this one is good enough that I might give them a try!  It's the best bowl of soup we've had in a long time. :D

Newman's Own Thin & Crispy Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

Made By:  Newman's Own Inc.
Tools Required:  Oven, Pizza cutter
480 calories per 1/2 pizza

Like practically all families in the United States, we enjoy the occasional pizza for comfort food.  I tend to be a bad girl and just order out for Domino's, but I am always left feeling a bit guilty about both the price and the ridiculous number of calories that come with pizza delivery.  Recently I got a coupon for these new Thin & Crispy pizzas from Newman's Own, though, and I brought one home to give it a try!

To prepare, we simply bake the pizza directly on the oven rack at 425° for 10 to 12 minutes.  Some of the pepperoni looked like it had moved around, so I tried to fix the placement of the toppings first, of course.  Has there ever been a frozen pizza that didn't have uneven toppings, though?  We let it cool for a few so I can cut it, at which point we have the lovely pizza pictured!  (The observant may notice that my 'side' is cut tavern-style so it can be eaten with chopsticks more easily.)

And the verdict is:  This is actually a really good pizza!  The crust is pleasantly crispy without being hard, and is sort of pastry-like in texture with a nice buttery flavor.  The sauce is mildly sweet, which I like, and the pepperoni is very high quality, seeming much more like actual slices of meat sausage than what usually comes on frozen pizzas.  The portion is small enough that it didn't quite make a meal for two on its own, but with a side salad it was a nice dinner, and the calorie count was much more reasonable than calling for delivery.  Besides, with just a 10-minute cook time, this one will even make it to the table sooner!  I don't know if I'll go as far as to say it's better than a thin-crust pizza from Domino's, but given the difference in price, it's an attractive alternative, and definitely worth the purchase!  :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sapporo Ichiban Hot & Spicy Chicken

Made By:  Sanyo Foods Corp. of America
Other Stuff Needed:  2c Water, Saucepan & Range
480 calories per package

So after a whole week and four different days of staying home to wait for service calls, I finally have some new appliances!  And of course, the first thing the Ramen Butterfly is going to make on her new cookstove is a package of instant ramen.  I wanted something as ramen-ly as possible to christen the new range, so I picked this new flavor from Sapporo Ichiban to try.

Inside the package, there is the block of noodles and one seasoning packet simply labelled "Soup Base."  The preparation is very standard:  Boil 2 cups of water, add the noodles and cook for 3 minutes, stir in the soup base and serve.  What we end up with is some very typical-looking instant ramen noodles in a pale orange broth that seems a bit cloudier than usual, and an interesting aroma that reminds me of jalapeño peppers.

The noodle texture is on the high end of the American domestic (i.e. soggy) variety--not horrible, but probably below average for me.  The broth, though, has a very interesting flavor; it is only moderately spicy compared to Korean-style noodles like Shin Ramyun, and it has a slightly sweet flavor that has notes of chicken and peppers.  Like the other Sapporo Ichiban products I've had, there is a very generous portion of noodles for the amount of broth; I am actually pretty full by the time I finish the bowl.  While it's not the most exciting ramen I've ever had, it's far from being the worst.  I thought the flavors were interesting and I would buy it again. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

P.F. Chang's Home Menu General Chang's Chicken

Distributed by:  Unilever
Tools Required:  10" covered skillet, Range
410 calories per serving (2 servings per package)

I picked this up on sale at the local Safeway; although I do like to cook, I can appreciate a nice convenience dinner as well.  I used to have this kind of thing much more often before I started learning to cook, and I remember the skillet meals being fairly good compared to the microwave entrees.  Besides, now that I am part of a couple, "Meals for 2" are the perfect size!  Anyway, we had it for dinner last night, so here is the review!

The entire contents of the bag go straight into our skillet, where we cook it over medium-high heat, covered, for 11 minutes.  We have some breaded chicken bits, broccoli, sweet pepper, and some little square chips of frozen sauce.  We give it the occasional stir during cooking to make sure the sauce melts and coats evenly, and once the 11 minutes are up we cook for a few more minutes uncovered to thicken the sauce.  Then we transfer it to bowls and it is ready to serve!

The sauce is sweet and fairly spicy, although not overpowering; it's not a bad rendition of a General Tso's sauce.  The chicken sort of reminds me of the chopped-and-formed 'popcorn chicken' from the freezer aisle, but the flavor isn't bad and the breading doesn't end up too soggy even after being frozen and simmered in sauce.  The veggies are nicely crisp and enjoyable, especially the broccoli florets, which pick up the sauce well.  I added a bowl of rice and an egg roll as side dishes to fill out the meal, and it ended up being a satisfying dinner.  I don't think it really compares to 'real' chinese take-out, of course, but as a quick and fairly inexpensive convenience dinner I think it was pretty good.  I'd have it again. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marie Callender's Fresh Mixers Traditional Stuffing & Turkey

Made By:  ConAgra Foods, Inc.
Ingredients Required:  Water
300 calories per package

(available online through

I think I may have mentioned before that although my partner is very understanding and supportive of my instant-noodle passion, she doesn't necessarily share it.  (Especially when it comes to things like chicken porridge.)  Since the weather is getting cooler and I imagined she would also like to have some hot, convenient lunches, I purchased a selection of shelf-stable entrees.  Of course, since I never turn down the chance to try something new and possibly write about it, I picked up two of everything so we could share.  One of my sweetie's favorites is bread stuffing, so we are trying this one first!

This is the same product line that was formerly known as "Home-Style Creations;" ConAgra seems to have changed the name to make it match their corresponding Healthy Choice product line.  Inside the package, there is an inner tray that has our turkey and gravy, and some Stove Top style dry stuffing mix.  To prepare, we fill the main tray to the line with water, replace the lid (without the protective film), and microwave for three minutes.  For fluffier dressing, I did the optional stir and extra 30 seconds as well.  Then, we vent the sauce tray, microwave that for 30 seconds, and pour it on!

The stuffing seems seasoned a bit more lightly than I am used to; by itself I think it would seem bland, but as a bed for the turkey and sauce, it works.  Texturally it is comparable to other instant stuffing products; it turned out pretty good, not soggy or dry.  The gravy isn't bad, but it's fairly unremarkable--it seems comparable to the average name-brand jar gravy.  The turkey bits are actually pretty good!  There is a decent quantity, and they are much firmer than I expected in a shelf-stable product.  Overall this wasn't bad, and it seemed very satisfying for a 300-calorie serving.  I know my first impression of this product line was less than positive, but after trying this one I am at least a little more willing to give some of the other varieties a chance. :|

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nissin Sauce Yakisoba Karashi Mayonnaise Flavor

Made By:  Nissin Foods (Japan)
Added Ingredients Required:  Boiling Water
530 calories per package

Today, my partner is planning to have lunch out at McDonald's while she is at work, while I am spending the day at home waiting for the handyman to come by.  While her motives are noble (we are suckers for the "Monopoly at McDonald's" contest) I admit I am somewhat envious.  So, I did what any ramen lover would do:  I searched the Noodle Stash for the most decadent thing I could find!  Who needs a Big Mac when they could have a 日清焼そば?

Okay, so the package is completely in Japanese with no English translation anywhere outside of the Nissin logo, which means I am not 100% certain I got the product name right.  I am pretty sure the flavor is "Karashi Meyone-zu," though, so based on that and the picture, I am expecting a mustard-&-mayonnaise-topped noodle similar to the Myojo Ippeichan product that I really liked.

Inside the tray, there is a block of noodles with some loose cabbage pieces floating around, and two seasoning packets--one with powdered seasoning, the other with our mayonnaise topping.  The preparation seems to be the same as the Myojo product--we fill the tray with boiling water and stand for three minutes, drain out the water with the handy built-in drain spout, then remove the lid, stir in the powder seasoning, and top with the mayonnaise.  It looks and smells pretty good; let's give it a try!

The noodles are a similar texture to the Myojo Ippeichan; these may be a bit softer, and they seem to clump together a lot more.  The seasoning base is along the same lines too, with the smoky grilled beef  and Worcestershire sauce overtones.  This version seems a bit lighter in flavor, though.  The mayonnaise topping was a bit less generous too, although it seems to have more karashi mustard heat.  Finally, the cabbage seemed to be even more distracting here, since there were larger and more numerous pieces of it.

I definitely enjoyed this one, and it had the 'fast-food' feel that I was hoping for.  Given the choice, I think the Myojo Ippeichan is the better pick of these two competing products, but if this is the only one that's available where you are, I would still heartily recommend it. :D

Friday, September 30, 2011

Little Cook Instant Noodles Stewed Duck Flavor

Made By:  Namchow (Thailand), Ltd.
Extra Ingredients Required:  Boiling Water
500 calories per package

Today is another Noodle Day--I am home waiting for our new appliances to be delivered!  I am pretty excited; the last time I had brand-new appliances was when I got a brand-new house that came with them, and that was quite a few years ago.  Because I don't want to get a bunch of cookware dirty right before installing a new cookstove, I am going to have this Bowl Noodle I picked up last time I was at Uwajimaya.  I hadn't heard of the brand before, but the flavor sounded interesting so I thought I'd see how they were!

Inside the bowl, there are some wide-cut ramen noodles, a packet that contains both powdered seasoning and some dry veggies, and most interestingly, a vacuum-sealed foil retort pouch with some sort of fresh sauce in it.  Preparation is pretty easy; we add the contents of the dry packet and fill the bowl to the line with boiling water, place the retort pouch on top of the lid, and wait for three minutes.  Putting the pouch on top has the dual purpose of holding the lid closed and warming up the pouch, so that part actually seemed sort of clever.  Finally, we add the contents of the pouch--which contains a couple of large chunks of actual duck meat in a sweet curry sauce!  I was not expecting meat in the pouch, for some reason.  We stir it all together, and sit down to eat!

The broth doesn't end up tasting as sweet as the sauce packet smelled; the curry spice is the primary flavor, and there is a nice balance between sweet and savory going on.  The noodles have a nice texture, but are fairly unremarkable otherwise, and the veggies are mostly green onion bits and some sort of leafy herb I don't actually recognize.  The bits of stewed duck meat are a nice addition; their texture is soft but not overly mushy, and they are very flavorful, probably from being stewed in the curry sauce.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this!  I liked the use of the retort pouch to include some actual meat toppings in the product, and I thought the flavor was very interesting.  I like that it is spicy in a different way than just adding chili powder for heat like so many other ramen products.  The serving size is quite generous too, so it makes a good meal without having any chips or sides to go with.  I wish I had gotten other flavors to try too!  I guess it will give me something to look for next time I go noodle shopping. :D

UPDATE:  The last time I saw this in the store (after my experience with the TVP Curry 'Chicken' flavor), I checked the ingredients list and saw that there was in fact no actual duck meat included in this product.  I'm unsure whether this is a change, or if the TVP 'meat' was just that much better in this one.  Maybe someday I'll build the courage to find out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mama JokCup Instant Porridge Soup Artificial Chicken Flavor

Made By:  President Rice Products
Tools Required:  Hot Water
150 calories per package

(available online through

I grabbed one of these Chicken Porridge cups when I was at Uwajimaya just because it seemed unusual enough to make an interesting review.  I've been procrastinating actually tasting it, because there is part of me that thinks it has the potential to be really bad, but I was in the mood for an afternoon snack today and this seemed an appropriate size.  Here goes nothing!

The very first line in the directions say to peel the lid back halfway, but I run into an obstacle when the lid rips instead of peeling.  Once the lid is off, I see there is a cute little soup spoon included, which wasn't mentioned anywhere on the packaging.  I also see a powdery stuff in the bottom of the cup that reminds me of instant potato flakes.  We add boiling water to the fill line and give a stir, then cover and stir again once per minute for three or four minutes.  The finished product is a sort of sickly-looking milky white broth with some herbs floating in it.  I didn't actually expect a Porridge Soup to look all that appealing, though, so I'm not too put off just yet.

The texture is a bit like a really thin Cream of Wheat cereal; I think I expected it to get a little thicker, but at least that means it is sippable--I started off using the little spoon, but eventually I decided just sipping from the cup was easier.  The flavor seems to be somewhere between a Campbell's-style chicken and rice soup, and asian egg-drop soup.  The occasional sip has a chunk of dried ginger in it, which seems out of place both texturally and flavor-wise, but other than that, it really wasn't all that bad.  I'm not sure it warrants a re-purchase unless I was on a semi-liquid diet or something, but I didn't hate it. :|

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Myojo Hyoubanya no Yakisoba Japanese Noodles Sauce Flavor

Made By:  Myojo Foods Co. Ltd.
Tools Required:  Hot Water, utensils
500 calories per package

(available online through

Today is finally another Noodle Day again!  I didn't really want soup, though, so I picked this Yakisoba noodle from Myojo.  I really liked the other Myojo yakisoba I tried, so I am hoping this one will be good too.  The flavor on the package is only described as "Sauce Flavor," unless "Hyoubanya" is a flavor description; anyway, neither of those really help me know what sort of thing I'm about to be tasting.  I aim to find out, though!
{Update 6/7/15:  I've learned that Hyoubanya is in fact the brand name of the product line; the kanji that form the name would probably mean something like "food critic's seal."  Also, the description of 'sauce' flavor is referring to the ubiquitous-in-Japan Bull-Dog sauce, which would be similar to (but not the same as) our worcestershire sauce or 'steak sauce.'

Inside the package are four seasoning packets, and of course our block of noodles.  The packets don't shed much more light on the type of "Sauce" the flavor is going to be; the only one that has any english text on it is the "DRY VEGETABLE" packet.  The other three contain a liquid sauce, a powdered soup base, and a small amount of "green laver" style seaweed mixed with something that looks like katsuo-bushi [shaved dried smoked fish].  We are supposed to add the dry veggies (mainly cabbage and onion), fill the tray with boiling water, close and let stand for three minutes, then drain with the convenient built-in drain spout before peeling the lid the rest of the way off.  Finally, we add the contents of the other three packets, stir well, and serve!

As I mentioned in the review of the other Myojo yakisoba, I do love the noodle texture.  I am actually sort of concerned that they will make it difficult to go back to the domestic ones.  (Of course, an easy solution to that problem would be to just buy the Myojo noodles.)  I'm still not going to be able to put a name to the "sauce" that these are supposed to be flavored like, but it reminds me quite a bit of the flavor of the Nong Shim Japanese-Style Udon.  It is a bit smokier and spicier than those, but it has that same deep savory seafood flavor.  I think in terms of ranking, I will still have to give the nod to the Ippeichan Yakisoba--although very good, these just aren't as quite as decadent--but these are pretty high up on the list too. :)