Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snapdragon Hong Kong Seafood Rice Noodle Soup Bowl

Made By:  Tabetai Inc. (Thailand)
Tools Required:  Hot Water, Spoon & Chopsticks
Snack Size (220 calories per package)
Price:  $2.79 (at World Market in Woodinville)
Rating:  :\

Today for an afternoon snack, I'm going to treat myself to another of the Snapdragon Rice Noodle bowls that my sweetie bought for me, this time in the Hong Kong Seafood flavor.  I don't really know what sort of seafood flavor I am in for, but the other Snapdragon bowls I have reviewed so far have been excellent, so I am excited to try this!

The package includes the lidded plastic bowl and the bundle of rice noodles, a double-pack of soup base with oil in one side and powdered seasoning in the other, and a transparent green packet of dried garnish that obviously includes real dehydrated tiny shrimp.  We empty everything into the bowl, fill with boiling water, and let it stand covered for three to five minutes; after a quick stir it is ready to serve.

Upon lifting the lid, I am greeted with a sesame aroma, with a hint of shellfish.  The broth has a very savory, very salty seafood flavor; normally I don't stress on sodium content, but 1940mg for only a 220 calorie serving does feel a bit excessive.  The noodles have a firmer texture than I remembered from the other Snapdragon products, but once I got used to them they were pleasant.  They were a little too slippery for lacquered chopsticks, though, so I switched to some disposable bamboo ones pretty early on.  The little shrimp are probably the high point; they rehydrated nicely and gave the occasional burst of sweetness to contrast the salty broth.

I would have to say that these are clearly my least favorite of the Snapdragon bowls that I have tried so far.  They aren't bad, exactly, but hardly worth the gourmet price.  I doubt I will be getting this one again. :\

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nissin Chow Noodles Cheddar Cheese Flavor

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Microwave, Chopsticks (or Fork)
Meal Size (460 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(available online through

Today I'm going with a 'non-asian' flavor and having some pasta and cheese!  Ramen is a comfort food for me, and mac & cheese is pretty much the universal comfort food, so this should have the ability to make anyone happy, right?

We remove the outer wrap and pull back the paper lid of the tray, and find a good-sized brick of fettucine-like flat noodles, along with a single foil packet of seasoning powder.  All we have to do is fill the tray to the line with water, replace the lid as best we can (these never really close once you've opened them) and then heat in the microwave for five minutes.  Oh, right, we have to stir in the powder at the end too, which turns out to be easier said than done.  After around two minutes' worth of stirring, though, I finally get it to look like all the noodles are coated with cheese sauce, although there are still some clumps of seasoning here and there.  Time to give them a sample!

The texture of the noodles is fairly uniformly al-dente, which is good; some of these microwavable "Chow Mein" style noodles can stay a bit undercooked where the noodles stick up above the waterline, but these don't seem to have that problem.  They do seem to clump together a lot, but I can't tell if that's because the noodles themselves are sticky, or if the cheese flavoring is gluing them together.  The flavor is nicely cheesy, rich but not too sharp; I would compare it to a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese flavor, except maybe a little more savory (which is probably due to the dose of MSG that these have in them).

These were a nice change of pace from the "usual" ramen flavors, and despite the difficulty in blending the cheese powder, they still seemed easy to prepare.  And, they seem like the kind of thing that could become even better with a few added ingredients, so I am looking forward to having this again in the future.  :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nissin Demae Ramen Curry Flavor

Made By:  Nissin (Hong Kong)
Tools Required:  Saucepan and Range, Bowl, Spoon & Chopsticks
Meal Size (450 calories per package)
Rating:  :D

(available online through

Happy (U.S.) Presidents Day!  This is the day when we Americans pause to remember the long-past days when we actually had a likeable, effective President or two.  To mark the occasion, I probably should have chosen a patriotic, Made-in-the-USA domestic product, but instead I'm taking advantage of the day off to take care of some unfinished noodle business.  A while back, I did a pair of reviews of curry-flavored noodles, and this one got left out, so we are finishing the curry trilogy today!

Inside the packet, we find a very typical-looking brick of noodles, and a single yellow foil packet labelled "Soup Base".  The instructions say to boil 2-1/4 cups (500ml) of water, cook the noodles for three minutes, and then add the soup base right before serving--fairly straightforward stovetop directions that everyone should be familiar with.  After a quick stir, lunch is served!

As near as I can tell, Nissin Demae is the Hong Kong division's analogue to the domestic "Top Ramen" brand.  The noodles are about the same texture, which means they are a bit soft by imported-noodle standards.  They also share the trait of having broth that is completely unadorned by veggie bits or visible seasoning flecks.  The aroma is basically just straight curry powder, but the flavor is very reminiscent of a Japanese-style curry (like you might make with S&B's Golden Curry Mix).  In addition to the curry seasoning, there is a nice savory chicken flavor in there as well.  There doesn't seem to be any chili heat in this at all, it is strictly a savory, mild flavor.

I am actually quite pleasantly surprised; after the first two curry reviews I think I was expecting another rendition of Thai-style curry, and this turned out to be something altogether different--Japanese curry has practically nothing in common with Thai curry except the name. So while the quality of the noodles are probably on par with normal domestic ramen, the flavor was quite nice and seems fairly unique.  I'm looking forward to having this one again sometime! :D

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quick Review--Nong Shim Japanese-Style Udon Noodle Soup (Bowl version)

Made by:  Nong Shim (Korea)
Tools Required:  Hot Water, Spoon & Chopsticks
Meal Size (460 calories per package)
Rating:  :)
(available online through

Today's lunch is a bowl version of the previously-reviewed Nong Shim Japanese-Style Udon Noodle Soup.  The soup itself is identical to the packet version (even the portion size), the only difference is the packaging and preparation method, so most of what I wrote in the original review also applies to this product.

To prepare the bowl version, we are supposed to open the packet of fresh noodles into the bowl, add boiling water to the fill line for two minutes, then drain the noodles using the "convenient" drain spouts on the lid.  Then, we re-fill the bowl with more boiling water, add the soup base and veggie packet, and wait one minute before eating.  In practice, the drain spouts don't work that well, and the lid is flimsy enough that the weight of the noodles tries to push it off of the bowl.  So we have to hold the lid on with our fingers, with the nearly-boiling-hot noodles on the other side. (I managed, but I would feel sorry for someone who tried it without long fingernails.)  Also, because we have to fill the bowl twice, it actually takes quite a bit of hot water to prepare, which can be problematic if you were planning to use a microwave to heat the water.

So, this packaging style actually ends up being significantly less convenient to prepare than the "standard" packet version, and tends to cost around 50¢ more.  On the other hand, in my experience the bowls seem slightly easier to find, and if you enjoy these as much as I do, it is nice to have an option for when a saucepan and range isn't available.  I'm happy. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nong Shim Savory Bowl Noodle Chicken Flavor

Made By:  Nong Shim America
Tools Required:  Hot Water, Spoon and Chopsticks
Light Meal Size (380 calories per package)
Price:  33¢ (sale at Costco—36 bowls for $11.75)
Rating:  :|

Finally, a long-overdue noodle review!  Today I am on location at my workplace, and the images have been taken from my camera-phone instead of my digital camera.  Fortunately, I still have access to boiling water and a microwave, so I can still indulge myself in some noodles!  There is a large variety of noodles designed for an “on-the-go” lunch, like the Bowl Noodles I am reviewing today.

The bowl- and cup-style noodles are especially convenient since there is (usually) no measuring involved; we just add hot water to the fill line, and wait a bit.  In the case of these noodles, we also open the one included packet of dry seasoning and add it to the noodles and dried veggies that are loose in the bowl.  After three minutes, we are ready for lunch!

I got the impression from the packaging (as well as the venue where these were sold) that this would be a more “Americanized” flavor than some of Nong Shim’s offerings, and this bowl certainly lived up to that expectation.  I would say the flavor of the broth is very similar to a Top Ramen chicken flavor or that sort of grocery-store variety, except probably a bit less salty.  The less salty, slightly sweeter flavor actually made it seem less “savory” to me than some of those, but I imagine that they are meaning to differentiate these from their usual spicy flavors.  The noodle texture is above average when compared to grocery-store brands, though, as is the generous quantity of vegetables included; I saw peas, corn, and green onion pieces, all of which rehydrated nicely.

All in all, these were a pleasant if unexciting lunch, and at the price I got them, I am not at all disappointed to have 35 more of them at home to eat over the course of the next few months.  If I were to rate them at the usual Bowl Noodle price of $1.64 each, though, they would be a definite pass, in favor of either a more interesting flavor or a less expensive version (if not both).  I guess that earns these their “indifferent” rating. :|

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nong Shim Shin Ramyun

Made by:  Nong Shim America Inc.
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range, Bowl, Spoon & Chopsticks
Meal Size (480 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(available online through

Noodle time again!  I finally have a job now, so future reviews may be more sporadic.  My sweetie doesn't want me to have to give them up altogether though, so today I had a Shin Ramyun for lunch.  This one is the "standard" for Korean-style spicy ramen, and unlike the Paldo Seafood flavor, this package of noodles seems to be quite proud of its chili powder content--the bright red package is emblazoned with the character for 'spicy-hot' (which can also mean 'difficult' or 'laborious,' interestingly enough), and the flavor is simply described as "Gourmet Spicy."  We are definitely forewarned!

Inside the package are a circular brick of thick, light yellowish noodles, and two packets--a plastic one with dried "Vegetable Mix," which appears to be mostly green onion flakes, and a foil one with powdered "Soup Base."  We are supposed to boil 19-1/2 ounces of water, then add all the ingredients and cook for 4-5 minutes, which gives us a generous serving of noodles in a fire-red broth.

The aroma is mostly chili spice, and the noodles are thick and firm.  The broth seems to be a basic vegetable beef stock and is quite spicy with chili powder; behind the spice it is nicely rich and savory.  After having this, I think I will have to retract the comment I made in the Paldo Seafood review--I would say that the spice level here is probably comparable to the heat in those noodles if not a little lower.  I'm actually kind of disappointed about that; it is almost like these go the other direction and "over-hype" the spice level a bit.  On the other hand, the package promises a bowl of "Gourmet Spicy" noodles, and I would say that is what I received.  These get a happy face from me! :)

Soup it up:  Man, I must have gotten to be more of a wimp with the spice level since I wrote the original review.  Anyway, since the "plain" Shin Ramyun is pretty much a one-note "laboriously spicy" flavor, I recommend add-ins that help balance things.  An egg seems like an obvious addition to add richness; also pictured are julienned cucumber, italian parsley, and some fresh green onions.  I could also recommend some thin-sliced steak or roast, to further bring out the beef-stock undertone.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

MAMA Instant Pad Thai Noodles

Made by:  Thai President Foods (Thailand)
Tools Required:  Hot Water, Strainer, Bowl, Chopsticks
Snack Size (280 calories per package)
Price:  39¢ (at Uwajimaya in Bellevue)

(available online through
Today I'm having a "non-soup" noodle, an Instant Pad Thai from MAMA brand.  I have had this one before, back in Missouri, but since then I have been able to have a "real" Pad Thai at a restaurant here in Woodinville.  Let's see if this one still holds up!

The package contains our glassy-looking rice noodles, as well as three seasoning packets, which are themselves enclosed in a plastic wrapper.  There is an orange plastic packet with a thick oil in it, a silver foil packet containing powder seasoning, and a small red packet with chili powder.  We are supposed to put the noodles into a bowl, add enough boiling water to cover the noodles, then cover the bowl and wait three minutes.  Then we drain the noodles (a strainer comes in quite handy here) and put them back in the bowl, add the seasonings, and stir heartily until all the noodles are coated.  Not too difficult, although it would pay to have an advance plan for draining the noodles if you were to try to have these "on the go," to avoid having half your noodles go down the drain.

The package is the typical-for-Thai-brands small portion, which is even more noticeable in this case without the cup-and-a-half of broth to pad the size.  I could easily have eaten two of these (and actually, at 78¢ and 560 calories, that would be a viable option).  The flavor is actually a fairly solid rendition of a Pad Thai, with a nutty, rich flavor and a decent but not overpowering amount of heat.  The noodle texture doesn't compare quite as favorably; they seemed a bit clumpy, and somehow sticky and slippery both at the same time.  Not horrible, but they just don't seem to have enough substance.

I don't know, there just seemed to be something missing, and I don't just mean more noodles.  I have another package in the Stash so I will be revisiting this one with some toppings and additions, and I think it has a lot of promise as a base for a meal.  Reviewed as packaged, though, this one was just all right. :|