Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nissin Bowl Noodles Hot & Spicy with Shrimp

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Microwave, Water
420 calories per package

Rating:  :D

(available online through

This week's noodle review is our first sampling of Nissin's Hot & Spicy Bowl Noodles line.  I know I've been reviewing a lot of Nissin products lately, but at least in this part of the country, they are by far the most widely available products in regular grocery stores, and I think it's worthwhile to find out which ones are worth the try.  These are described as "With Shrimp," rather than just shrimp-flavored, so I expect to see some little dried crustaceans in here.  Let's see what we've got!

Sure enough, in among our packets of add-ins is a dried goodie packet that seems to have four or five dried shrimp, along with some red peppers and lots of green onion flakes.  We also have our disc of ramen-style noodles, a packet of powdered soup base, and a Soup Booster that holds an unattractive dark, grainy, oily paste.  We empty the dried ingredients and soup base packets into the bowl, fill with water to the line, and microwave for three minutes.  Then we squeeze the contents of the Soup Booster packet into the hot soup, give it a good stir, and sit down to eat!

I am very pleasantly surprised by the texture of the noodles!  They are firm, not the least bit sticky, and have a light, clean feel and taste.  They remind me of the potato-starch noodles from in the Paldo Yukejang bowl, though that isn't listed as an ingredient.  The broth is definitely spicy and flavorful, too!  I am tasting roasted red pepper, onion, beef, and a cool herb flavor (which the ingredient list reveals to be cilantro).  It is a very hearty, almost stew-like broth; it comes across to me as a cajun-style flavor, reminiscent of a jambalaya or gumbo. 

Products like this are the reason I like to try all the different offerings of a particular manufacturer--sometimes I can find a hidden gem, even in the domestic dry soup section.  I highly recommend this one! :D

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kettle Buffalo Bleu Krinkle-Cut Potato Chips

Made By:  Kettle Foods
150 calories per 1 oz. serving (pictured)
Rating:  0_0

(available online through Kettle Online Store)

Most days when I have noodles, I usually have some chips or snacks on the side, just for a little crunch to complement the soup or soft noodles.  And, much as it is with the noodles themselves, I love trying all the different flavors I can find--the more interesting, the better, often to the bemusement of my ever-supportive fiancĂ©e.  This time, I brought home some of these Buffalo Bleu flavor Kettle chips!  I am picturing flavors of hot wings dipped in blue cheese sauce, and I am getting excited.  So let's not keep me in suspense!

Oh, that is not what I expected at all.  They're good, but the flavor definitely doesn't match the image that the name conjures up.  They are not especially spicy, and I taste vinegar, garlic, and herbs, with a hint of a 'green' pepper flavor.  Despite the powdered blue cheese in the ingredients list, I don't pick that up as a flavor at all; at most, I taste a slight sour-creamy undertone.  They remind me more of the creamy alfredo flavored chips I've had in the past, much more than anything Buffalo or Bleu.  At least the texture is as expected; they are extremely crunchy, almost to the point of being too hard--just like kettle-cooked potato chips are supposed to be.

So these kind of feel like a curveball:  In fairness, I enjoyed the flavor, but I certainly wouldn't describe it the way the package does.  My expectations have been violated.  0_0

Friday, June 24, 2011

Buitoni Riserva Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli w/ Garlic Butter Sauce

Made By:  Buitoni North America
Tools Required:  Large pan, Stovetop
500 calories per serving (2 servings per package)
Rating:  :D

Today I am doing something a bit more decadent--because it is my birthday!  My sweetie and I enjoy the Buitoni filled pastas and sauces from the deli section for an easy and delicious dinner, so I am hoping the frozen "dinner for 2" versions will be as good if not better.  There are flavors of both the pasta and sauce available here that aren't offered in the deli variety, such as this Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli, and this Garlic Butter Sauce.

Predictably, the box contains two packets, one with the ravioli, and the other filled with the sauce.  The preparation method actually seems sort of ingenious to me; rather than using separate pans for heating the sauce and cooking the pasta, we are supposed to just drop the packet of sauce into the pan of water while we bring it to a boil and cook the ravioli, using only one pan in the process.  How convenient!  I actually ran into an ambiguity in the prep directions, though:  We are supposed to bring the water (with sauce packet) to a rolling boil, then add the pasta and boil gently for five minutes.  It actually took a few minutes for the water to return to a boil after dropping a packet of frozen pasta in it, though, so I measured the five minute time from when the water started boiling again.  Everything seemed to turn out all right doing it that way, so I'm going to say I did it right.  There ends up being about a dozen large ravioli per serving, and around 3/4 cup of a very creamy looking butter sauce to top them with.

The pasta has a great texture; it is nicely firm and not sticky.  The filling is very flavorful, and has more texture than I expected, with fairly large chunks of shrimp and lobster.  (I even found a tiny piece of lobster shell in one of mine--that proves it is real!)  The sauce is plentiful enough to coat all the pasta, and it has a very rich garlic flavor.  I'm impressed that the flavor of the seafood is assertive enough not to be overpowered by the sauce, actually; the flavors seem to be very well balanced and go together well.  My partner and I both really enjoyed this!  And most importantly, the portion size was generous enough that with a side salad, we both felt like we had enough to eat for dinner.  My expectations have been exceeded, and I am definitely looking forward to trying the rest of these!  :D

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nissin Chow Mein Chicken Flavor

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Microwave, Water
Calories:  480 per package
Rating:  :)

(available online through

Here is yet another of these Nissin Chow Mein products.  I usually keep stocked up on them; I like that they are easy to find in grocery stores, they're fairly economical, and for the most part the flavors have been pretty good.  Also, my partner likes them much better than the noodle-soup style products, so they are nice when we want to have lunch together.  Today's version is the Chicken flavor; that's a fairly generic descriptor, so I am hoping they don't turn out to be too bland.

Inside the package is a brick of Nissin's straight-cut Chow Mein noodles, a packet of dried goodies (aka. the "Premium Ingredients"), and a pack of liquid seasoning.  The dried stuff goes into the tray with the noodles, we fill to the line with tap water, and then microwave for five minutes.  If you are making two at once, as I am today, eight minutes seems to be the right number.  We let it stand for a minute, and then stir in the liquid seasoning packet, which contains a little bit of oil and a dark, rich sauce.  The finished product is very similar in appearance to the Teriyaki Chicken, but the aroma is less pronounced.

The noodles have a very good texture!  They seemed to absorb all the water better than I remember, and stay firm and not sticky.  I don't know if Nissin has actually changed anything, but I like it.  The sauce coats everything well, and has a nice rich-and-savory flavor.  I am not sure I would call it a chicken flavor, personally, I am noticing more of the soy and garlic flavors, but it is good.  Despite the similar appearance, it is distinctly different from the Teriyaki Chicken flavor--much less sweet.  As usual, the "Premium Ingredients" seem to be for color more than flavor, but that is more of an observation than a criticism, really.  I definitely enjoyed this flavor, and I am sure I will be buying more in the future! :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hormel Compleats Chicken Alfredo

Made By:  Hormel Foods (USA)
Tools Required:  Microwave, Sharp object
Light Meal Size (330 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(available online through

When I started this blog a few months ago, my intention was to just write reviews about instant noodles.  I really love ramen and I think it has an undeserved reputation as being unhealthy.  The thing is, I love a lot of different foods, and I love experimenting with new foods.  I also love to write, and I especially love to write about food.  So, I think it was a mistake to limit myself to just one category.  There will still be ramen reviews, of course, since I still love ramen, but there will be a wide range of other things as well.  I guess that makes the blog name sort of a misnomer, but I am okay with that.

Anyway, today I am trying one of these shelf-stable Compleats meals from Hormel; I like the idea of a convenience lunch that doesn't need to be kept frozen (one of the many reasons I like ramen for lunch, too).  At first, the idea of 'fresh' chicken in a shelf-stable product felt a bit odd, but then I reasoned that if the same stuff were in a can instead of a vacuum-sealed plastic dish no-one would give it a second thought.
Because we are heating from room temperature, preparation is very quick, too; we cut a few vent holes in the film with a sharp knife, and then microwave for 90 seconds.  The film is a bit stubborn but I finally do get it peeled off, then after a quick stir just to make sure everything is mixed around well, I am ready to try it!

The pasta is a bit soft, but not bad considering this is pretty much a canned pasta product.  I was surprised that the chicken had a nice firm texture and grain, though; it seemed like pieces of actual chicken meat instead of the chopped-and-formed stuff.  The sauce has a nicely rich and creamy flavor, but it seems a little bit thin to me--a little too thick to call it a soup, but not thick enough to cling properly to the pasta and chicken.  I resorted to dipping my crackers in it to keep from wasting most of it; otherwise I think much of the sauce would have probably gotten left in the bottom of the bowl, even if I had been eating with a fork rather than my chopsticks.  Everything here is pretty well bite-size, though, so eating the whole meal with a spoon would certainly be an option.

Despite my slight dissatisfaction with the thickness of the sauce, though, this was a very pleasant meal, and I thought the portion size was reasonable for a lunch product.  It's nice to have another non-frozen option for a quick lunch!  I would have this again, and I will certainly be trying some of the other Compleats meals as well. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tai Pei Orange Chicken

Made By:  Discovery Foods (USA)
Tools Required:  Microwave, Knife/Scissors
Meal Size (525 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(complete information at official website)

For today's lunch, I am going to reach outside the instant-noodle category again and try another one of these Tai Pei frozen take-out-style entrees.  I really liked the first one I tried, so I am looking forward to giving this one a go!

Like the other Tai Pei box, preparation is extremely simple, though one should always read the directions before unwrapping things!  These are designed to be microwaved with the plastic wrap still on, so that it steams properly.  The instructions say to microwave 3-4 minutes in a 1200W oven; my machine is a little less than that, so I give it 4-1/2 minutes, then let it stand for a few minutes as directed.  I use my sharp object (a paring knife) to remove the film, give the contents a stir, and get ready to eat!

The box ends up only around half to two-thirds full; one of the box flaps tells us this is because the contents cook down to a smaller volume as they defrost and steam.  The sauce is nicely thick and is plentiful enough to coat everything evenly, and there is a generous quantity of vegetables and breaded chicken pieces along with our steamed rice.

Some of the components seem better suited for the steaming process than others, of course; the vegetables are quite nice--crisp, flavorful, and fresh-looking.  The chicken pieces don't fare so well... the meat is very soft, and the breading is soggy.  Their flavor is okay, but the texture definitely isn't comparable to real take-out.  The sauce is sweet, but no more so than I expected from an orange chicken sauce; it does have a good hearty flavor instead of just seeming like flavored corn syrup.

For a frozen convenience lunch, I didn't think this was bad at all.  The portion size seemed generous, the flavors were nice, and the crisp vegetables prevented the overall texture from seeming too mushy.  Not spectacular, mind you, but I'll probably end up buying it again. :|

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nissin Souper Meal Chicken Flavor with Vegetable Medley

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Microwave, Spoon & Chopsticks
Large Meal Size (580 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(available online through

For today's review, I will be sampling one of Nissin USA's "Souper Meal" products.  As near as I can tell, the marketing strategy here seems to be the same as with those Hungry-Man frozen dinners, or the Burger King Triple Whopper with Cheese--that is, that we understand that manly men have manly hunger and so we are going to provide curiously large portions of food designed to satisfy a curiously large appetite.  When I think of it that way, it almost seems like a challenge; I may be a girly girl instead of a manly man, but my chopsticks and I are ready to take this thing on!

The bowl has three included seasoning packets along with the noodles:  there is a powdered soup base and a packet of dehydrated stuff which I presume is the promised "Vegetable Medley," and then there is a pack of liquid seasoning labelled "Finishing Touch" which appears to contain soy sauce and some kind of oil.  We add the first two packets to the bowl, fill with lots of water, and microwave uncovered for four-and-a-half minutes; then, right before serving, we add the Finishing Touch, which may be the corniest name for a flavor packet ever.  The noodles don't appear to have cooked completely evenly, some of them are more glassy-looking than others, but at least none of them seem undercooked.  I also notice a lot of herb flecks throughout, and our Vegetable Medley looks to be corn, cabbage, carrots, and maybe some mushrooms (although those might be the artificial chicken bits instead).

The broth has a nice hearty chicken and herb flavor; as far as ramen products go, it might be one of the better chicken broths I've tried.  The noodles are all right, I guess; they are a little firmer than what one would expect from a Top Ramen, but they don't seem to have a lot of substance either.  Overall, I would rate them as pleasant, though the phrase "quantity over quality" seems to come to mind.

Speaking of the quantity, I think I would say that the portion is probably a bit larger than it needs to be--out of curiosity, I measured the empty bowl once I was done eating, and learned that I had just eaten over three cups of soup.  On the other hand, I really didn't have any trouble finishing the whole thing, so maybe it isn't that unreasonable after all.  I will probably steer toward more sensible portions most of the time, but I imagine for someone with an extra-hearty appetite, this could be just the thing. :|

Monday, June 13, 2011

Simply Asia Roasted Peanut Noodle Bowl

Made By:  Simply Asia Foods (USA, imported from China)
Tools Required:  Microwave, Measuring spoon
Meal Size (510 calories per package)
Rating:  :D

Today I am going to splurge a little and indulge in some premium gourmet-type fresh noodles from the international aisle of the grocery.  These are a bit pricier than ramen, and they are marketed as being more upscale and luxurious (although they don't seem to be any healthier for you than ramen is). 

I actually have to admit that I am going in to this one with a bit of trepidation, because the last time I had one of these "fancy" noodle products, it was an Annie Chun udon noodle that turned out to be one of the worst things I had ever eaten.  We'll see if this brand does any better at representing the category!

The bowl contains the pack of fresh noodles, a packet of dried vegetables, the liquid sauce, and a packet of chopped peanuts for garnish.  Oh, and a very tiny plastic fork.  I didn't try to use the fork since I eat with chopsticks anyway, but it looked kind of flimsy and undersized; I think I would recommend having a 'Plan B' for utensils in any case.

Anyway, the instructions tell us to put everything except the peanut topping (and the fork) into the bowl along with two tablespoons of water, put the lid on, and microwave for two minutes.  The lid does have a vent hole for steam, but the bowl was still very hot to handle coming out.  We stir everything together to coat the noodles, add the peanut topping, and serve!

The finished noodles have a nice, hearty aroma, and they must have absorbed the added water, because the sauce is nicely thick and rich.  The texture is firm and slightly sticky--it kind of reminds me of an overcooked spaghetti.  Not that I am saying they are bad, but they do seem a bit heavy because of it.  The sauce is tangy and garlicky, and slightly sweet; despite being a peanut sauce, it actually comes across more like a tomato-based sauce (even though there is no tomato in it).  The red flecks are actually sweet pepper, so there is no need to worry about spice heat.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this product!  The flavor was very enjoyable, and I feel like I had a nice hearty lunch.  This has me much more interested in trying the other Simply Asia products now!  I think they might even be worth their 'gourmet' price tag.  :D

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nissin Top Ramen Shrimp Flavor

Made By:  Nissin Foods (USA)
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range, Bowl, Spoon & Chopsticks
Meal Size (380 calories per package)
Rating:  :|

(available online through

I was noticing that the past few posts have all been the "Souped-Up" re-reviews instead of actually reviewing new products... I think it is probably time I did a few actual product reviews here.  Today's selection is probably not unfamiliar to most of the reading audience, but I do think it is important to make sure I cover the basics along with the 'fun' stuff.  So, today I am having the very budget-conscious Top Ramen, in Shrimp flavor.  Let's see how it stacks up!

Inside the pack is our brick of ramen noodles, and a singular foil packet of seasoning labelled "Shrimp Flavor."  We bring two cups of water to a boil and add the noodles for three minutes, then stir in the seasoning at the end.  As I am pouring the finished soup into the bowl, I notice a promising savory seafood aroma.  The appearance, though, is a little less enticing; we have some glassy-looking noodles in a very plain-looking broth.  Well, time to give them a try!

The noodles are, as expected, normal grocery-store-style American ramen, which is to say the texture is quite soft and slightly sticky.  I try not to think of them as inferior, but they do seem like a totally different type of pasta than the noodles from the 'international' section.  What flavor the broth does have isn't bad, but it seems a bit watery and bland.

I think I am going to have to re-iterate what I said in my review of the Oriental Flavor Top Ramen:  There is certainly nothing offensive about the flavor of these--nothing strong or spicy that could possibly upset a stomach, so if I were feeling under the weather, I would probably reach for these to have a nice warm feel-good lunch.  For the most part, though, I would prefer a little more flavor.  These aren't bad, but they really aren't that interesting either.  :|

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Souped-Up Review: MAMA Pad Thai, Five-Alarm Peanut version

MAMA Instant Pad Thai Noodles (originally reviewed here)
Planters Five-Alarm Chili dry roasted peanuts
Oscar Meyer Cutting Board turkey breast

Rating:  Major Upgrade

Sometimes I just get the sense that certain products were made for each other.  You know, like bagels and cream cheese.  These new Planters Five-Alarm Chili peanuts caught my eye in the store, and since they were on sale they came home with me.  I opened the jar and tasted them as soon as I got home, and my first thought was that they would be excellent on top of some Pad Thai noodles.  (My second thought was that they are probably more like three- to four-alarm peanuts, but then again I can be a connoisseur of spicy things.)  So for lunch today, I am going to do another Souped-Up Review to try it out!

I prepared the noodles just as directed on the package, and in the meantime I carefully crushed up a handful of the peanuts with a kitchen mallet.  While stirring in the seasonings, I also tossed in about an ounce of some turkey deli meat that I had warmed in the microwave, just to add some protein, and then I garnished the top with my crushed peanuts.  The noodles are looking good!

I enjoyed these noodles a lot!  The added spice from the peanuts was welcome, and while the turkey meat didn't seem to add that much flavor-wise, the extra substance seemed to fill in a little of what was missing the first time I had these noodles.  It even seemed like the texture was better this time than I described in the original review, I didn't notice the noodles clumping excessively.  It could just be a difference in perception, though, since I was enjoying the flavor this time. 

The meat choice could probably be improved upon, especially if I had some leftover breaded chicken or something like that, but for me, these peanuts are practically a must-add from now on whenever I have these Pad Thai noodles.  I say it is a Major Upgrade!  Who knows, maybe someday it will be as classic a combination as chocolate and peanut butter.

(Okay, probably not.)