Thursday, June 25, 2015

Unboxing the Ramen Box: June 2015

The next Ramen Box has arrived!

This one included two each of three more types of instant noodles, plus two packages of another 'noodle snack' product.  I wonder if that is going to be the standard assortment for them?  We also received a "The Ramen Box" tote bag, which is kind of neat, and a matching Ramen Box button, along with the obligatory information pamphlet.

Unlike last month, which seemed to have a Korea theme going on, I'm not sure there is a connecting thread to these products; this month, the included products are:

Ottogi Sesame Ramen [Korea]
Sapporo Ichiban Shio Ramen [USA]
JML Stew Beef Flavor Instant Noodle [China]
GGE Wheat Crackers Original Flavor [Taiwan]

(The above list will be updated with links as reviews become available.)

I do have to say, I am a little bit disappointed at the inclusion of the Sapporo Ichiban, which the pamphlet claims is of Japanese origin, but which states clearly on the package that it is a domestic product and which is readily available in most grocery stores around here.*  Then again, it's not like I've actually reviewed it yet, so once again The Ramen Box has provided four new-to-me products for the Ramen Butterfly to review.  I'm looking forward to going through them!

{*:  I'm also considering the possibility that I am just spoiled by being a Seattleite, and that it isn't quite as readily available elsewhere.}

Monday, June 22, 2015

Menraku Japanese Curry "Udon"

Made By:  Hikari Miso Co. Ltd. [Japan]
Required to Prepare:  Hot Water
340 calories per package

Available online via AsianFoodGrocer

One of the perks of my job is that I don't get a lunch hour.

No, really, it's kind of a perk, because in trade for having to be present and on-call through lunch, the company buys all my work lunches (along with providing lunch for the examining doctors). Occasionally, though, there is a day where none of the doctors want to order lunch--and rather than make a delivery order just for myself, I try to keep a (company-purchased) stash of bowl noodles and yakisoba-style 'tray' noodles in the cabinet for such occasions.

Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to try Menraku's Japanese Curry "Udon" for lunch at work.  The bowl has the standard two packets (soup base and dried veggies) and some wide, thick instant style noodles.  To prepare, we empty the packets into the bowl, fill up to the fill line with boiling water, and stand for five minutes.  Then after a quick stir, the noodles are ready to eat!

I am glad that Menraku put the word "Udon" in quotation marks on the package, as if they know they're using the term loosely, because these noodles are almost completely unlike any 'real' udon I've experienced.  It's almost as if they're overcooked and undercooked at the same time; they seem a bit soggy, but are also sticky and gummy.  I know it's not fair to compare them to 'fresh' vacuum-packed udon, but Samyang has already proven to me that it's possible to do a dry udon that is reminiscent of the fresh ones.
The noodles did seem to get more pleasant the longer they sat in the broth, but I think that was just that they were transforming from sticky+soggy to just plain soggy.

The broth doesn't save this one either; it has a hint of the proper Japanese curry flavor, but it seems very bland and watered down compared to other curry noodles I've tried--Ottogi's Bekse Curry Myon was way better, and even the 'cheap' Nissin Demae ones were more satisfying.  There isn't even any fun inclusions in the vegetable packet like the potato bits in the Ottogi one.
Unpleasant noodles and mediocre broth adds up to a bowl I won't be buying again, and I'll probably avoid any more of Menraku's quote-unquote "udon" as well.  :\

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ottogi Ppushu Ppushu Noodle Snack (BBQ Flavor)

Made by:  Ottogi Ramyon Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Required to Prepare:  Large Wooden Mallet  Nothing!
205 calories per 1/2 package

Available online via Amazon (as part of variety pack)

The final product that I received in the May 2015 Ramen Box is this "Noodle Snack" from Ottogi.  Despite being--by all appearances--a package of ramen, complete with separate seasoning packet, the caped mallet boy on the package urges, "Don't boil it, Crunch it!"

Before researching this entry, I was a litle apprehensive about the idea of eating raw noodles, honestly; my mind was conjuring up an image not unlike trying to chew up raw spaghetti.  But apparently, this is a thing that people like college students have been doing for years, and Ottogi has merely legitimized the practice by making it an official product line.  (I'm guessing I dropped out of college too early to have learned of this practice in school like everyone else.)

Anyway, all we do is crush up the noodles into bite-size pieces (or smaller--I got a bit carried away I think), then open and pour in the seasoning pack and shake it up to spread the seasonings onto the crunchy noodles, then we eat them.
{Or rather, I eat them, because my sweetie immediately found the flavor revolting.}

The noodles were actually a pleasant surprise!  Far from 'uncooked pasta' texture, they are much more like those crunchy "Chow Mein Noodles" that come in a can. (Stay in school, kids!)  I rather liked the flavor; it seems like an Asian variation of the sweet barbecue flavor that most "BBQ Flavor" potato chips use; along with an overtone of sweet soy sauce, there are garlic/onion and smoked-meat notes.
In a reversal from many ramen products that list their nutrition as two servings even though they are clearly for one, this one is listed for the entire package, which turns out to be more than I would want in one sitting--I ended up saving half the package for later, so I am calling it two 205-calorie servings.

On first taste, they seemed like a novelty item that I might not buy again, but after half the package, I have to say they were starting to seem rather craveable, so depending on price, I could maybe see buying some just to have a fun snack to take to work, and I could see myself trying out the other flavors as well. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Paldo Cheese Ramyun

Made By:  Paldo Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Required to Prepare:  Saucepan & Range
480 calories per package

Available online via

Continuing the trek through the May 2015 Ramen Box, we have this Cheese Ramyun from Paldo.  The idea of cheese ramen sounds a bit odd at first, but I don't know why it would be that much different than some other kind of cheese soup (like that awesome broccoli and cheese soup from Panera Bread).  Also, we had a good experience from the domestic Cheddar Cheese Chow Noodles, so I don't know why a 'soup' version of cheese ramen woudn't work just as well.

The contents of the package are very typical of any other Korean Ramyun, with the addition of a third packet containing "Cheese Powder."  Preparation is also very typical; we boil 550ml of water, add the dry veggies and soup base, and cook for four minutes.  The soup base itself has a reddish color not unlike the other 'hot-spicy' flavor Korean products; for the sake of science, I decide to taste the broth before adding the Cheese Powder, and it is definitely a milder version of Shin Ramyun et al--very similar to the Jin Ramen Mild that also came in this month's box.  The cheese powder seems to be the same stuff that comes in a box of macaroni and cheese, and is a bit clumpy at first, but eventually I get it stirred in, at which point the noodles are ready to serve!

The cheese is not actually the primary flavor of the broth, but (especially judging from the before/after tasting) it does change the complexion of the flavor quite a bit; there is a creaminess and tanginess that is added, which both counters a bit of the spiciness and seems to allow different sub-flavors to come out.  I should at least mention the noodles and vegetables, even though they are pretty much the same as in all the other Korean ramen products I've been having; the noodles are firm and flavorful, and the veggies are the usual green onion/carrot/cabbage blend.

I liked this one quite a bit as well!  I'm enjoying the more balanced flavors that I've been experiencing with the products that came in this Ramen Box; this one has the creaminess that I enjoy when I add an egg to a Korean 'hot' ramyun, but as a different variation with the extra tanginess that comes from the cheese--it's actually somewhere in between the egg and my sweetie's idea of adding sour cream to Shin Ramyun.  My opinion of Korean ramen has gone up after trying these products; I don't think I had realized there was this much variety.  I could see myself getting this one again as well! :)

Soup it Up:  The Ramen Box pamphlet suggests toppings of chopped green onions, egg, and additional cheese in the form of a slice of American.  We tried the extra cheese and green onions, along with some leftover roast ham. The extra cheese was a definite upgrade for me, taking it from a sort-of-creamy Korean-spice-flavored noodle to a sort-of-spicy cheese-flavored noodle, closer to my original expectations.  The extra green onion played nicely with the onion/garlic in the soup base, and the ham fit in perfectly because of course it did.  Ham and Cheese is a classic for a reason, right?

My sweetie did mention that she thought a soft egg could have gone well also--further experiments will clearly be necessary. ^_^

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Paldo Kokomen (Spicy Chicken Flavor)

Made By:  PalDo Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Required to Prepare:  Saucepan & Range
510 calories per package

Available online via

Next up from the May 2015 Ramen Box is Paldo's Kokomen spicy chicken soup!  The package describes it as "Clean Spicy," and according to the Ramen Box pamphlet, this should be a Korean 'Ramyun' version of a classic chicken noodle soup.  I'm anxious to give it a try!

The package doesn't have any big surprises inside; there is a very typical block of round-style Korean ramen noodles, and the standard two packets of add-ins (one powder, one veggie flake).  Interestingly, though, the ingredients list for the vegetable packet includes chicken breast and egg flake; I don't see much visual evidence of the chicken breast although I do see some tiny yellow rectangles that are probably the eggs I was looking for.  I also can't help noticing the little caricature chef near the instructions; after a cursory search, I'm assuming this is a likeness of the Korean comedian Kyung-Kyu Lee, who (according to an Amazon reviewer) developed these noodles as part of a ramen competition show.  Anyway, normal preparation instructions for a Korean noodle:  Boil 500ml of water, add everything, and cook for 4 minutes, at which point we have...

...this bowl of appetizing-looking noodles!  The broth is somewhat clear, and I can easily see the green onion pieces as well as both green and red pepper rings.  There are also a couple of little square shavings that may or may not be the mentioned chicken breast, and some longer rectangles that are probably the egg--neither one seem to contribute anything, visually, texturally, or otherwise.
The broth has a really nice flavor; the "Clean Spicy" descriptor from the package is actually a really good description.  It is a very clean, almost western-style chicken broth, accented by a very fresh-tasting pepper flavor--more than just the heat, you can taste the green accents, it reminds me of the flavor of fresh jalapeƱo.  While the heat level is assertive, it is definitely not overpowering, and interestingly, the heat doesn't seem to 'build' as I eat more of it.  The noodles are typical and average for Korean noodles, which is to say there is definitely nothing wrong with them; they are pleasantly firm and pick up the flavor of the soup well.

I have to say, this may be my new favorite Korean-style noodle of all time (sorry, 'Black'); I enjoy how the heat in these are a fresher, brighter flavor than simply adding a big scoop of chili powder, and how it manages to complement rather than overpower the lighter, more delicate flavors in the soup.  I could be wrong, but I am even thinking these could be a great "under-the-weather" choice--it has all the 'comfort food' quality of old-fashioned chicken soup, along with some crisp, clean pepper heat to help open up the sinuses.

Not that I would wait until I was sick to have this again; I will definitely be buying more of these.  :D

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ottogi Jin Ramen (Mild)

Made By:  Ottogi Ramyon Co. Ltd. [Korea]
Required to Prepare:  Saucepan & Range
500 calories per package

Available online through

Tonight I am reviewing the first of the noodles from my May Ramen Box; I decided to start with the mild one of the three, Ottogi's Mild Jin Ramen.  I noticed while looking up the Amazon link that there is also a hot version of this, so Jin Ramen is probably their trademark for the traditional-flavor Korean ramyun, like Shin Ramyun for Nong Shim.

Inside the package is the typical two packets of powder soup base and dry veggies, and a block of noodles which are the slightly thicker and rounder variety; they remind me a bit of the "udon style" noodles from Neoguri or like Samyang's dried udon.  We are actually supposed to put the vegetable flakes in the water at the beginning, before we bring it to a boil, which seems like a good idea to give them more time to rehydrate.  The vegetable packet has a more interesting mix than in a lot of other noodles; in addition to the typical green onion and cabbage, there are carrots, some wakame seaweed, dried mushrooms, and even some 'beeflike' TVP bits.  Once the 550ml of water comes to a boil, we add the soup base and noodles and cook for four minutes, then transfer to a bowl and serve!

This might be mild for a Korean Ramyun, but be warned--it is still pretty spicy compared to even the "spicy" varieties of American ramen.  That said, I think it is basically the same flavor profile as in Shin Ramyun and similar "hot-spicy" flavored ramyuns.  Since the spice level is toned down from those a little, though, I find that I taste the other layers of the flavor better in this soup; I am picking up the beef-onion base over the chili heat, which is nice.  The extra veggies like the seaweed and mushroom bits are nice as well.  The noodles have a very pleasing firm texture and a nice light flavor to them, which pairs well with the broth.

I definitely think I prefer the lighter spice in this one over the regular Shin Ramyun, I think the flavor is better balanced overall.  I'm not as sure I would place it above Shin Ramyun Black, but that might not be a fair comparison as Black is a 'premium' product that would cost more.  I'll certainly enjoy having the other package that came in the box, at least, and I could see myself buying more--as Korean ramyuns go, I rather liked this one. :)