(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of our series on Ramen noodles. If you’d like to catch up and read Part 1 first, here’s the link: Ramen = World Peace Part 1.)
There are two museums dedicated to Ramen noodles. Think about that for a moment. As if the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, Japan isn’t enough, there is also the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum in Yokohama.
The difference? The Momofuku has an instant noodles workshop area where visitors can make their own noodle variety. Meanwhile, the Shin-Yokohama has a recreation of Tokyo, Circa 1958, the year Ramen was invented.
When we here in America feel like our high art and culture is slipping away, consider this: The Momofuku Museum attracts more than half a million visitors a year. That’s more than visit Japan’s national art museum. Think about that next time you plan a trip to Dollywood instead of the Smithsonian.
It makes sense, though, given the enormous popularity of instant noodles. Go ahead and take 30 seconds and Google Ramen. We’ll wait… It’s almost too much to consider isn’t it?
Our favorite Ramen site is The Ramen Rater, primarily because the site’s creator, Hans, doesn’t try to get too fancy. There are reviews, there are links to all the Ramen companies and there are lists of his favorites and why. If you have any questions about instant noodles, we urge you to stop first at: The Ramen Rater
So, armed with this background, and the intimidating knowledge that we were entering territory so well trodden it seemed there was nothing new that could possibly be written about the subject, we sat down with Janelle and Aaron and came up with a plan.
Of the three varieties we had, each would be tasted individually in separate bowls. The noodles would be cooked first, the spices or powder would be placed on top according to the liking of the taster. After each tasting, the kids would write their thoughts down, and the bowls would be washed so as to not spoil the next batch.
This is what we found.
Sapporo Ichiban Hot and Spicy Noodles: Sapporo is a brand of instant noodles made by Sanyo Foods. They are based out of Tokyo, but the company’s focus is on export to North America, in particular Canada and the U.S.
Our first stop was the company website, but there’s no English option and like many Asian websites, the cacophony of brightly colored bird-like singing creatures who appear to be shooting rainbows from their eyes is just too disconcerting to figure out. There are Pokemons and Disney characters running around, and children with noodles for hair and videos of Japanese guys in peach-colored cardigans yelling something at screaming kids and we quickly got out of there before the headaches came. If you’d like to try your luck, the link is here: Sanyo Foods
We decided to begin the taste test with chicken flavor, in part because the kids like chicken and also because Ramen inventor Momofuko started with chicken flavor because he reasoned that there was no country that didn’t eat its chickens. Smart guy, that Momofuko.
As we expected, both kids loved this variety. The chicken flavor overpowered the spice. Given that the brand we eat the most around our house is Shin Ramyun, a Korean brand known for its heat, the kids seemed to like being able to taste the chicken flavor without having to put out a mouth-fire with water. In fact, Aaron wrote, “It’s good because it’s not too spicy!” Both kids graded it a 4 out of 5.
Mystery packet: It turned out that our mystery packet was indeed Ramen, and Korean. It’s made by Samyang Foods. That’s it. That’s all we got. The website has an English tab, but we were unable to find our packet there. We did find it under a Korean setting, but had no clue what’s in it based on that. Here’s the link if you happen to know Korean: Sanyang Food
So, we were flying blind. The first thing we all noticed was a different texture to the noodles, perhaps more eggy. And softer. Neither of the kids were able to detect any real flavor in the spice packet. Aaron rejected it outright. Janelle had a different take, writing, “I don’t even know what kind it is, but it has a different texture and is kind of buttery.” Aaron rated it only a 2, while Janelle liked the butter flavor and gave it a 3.5.
Sapporo Ichiban Chowmein: We never had instant noodle chowmein, and since all of us love the stuff, we figured we’d give it a go. Unfortunately, we screwed up the preparation pretty badly. We didn’t realize the noodles needed to be prepared in a skillet and the water evaporated. Instead we just boiled water and threw it all in, like usual. This method of preparing the noodles effectively killed any taste and turned the noodles to goo.
Still, Aaron didn’t mind and called the concoction “interesting.” He gave it a 2.5 rating. Janelle hated it and only gave it a 1.5 rating. Perhaps next time, we’ll cook it properly and see if the ratings change. Live and learn.
At the end of our taste testing we were all stuffed and pretty happy with the results. So much so that we’ll do it again soon. We recently picked up a couple Indian instant noodle packets and are eager to try those.
As trail food, if you have a way to boil water, Ramen is perfect. It’s light, salty, high in calories and spicy and warm for your belly. We’ve often taken Ramen packets with us on winter hikes. You may want to taste the noodles before taking it with you so you know what you’re getting, but it would be tough to get it wrong.