2008-07-17

It's cheaper than food.

How does one start a ramen review blog? Like this.

Instant noodles are a near-universal food. They range from absurdly inexpensive –Maruchan and Nissin offer basic brick-in-packet lines that almost always fall in the four-or-more-per-dollar range) – to sophisticated multi-dollar bowls. They are shelf-stable, generally simple to prepare, and filling. They are legendary for being the staple food of income-challenged students, as they serve both the place of quick eats on their own and a base upon which nutritious meals can be built.

Who am I, so wide in the ways of ramen? My name is Jessie Tracer, though I more often go by Electric Keet. I'm a freakishly (and gladly) tall woman who is in denial about turning thirty and has nothing better to do than talk about noodles. More seriously, I'm a freelance (read: amateur) graphic designer and electronic musician living with my wife and a couple close friends in a small flat wedged in a gorgeous part of the Seattle area. I am not, in fact, a starving college student.

How did I end up in this gig? A couple friends of mine called me one day to say, "We're stopping at a Japanese market before we drop by your place. Any particular types of ramen you'd like us to grab?" When I indicated one or two sorts but a general request to be pleasantly surprised, they took it seriously. I recieved an overstuffed shopping bag of every imaginable variety, no duplicates, and a simple request for payment: they would cover the bill if I reviewed the whole mess for their enjoyment. So, here it is.




Here's how the ratings will work:

Brand: (as listed on package)
Flavour: (as listed on package)
Format: (brick-in-packet, cup, bowl; paper, cardboard, foam, plastic)
Packets: (number of packets to open in addition to main package)
Identifiables: (ingredients which can be identified before cooking)
Sodium: (amount of sodium in grams, not milligrams, just for fun)

Here's where I'll put the review proper. Don't expect too much of the acerbic, insulting style that's all the rage with the kids these days. This isn't a videogame review blog. Do expect a bit of silliness, oddity, and an attempt to sound worldly in the ways of instant noodles.

Numbers: packaging V, preparation V, heat V, flavour V, overall V
Music: (whatever I've been listening to as I eat)




Let me explain that a little bit. For each category, I rate the ramen experience from one through five, five generally meaning better. As a general guide:

packaging 1 = abysmal: disintegrates on cooking, no tear-tabs on packets
packaging 2 = lacking: flimsy, broken, needlessly difficult to open
packaging 3 = standard: standard foam cup, corrugated-edge brick packet
packaging 4 = elegant: comes with fork, lid comes off cleanly, spiffy look
packaging 5 = brilliant: novel design that works, as convenient as dining out

preparation 1 = complex: I could have made grilled cheese for all this effort
preparation 2 = difficult: you mean, I have to put it in a pot?
preparation 3 = normal: sprinkle packet then add boiling water? I can do that
preparation 4 = easy: no packets, or two packets but they make sense
preparation 5 = simple: self-heating, or microwave without adding water

heat 1 = none: brown mustard, safe for the timid
heat 2 = mild: horseradish mustard, most people can enjoy it
heat 3 = medium: Horsey sauce, some call it spicy
heat 4 = hot: jalapeño slices, too hot for most
heat 5 = scorcher: habañero and up, ring of fire

flavour 1 = nasty: sour, foul, couldn't finish, won't ever touch again
flavour 2 = blah: bland or slightly unappealing, will eat if nothing else is around
flavour 3 = average: generic but identifiable, would eat again for a quick lunch
flavour 4 = good: enjoyable and interesting, would get the urge to have sometimes
flavour 5 = awesome: very tasty and inspired, I'll ask for it by name

overall 1 = heinous: I'd rather skip lunch today, thanks
overall 2 = mediocre: if it's on sale and I'm tired of cold cereal for lunch
overall 3 = decent: yet another in a long list of okay lunches
overall 4 = positive: I could make a sandwich.... better yet, I have a hot lunch!
overall 5 = awesome: sure, you can eat out for lunch, but I'm having this

Yes, I dock a point for having to get a pot out to make lunch. Despite my frequent use of British spellings for English words, I am an American citizen and thus I am entitled to be lazy. (This is actually one of the very few ways in which I resemble an American, however.) It's my bias; I significantly prefer self-contained meals, since they truly epitomise the notion of an instant lunch. In summary, these ratings are somewhat subjective... but aren't they always? Feel free to argue any particular brand's rating, I won't take it personally.

At the time of this writing, the extremes I've experienced have been:
packaging 4 (many of the nicer plastic bowls are like this) through 2 (packets required scissors, but the meal came with a fork; how's that for mixed messages!) preparation 4 (many foam-cup noodles are like this) through 1 (I once had a yakisoba bowl with three packets and no English instructions... and I guessed wrong)
heat 1 (most stuff on American market shelves) through 5 (you bet your sweet bippy!)
flavour 1 (couldn't finish, I can't even remember what it was trying to be) through flavour 5 (I'm a sucker for a particular brand of instant ja jyang myun I can't find anymore)

I hope you, the reader, enjoy reading this blog as much as I, the eater, am enjoying writing it.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your friend Persimmon pointed me to this blog. Keet, you're a fabulous writer with a keen sense of humor that right up my alley. Thanks for taking the time to share your culinary experiences with us. I'm going to see if I can get some more eyeballs on this work of yours. :)

-- J. R. "Haystack" Caldoon

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

A. Mouse:
Wow! Thank you greatly for reading, and I'm very glad that my writing satisfies. Also, thanks much for spreading the word!

Anonymous said...

"I'm a freakishly (and gladly) tall woman who is in denial about turning thirty and has nothing better to do than talk about noodles. More seriously, I'm a freelance (read: amateur) graphic designer and electronic musician living with my wife..."

I'm sorry I read that. Barf.

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

A. Mouse II:
I know, I know. Electronic musicians are a distasteful lot, aren't they?