2008-08-24

Little Cook "Stewed Duck"

Brand: Little Cook
Flavour: Stewed Duck
Format: foam bowl
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle disc, soup base, veggie strips
Sodium: 3.04 grams

It was raining in Seattle, so I took that as a sign that I should eat ramen. (Now you know why I eat so much ramen.) As the hour got late and I realised that I didn't have any plan for a meal, I looked through the three remaining items in Batch One of the ramen reviews. A tall, lime-green bowl that had intimidated me previously due to its sheer volume finally called to me. I knew the time had come. I figured I was simply in for a lot of noodles, right?

I pulled the cellophane off of the plastic-covered foam bowl and peeled the lid off. I'll note that normally paper lids don't come off of foam bowls cleanly, preferring to tear in spots and sometimes even lift bits of foam from the edge; this was a delightful exception. Once inside, I spotted a small translucent yellow packet containing sandy, coriander-smelling soup base and curled veggie strips, and a gargantuan metallic plastic packet which read "Retort Pouch" in English and... something in Thai. That familiar terror stuck my heart. The packet was labelled in Thai... but the bowl itself was not. Creepy. I unfolded the pouch and reminisced slightly; it seemed very similar to the sort one would find in a military MRE. I snapped a detail picture of the back of the pouch.

(Side note: My initial reaction on reading "retort pouch" was to wonder whether it was a witty or snide one. The word "retort" simply doesn't come up in any other context terribly often. Only upon thinking of an MRE did I recall that it also means the sterilisation of something already packaged in an airtight container. See? This blog is not only entertaining, it's educational.)

I emptied the yellow packet into the bowl, followed up with plenty of boiling water (the instructions say to fill up to one centimetre below the top edge, but there's a line for reference), and set the large pouch on top to preheat. At this point, I haven't really made any attempt to knead or otherwise ponder the pouch; I assumed it to be full of thicker soup base. This made perfect sense. After three minutes, I peeled the lid off the rest of the way, tore open the pouch, and dumped it in.

Holy crap, it's a duck!

To be fair, it looked like only a few cooked bits of duck, but I hope my reaction is understandable. I was expecting meat-scented sludge, not meat. When the picture on the package of ramen shows meat, one assumes that to have the implicit disclaimer of "serving suggestion", not "actual size"! I scanned the ingredients, but no meat was listed. Nowhere on the label was there anything implying that the meal was vegetarian, or unfit for such. My mind reeled; my instant noodles contained meat, and there wasn't so much as an import statement anywhere on the bowl. How could this be? Was it even legal?

I decided that I'd dawdled enough. I mixed the stuff in and started eating. The noodles had an excellent bite to them, firm enough to be pleasant without seeming undercooked. The broth was flavourful, though not overpoweringly so; it very much had the impression of real duck broth, but with a good and subtle mix of spices added. There was even just a kiss of heat, enough to hint at being "spicy" without making that a foreground note. Overall, it was excellent past expectations. The duck... was duck-like! In fact, I was fairly convinced....

Ah, then the truth occurred to me. The ingredients list "modified tapioca starch". Such stuff can easily be shaped into a very satisfying imitation of moist, tender stewed meat. Some would ridicule this faux fowl, but I found myself suffering no horrible aftertaste, nor any feeling of disappointment. I had been fooled, yes, but by something so tasty that I could think of no fair insult to level at the impostor. Quite simply... this stuff wins.

I didn't think Batch One would have another rank five in it....

Numbers: packaging 4, preparation 4, heat 2, flavour 5, overall 5

Music: Junko Tamiya - Bionic Commando (NES) - Neutral Zone

4 comments:

Steve said...

My god. It's full of stars^H^H^H^H^Hmeat.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this one uses vegetarian duck. But, this company also makes pork and beef ramen that use real meat. There is also a vegetarian one where the vacuum pack is filled with various beans and stuff.

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

A. Mouse:
I wouldn't mind trying the pork and the vegetarian. I'm not such a fan of beef (the flavour, perhaps, but the texture of real beef isn't always a thrill) but I'd even try that. I'll have to see if I can find some.

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