2008-10-07

Nong Shim "Big Bowl Noodle (Chajang Flavor)"

Brand: Nong Shim
Flavour: Big Bowl Noodle (Chajang Flavor)
Format: cardboard bowl
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle frustum, veggie bits, flavour powder
Sodium: 2.20 grams

It's time to boil the water
It's time to cook it right
It's time to eat the noodles
On the ramen blog tonight!

(with apologies to the Muppet Show)

Welcome to Cheaper Than Food: the Ramen Break, returning from brief hiatus for the next challenge, Batch Two: Revenge of the Noodle. What else can I say? I couldn't stay away for long, not when I had that glorious stack just waiting for me, right? So I got started with the noodle bowl that made a true believer out of me long before this journal of noodley excess got started.

The lid was harder to pull off than I recall. There's a thin plastic lining inside of these cardboard bowls, and it clung tenaciously to the foil cover until I poked at it a little bit, then it separated just fine. This does mean the packaging is bumped back to a normal value; I'd have been tempted to give it better than that simply because the bowl is sturdy otherwise.

I peeled the lid halfway back, started some water to boil, and reflected on my life as I opened the foil flavour packet. One of my favourite dishes at a local Korean place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was something they called ja jang myun (which I've also seen transliterated as "chajang myung", "jjajang myun", and "that beefy soyish noodle stuff".) I loved it then for its thick, richly-flavoured sauce, vegetables, and filling nature. How could an instant noodle bowl compare?

To be fair, it can't. One doesn't put fresh vegetables in an instant noodle bowl. The sauce will certainly be saltier. The experience of slowly sipping tea and taking in the scent of a good meal while listening to gentle chatter in an unknown language in the background simply will not be there. Especially troubling was when I removed the lid after three minutes to find watery broth and a lump of what looked like wet soil on top of the noodle mass. I would not be deterred from lunch, however, so I stirred...

...and a miracle occurred. The watery broth, once mixed with the sodden mass of soup base, became almost a thick paste just as I would expect from a freshly-made dish. Smells of beef and soy and onion came up to greet me. The vegetables were well-hidden in the chocolate-coloured sauce. I stood in my kitchen, transported twelve years back in time to that restaurant.

So, how did it taste? I put my red IKEA chopsticks to work, and soon found the results pleasing. Every bit of the smell of the dish was in its flavour, and more. True, it's rather salty, but well worth it. The veggies do have a habit of hiding at the bottom, so a quick stir halfway through the meal reveals a whole new side to it as the crunchy bits come into play. It's a satisfying meal in a way that few instant products can hope to achieve when the only ingredient added is hot water... especially for well under two bucks (if I recall correctly; I have the receipt from Pal-Do World around here somewhere.)

There you have it. Welcome back, and remember to tell your friends that in this troubled and confusing world of instant lunches, there's one place you can go for reliable and honest ramen reviews.

And now let's get things started
(Why don't you get things started?)
It's time to get things started
On the most comestible, taste contestable, gastrointestinal, noodle festival
This is what we call the Ramen Blog!


*blows trumpet, explodes*

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 4, heat 1, flavour 5, overall 5
Music: the Muppet Show theme

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wish they could make Ramen without so much sodium.

Bret said...

As much as I enjoy the noodle reviews, I enjoyed the muppet show theme parody more. You should compose it ;)

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

A. Mouse:
Sometimes it bugs me when the dish is really salty, but when it's well-balanced I don't mind so much. Really, I'm worried more about the flavour than any other effects, but I have that luxury. Monosodium glutamate doesn't bother me either. I worry about trans fats (and labels friggin' lie about that stuff) but I haven't encountered much of that in ramen.

Bret:
Oh, geez. No, I'm not gonna parody an entire song for each review. Part of one, perhaps....

chris said...

i heard that there was a ramen blog so i decided to check it out. being a korean myself, i have to say that you used the wrong term for ja ja mein. the word, "myun" means rice noodle, typically used in cold broths or cold dishes. just letting you know

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