Paldo "Korean Noodle: U-Dong"

Brand: Paldo
Flavour: Korean Noodle: U-Dong
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, veggie bits, spice
Sodium: 2.12 grams

Paldo hasn't let me down yet. This one will be a quickie, because there's not much to say. It was a straightforward procedure: boil water (though Petar turned out to be too small for the brick so I had to fetch Johann), throw in noodle brick and packets, cook, consume. The flavour isn't terribly spectacular, but it's in no way bad. The heat is middling, maybe a three. The broth is generic, slightly seafoodish, and a bit thicker than usual. There are bits of seaweed. and carrot. This, really, is standard for the half-dollar-to-dollar range of ramen packets one finds at an international market. It is, to quote my first review, on the enjoyable end of average.

It's a good lunch.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 3, flavour 3, overall 3

Music: Vince DiCola - Transformers: The Movie - Autobot/Decepticon Battle


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


Mr. Kon "Fried Seafood"

Brand: Mr. Kon
Flavour: Fried Seafood
Format: plastic tray
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, veggie bits, soup base paste
Sodium: 1.78 grams

"Keet, how do you choose which ramen you'll review every day?" I hear you ask. The answer is simple. I carefully consider whether I want something spicy, and how hungry I am, and what flavours I've reviewed recently... and then I ignore all that and pick the one with the prettiest package. Today's package was corrugated red plastic with a blue foil lid. Very pretty.

Only on closer inspection of that package did I realise that nowhere on it were there any instructions on how to make the stuff... at least not in English. Granted, for a ramen-eating professional like myself this is rarely a problem, though I'll admit to having a certain... trepidation. (This is not to be confused with having a trepanation. Look it up, kids.) I decided to piece together that had to be done by investigating what clues I did have. There were two obvious "open lid until here" lines, so it followed logically that I was faving a "dry" style in which I'd pour rater into one hole, allow cook time, then drain through the smaller hole. Then, I'd probably add whatever flavour packet lay within, and eat. The power of reason wins through!

When I opened the tray (and the thick foil lid was on there but good) I found a veggie packet, a semi-solid soup base packet, and... a small instruction sheet. "Now, this is fancy stuff," I said out loud to nobody. Furthermore, I discovered an additional packet which is certainly a first in CtF:tRB history. You can see it in the picture. This instant noodle came with its own chopsticks. I've seen a few that came with a plastic fork, yes, but wooden chopsticks? Truly, this is an age of miracles.

Giddy with wonder, I followed the directions. Admittedly, a wry chuckle came when the first instructed me to tear open the shrink wrap, open the lid, and remove everything that wasn't noodles. If I hadn't done that already, how would I have read the instructions in the first place? The veggie packet went into the bowl along with enough water to cover, and I closed the lid. Then, in accordance with the third instruction, I set the semi-solid soup base packet on the lid to "preheat" while the noodles cooked.

Four minutes later, I removed the packet – the contents had become a warm gritty liquid suitable for pouring – and then tried to drain the noodles. It occurred only then that I could have opened the drain spout before cooking the noodles and thus reduced my risk of scalding. Instead, I'd have to do it while steam was trying to escape. Remember, I'm a professional; don't try this at home. I succeeded in not injuring myself, though the water took forever to drain out. A reminder to others and future self: when you'll have to drain it through a teeny spout, make sure you only add water to cover in the first place.

I loosed the brown-black ichor from its packet into the tray, and stirred it into the noodles. Getting an even mix proved to be near-impossible, but I was too busy admiring the lush green bits of seaweed to care. The time had come to consume the fruit of my efforts! First, I opened the chopstick packet and split them in the time-honoured tradition of all wooden chopsticks (unevenly at the top, natch.) My gargantual American hands were almost too large, but I gripped the chopsticks and set about eating.

The scent is stronger than the flavour, in this case, but in no way are these unpleasant. There's not a hint of spice to be had, but plenty ot dark and rich soy. In fact, I could barely detect the seafood flavour with all the soy, but even so, I found it very pleasant. In fact, I could easily see the point being made that the flavour is actually "fried seafood" and some folks like there to be more sauce than meat in their fried foods. Veggies were plentiful (though a fair number got caught in the ridges of the tray) and the noodles had a good texture. Overall, I'm actually reasonably pleased with the dish, and since it comes with pretty much everything needed for consumption aside from boiling water, this bowl gets high marks.

Numbers: packaging 4, preparation 3, heat 1, flavour 4, overall 4

Music: Koji Kondo - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) - Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros.)


Annie's Homegrown "Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese"

Brand: Annie's Homegrown
Flavour: Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese
Format: cardboard box
Packets: one
Identifiables: bunny head pasta, cheese powder
Sodium: 1.33 grams

I didn't feel like eating ramen today. I was up for pasta – pasta with a sauce on it. I scanned the shelves. Nong Shim, Paldo, Ottogi... Annie's? A friendly-looking rabbit stared back at me from a box the colour of a MySpace page. The opportunity to chow down on hundreds of disembodied semolina rabbit heads was too sweet to pass up. Today would be a day for mac n' cheese.

First, I have to say that the classic macaroni-and-cheese format is so incredibly passé, yet somehow it survives. The grey cardboard box, proportioned nearly like the monolith from 2001 (note: not really), must be torn open to get at the contents... or, as this particular box suggested, the bunny tail must be firmly poked. Um... yeah. Box open and contents laid bare, I found innumerable shrunken approximations of a lapine visage, rendered lovingly in organic pasta. Also, there was a rather large and stiff packet which did nothing to hint at its contents. I could guess, however.

I started six cups (Imperial measurements? Startling) of water to boil and proceeded to the rest of the directions. Cook pasta for twelve to fifteen minutes? More than four and I start to think something has gone wrong! Use a separate measuring cup to prepare sauce? Blasphemy! I knew I was out of my element, but I would not give up so easily. I poured the pasta into the pot. For a few moments, I watched a torrent of wheaty bunny heads swirl around in what I could only imagine would be rabbit-pasta ecstasy. Then I turned to the sauce-making.

A quarter-cup of organic whole milk went into a measuring cup. When I opened the cheese packet, I caught a whiff of a familiar odor known to all instant food fanatics as "too-cheesy-to-be-true". The white powder went into the measuring cup and I slowly blended the two with a chopstick. (Hey, old habits die hard.) That left me... ten more minutes to wait for the bunny heads to soften up.

At that point, I began to wonder if somehow I'd gone too far and lost myself in the cause of instant noodle review. Then, I had a vision of my friends and loved ones smiling at me and saying, "Cheer up, Keet. We always knew you were nuts anyhow." That comforted me as the minutes ticked away.

Once the twelve minutes had elapsed, I drained the pasta using the tried-and-true method of holding chopsticks over the lip of the pot and pouring. The trouble was that the pasta ended up retaining some of the excess water in the little crevices that bunny heads tend to have. Undeterred, I poured the sauce in, stirred, and snapped a photo of the pale, sodden bowlful of cheesy rabbit bits. That is indeed a spoon in the bowl; these tiny things would be gathered neither by chopsticks, nor by fork.

The taste? Honestly, cheese-like but uninspiring. The pasta wasn't cooked quite enough (twelve minutes should have utterly destroyed it!), and the sauce was thin and powdery. Naturally, there was no heat to it whatsoever. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anywhere near inspiring. Disappointed, I decided to anoint the rabbity mass with a little peppered BaconSalt to get a bit more of the flavour going. Mmm, now that's American!

Sorry, "rabbit of approval". I'll have to give you some pretty low marks, you and your pasta brethren. Bunnies should be tastier!

Numbers: packaging 2, preparation 1, heat 1, flavour 2, overall 2

Music: Andy McKee - Art of Motion - Keys to the Hovercar


Nong Shim "Champong"

Brand: Nong Shim
Flavour: Champong
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle disc, spice, veggie bits
Sodium: 2.18 grams

I had my wisdom teeth out on Monday. Most people are surprised to hear that I was out and about yesterday, and have experienced almost zero pain during recovery. I credit my surgeon, who gave me a sheet of instructions for how to take care of myself in the days after surgery. The directions are simple: eat a soft diet, take anti-inflammatory drugs with food, get plenty of liquids, rinse regularly with salt water. Ramen is soft, it's food, it's mostly broth, and it's salty... why, a ramen review is practically what the doctor ordered! I'm simply taking good care of myself, and of course, my faithful readers.

Nong Shim's oddly-named "Champong" enticed me with a warm, earth-toned package and pictures of seafood. Inside the main package, I found one of their trademark size-of-one's-torso noodle discs (I keep wanting to heft it overhead while the TRON theme plays) and two pleasantly-decorated packets. I set five-hundred-fifty millilitres of water to boiling in "Ben" and considered the packaging. I noticed that the specific bits in the "dehydrated flakes" package were specifically named. Anyone who has read with awe the ingredients on a bottle of V-8 vegetable juice ("watercress?") will appreciate the fact that I looked through the seven listed items and boggled as pumpkin. Pumpkin? In my ramen? Sure, works for me.

The astute will have already noticed that I'm not using IKEA chopsticks today. In fact, these are cheap dollar-store chopsticks... and yes, that's a scorch mark on one of them. Don't ask how that happened. I'm just wondering where the heck all my IKEA chopsticks went. I miss the nubs!

When it came time to put all the various instant noodle stuff into the pot, I noticed a pronounced smoky seafood scent from the spice packet. This only redoubled my eagerness. After four minutes of gentle boiling, I poured the bright red-orange soup into the bowl, snapped a hasty photo, and started in on the stuff. I swear, it's not just a factor of having been on so much soft food and having to take it easy for a couple days; this stuff is really, really good, all spicy and seafoody and rich. It's perhaps just a bit too salty, but worth it for the flavour. I have to say, I'm fairly impressed.

Of course, I'd hate to think about that that cartoon squid on the package would look like if I were on the really good pain medications.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 4, flavour 4, overall 4

Music: The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin - Suddenly Everything Has Changed


Paldo "Yukejang Hot & Spicy"

Brand: Paldo
Flavour: Yukejang Hot & Spicy
Format: foam bowl
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle disc, veggie bits, spice
Sodium: 2.16 grams

Ah, Paldo, we meet again! You were my first review, and I said then that I looked forward to this review, precisely one month later. (Incidentally, it may be my last for a week or so; the brief hiatus is due to dental surgery. Don't worry, I'll be back to top form in no time.)

Preparation went about the same as before, very straightforward. Open foil lid on bowl, open two packets within and pour them in, add boiling water, wait. I couldn't help but think of the song "Chocolate Rain". Yu-ke-jaaaang... close the lid and-wait for three min-utes....

Take a moment and admire my mismatched chopsticks. Yeah, not sure what's up with that. Chopsticks in the dishwasher are kind of like socks in the dryer, apparently.

Anyhow, the resulting noodles were of a reasonably solid texture, the red-orange broth was nicely spicy without being overpowering, and the flavour is actually rather rich for apparently having no animal component to it. Seriously, from what I can tell this stuff is vegetarian. So, Paldo seems to have managed another decent, easily-enjoyable ramen. Good show. Also, I've seen these around in all sorts of supermarkets, so definitely take a look for it! (Sorry for the brief review, what what can I say? No mishaps, no revulsion, no curiosities.... Don't worry, I'm sure things will get crazy again after the break.)

As a note, thanks to the gentle proddings of loyal reader Patrick McK. (and hey, let me know if you want your name mentioned differently) I went to a particular local market to find a particular brand. That brand eluded me, but I found so many other interesting ones that I think my purchasing for Batch Two is near-complete.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 3, flavour 4, overall 3

Music: Yukejang Hot & Spicy - Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) - SkyTown


Vifon "'Phnom Penh' Style"

Brand: Vifon
Flavour: "Phnom Penh" Style
Format: plastic bowl
Packets: four
Identifiables: rice noodle mat, garlicky oil, veggie bits, bacon bits, sand
Sodium: 1.63 grams

Today has been a rough day for the Keet. I was shorted on sleep, my iPod isn't working so hot, and I scalded myself slightly making lunch. I'm cranky. It's naptime, but I owe you good folks a ramen review. So I tore open the cellophane on this sturdier-than-it-looks bowl of ramen. It was the harder type of cellophane, the sort that static-clings to anything and everything. I read the instructions.

Cut and put soup base packs, vegetable pack into the bowl. I can handle that. The lid came off easily, and then I pulled the translucent mat of rice noodles out of the way to find a packet that held four packets within. Having a packet of packets may seem absurd, but consider that if they hadn't been in a single unified packet, I'd have been digging around in loose noodles for packets like a crazed child tearing through a grass-filled Easter basket for that last peanut-butter cup she knows is in there somewhere. I also removed the fork. Handy, that.

Pour enough boiling water (400ml). So, I put about 425ml in a flask – oh, all right, it was just a glass measuring cup – and irradiated it until it boiled. It turns out that 400ml is not "enough"; it didn't quite rise to the internal line. By that point, however, I had other things on my mind, most predominantly the scald I'd gotten from the hot measuring glass.

Cover the bowl for 3 minutes. During this time, I ran cold water over my hand to ease the scald. Also, I opened the packets to pour them in. One had a standard array of veggie bits. Another had what really did look and slightly smell like bacon bits. (Artificial pork flavour is indeed listed in the ingredients.) The third was filled with the soup base which looked entirely like sand. You thought I was joking! The fourth was the infamous garlicky oil packet. All of these were well-pinked and opened easily, but this fourth managed to get oil all over my freshly-scalded hand. The fear set in. What if there were some reaction and the oil stayed? Perhaps I'd never be able to wash it off and I'd smell garlicky forever. "Do you smell garlic?" my friends would ask. "I smell of garlic," I would explain, and share my tale of woe involving Vietnamese ramen.

The noodles now is ready to serve. This is, of course, quoted verbatim. I photographed the noodles in their slightly oily but blandly-coloured broth, and nearly spilled the mess in the process. I thought it would be just my luck if the reward for all the effort were for something sour and inedible, but as it turns out the result was a fairly tasty Vietnamese soup. The garlic comes through a bit strong, but it works well with the other well-balanced flavours. I happily slurped the noodles, glad for my day's misfortune to have had a pleasant break.

Then I dropped the short fork directly into the broth.

Some days, it's hard to be the Keet.

Numbers: packaging 4, preparation 3, heat 2, flavour 3, overall 3

Music: David Bowie - Omikron: The Nomad Soul (PC) - The Dreamers


Samyang Foods "Samyang Ramen"

Brand: Samyang Foods
Flavour: Samyang Ramen
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, spice, veggie bits
Sodium: 2.40 grams

What, two Samyang ramens in a row? Worse, one of them simply named Samyang Ramen? Confusing, yes, but I swear it's not my fault. Am I really diabolical enough to design an instant noodle wrapper that looks like a box of Tide laundry detergent? Okay, perhaps I am precisely that diabolical, but one hopes that the flavour is nowhere near similar. I held this hope close to my heart as I tope open a packet of "Samyang Foods presents Samyang Ramen by Samyang, starring Samyang". This Sam Yang guy gets around almost as much as Clive Barker. (If that joke wasn't obscure enough, can I propose American McGee?)

For starters, the packaging is incredibly similar to the other noodle I've had by the same company, meaning it's precisely as convenient. The brick is the same size and thus the wrapper is also. The packets within are similarly devoid of English, all in favour of Korean. There's an amusing typographical error in the instructions whereby a line-break renders a familiar word as "vege tables", right next to "scalions". (SCA lions? I think I might know one.) These are the little joys of a ramen-blessed existence.

Enough about the words! I prepared 550cc of boiling water (stat!) and dumped in everything foodlike that was in the package. As the soup cooked, I stared at reconstituting bits of cabbage and pondered whether there was a specific Pantone colour number for the particular shade of orange which accompanies the majority of ramen broth. Wouldn't it more likely be in the Toyo Color Finder? Either way, it looks more yellowish through the camera.... Ah well, four minutes can be an eternity when hungry, but it's nothing when deep in thought. The cooked noodles went into a bowl.

Ramen which doesn't explicitly state a flavour generally falls into two categories: beefy, or seafoody. Sometimes it's hard to know which one you're eating without glancing at ingredients, either because it's so underpronounced that it can't really be told or because the actual flavour isn't what was expected so it counfounds the eater. It's not any slight against the product at all, just an awareness that there are multiple ways to get a richly-flavoured broth. In this case, it was salty and smoky and meaty and I simply couldn't determine whether it was beefy or seafoody. So, I looked at the ingredients which were some type of flavouring. Kimchi, ham, garlic, bacon. Okay, so I was wrong. Wait, there's beef, way down the list, but it's really not a primary player. So, the ramen has a porky taste overall, which is why I was confused. I have to say that I greatly approve. Also, it's gently spicy, possibly a high 2 or a low 3 but I'm erring toward the 2. Overall, the noodle is a pleasant switch from the usual beefy or seafoody fare.

How many times will I write "beefy or seafoody" in this review? Almost as many as I'll write "Samyang". I'm most certainly looking forward to other Samyang products, because so far they haven't disappointed me in the least, save for not having their products in convenient bowls.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 2, flavour 4, overall 3

Music: Virt - FX3 - Bedtime Story


Samyang Foods "Chacharoni"

Brand: Samyang Foods
Flavour: Chacharoni
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, beefy soybean sauce, veggie bits
Sodium: 1.25 grams

One of my favourite foods is ja jyang myun. It consists of noodles, beefy soybean sauce, and veggie bits. Back in Ann Arbor, MI, there was a Korean cafe I frequented pretty much exclusively for this dish. Thus, I got really excited when I saw an instant-noodle version of it in the collection. Finally, I get to try it!

The wrapper read, in letters that could easily be found on a sign warning of radiation hazard, "Chacharoni". I instantly had a jingle running through my head, something along the lines of, "Cha-cha-roni... the Seoul, Korea treat!" I opened it eagerly.

First, this is a huge brick. (Check it out next to a twelve-ounce can of CFDDP!) The nutrition label does try to pass it off as two servings, but American privilege allows me to callously disregard and even mock that. (Of course, that American privilege is also part of why the animated plastic scale in Wii Fit loves to cheerfully remind me that I'm at the upper end of "overweight". Yeah, whatever.) I dunked it and the contents of the veggie packet into a half-litre of boiling water as per directions and wondered if there's an official ramen of the 2008 Olympics, and if I should acquire some, and if it comes with a packet of condensed Beijing smog. (I also wondered if "condensed" were perhaps redundant next to "Beijing smog".)

After five (!) minutes of cook time, I opened the other packet easily. (Good pinking on these, no scissors needed.) Understand that neither packet has a lick of descriptive English on it. As the thick, gritty, brown-black gel slid out of the clear packet, I noted out loud – with nobody standing nearby to hear – that the Korean on it probably read, "Many Crude Oil Flavour for Happy Soup!" That colour is par for the course (get it? food, dish, course) so it's not as though any real fear had struck me. The directions insisted that I "cook 2minutes with stir", no typo there, so I did. The results went into a bowl, and my trusty orange IKEA chopsticks came out.

For as nasty as the stuff may look, it tastes pretty darned good. The soup base thickened up the broth nicely, the noodles have a good tooth to them, and the veggies (though few) complement well. The rich, beefy flavour is incredibly satisfying, and even though it's not spicy in the least, it stays interesting throughout. This ramen earns reasonably high marks for flavour which, to be honest, almost make me feel bad about the crude oil comment. If only it were in a bowl and not a packet, it would earn a four overall.

(As a note to fellow ramenauts and information junkies, this post would have been a bit earlier, except that I ended up delaying the photo processing in favour of reading Wikipedia's text about the history of the modern Korean writing system, Hangul. Give it a whirl, if you have a few minutes... fascinating stuff!)

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 1, flavour 4, overall 3

Music: DEVO - Pioneers Who Got Scalped - Secret Agent Man


Lucky Me! Supreme "Special Beef Mami"

Brand: Lucky Me! Supreme
Flavour: Special Beef Mami
Format: foam bowl
Packets: 3
Identifiables: noodle disc, flavour powder, veggie bits, crackers, garlic oil
Sodium: 1.61 grams (0.05 grams in crackers)

I wanted a light lunch today, so I grabbed a small bowl. It stood out for having very little red on the package; most brands have plenty of red, orange, or brown to imply full flavour and possibly spice. Not this. This is a tame, laid-back ramen for a world that needs to relax, it implies. Maybe it needed fewer packets for that, I thought. It also stood out for the brand name, "Lucky Me!" We shall see, I thought.

The instructions promised a simple procedure; add seasoning to noodles, add boiling water to line, wait three minutes, and then enjoy. I expected one packet at most. I peeled the foil lid from the sturdy foam bowl and found three-and-a-half packets – one of them was an accursed double-packet! Also, one of them was not meant to be mixed in at all, and instead contained "Fita" brand (?) crackers. (I could not help but notice that the company logo on the cracker packet bore a gentle resemblance to the Venture Industries logo.) I boiled water, ate a cracker, then snapped a photo. As a note, they were very tasty, somewhat like Ritz crackers but with less cloying salty-butter flavour.

The veggie packet opened easily, but the double-packet was the annoyance. Shoddy manufacturing meant that a bit of garlic oil had lubricated the plastic, which coupled with insufficient pinking (that's what we call the zig-zag edge meant to allow easy tearing) to create a necessity for scissors. Bah! I snipped and poured, just in time to add water and wait.

The result, I'm sad to say, was even more underwhelming than the package. Perhaps there's a distant beefiness, but it tastes more as though someone made saltines very slightly seasoned to taste like French onion soup by someone who had never actually tasted such a thing, allowed them to get stale, then decided the results could be salvaged if turned into soup. The crackers ended up being of more interest, but the hunger had stuck and I found myself compelled to down the rest of the salt-heavy bowl of blandness.

Except... I realised just how oily it seemed, and when I saw the congealed grease slowly slide down the inside of the bowl when I tilted it to drink the broth... well, let's just say I didn't drink the broth. I even feel a bit off for just having had the noodles. Plus, I didn't even notice until after I'd already eaten it that it has hydrogenated oils, meaning trans fats, so it's actually legitimately bad for me.

Oh, yes. Lucky me, indeed.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 1, flavour 1, overall 1

Music: Csaba Gigor, Gábor Foltán - Ecco the Dolphin (GG) - Dark Water


Nong Shim "Shin Ramyun"

Brand: Nong Shim
Flavour: Shin Ramyun
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle cake, veggie bits, spice
Sodium: 2.10 grams

If I call this one of the more common uncommon varieties, will the English majors out there shoot me? Probably only if I use a preposition to end a sentence with.

It's a straight-forward ramen for a chaotic age. It's almost too precise. The noodle cake was perfectly round and fit just right in "Ben", the instructions were careful to note that I should boil nineteen-and-a-half ounces of water – I'm sure twenty would have been far too watered-down – and the packets were uniform in print design. Very spiffy, very classy. This comes across as a connoisseur's ramen.

Being the good little sheep that I am, I folowed the directions precisely. Did I say "sheep"? I mean, scientist. These are careful, objective instant noodle reviews. Friends, you're getting your ramen advice from a pro.

The package was fairly simple, the preparation was typical for this format of noodle (boil water, dump in packet contents, cook, eat), and after some of the adventures I've had it almost seemed a bit of a letdown. No unidentifiable bits? No scary packets of semi-liquid? Not even a wacky little spiral thing? (I am led to believe that such spiral things are called "naruto" so I looked it up. It turns out that they know ninjitsu and possibly harbour evil demon fox spirits. Thanks, Wikipedia!)

I poured the cooked noodles-and-broth into a bowl, then let it cool a bit while I started typing up the review. To my delight, the noodles proceeded to absorb a great deal of the broth over the next few minutes. The trained scientist in me is inclined to connect this phenomenon with the fact that I was gently making fun of both Japanese comics and Wikipedia, and I will likely repeat this experiment later.

How's the flavour? That's really all that my readers wish to hear from me, yes? The flavour is better than the average ramen, though it does have that not-particularly-identifiable-but-slightly-beefy nature that is becoming expected of any packet or container that claims to be spicy but says little else about itself. It is indeed spicy; it would be a three if the spice didn't linger as much, but it stands at a low four by my scale and I'm sticking to that completely scientific opinion. This brand doesn't surprise, but it also doesn't let the eater down. It's the best of the mediocre.

Also notable is that the packet claims the one-hundred-twenty gram brick to be about two fifty-six gram servings. I think this is merely a ploy to cut the sodium number.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 4, flavour 3, overall 3

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