Nissin "Macaroni Macaronis: Tom Yam Goong Flavour"

Brand: Nissin
Flavour: Macaroni Macaronis: Tom Yam Goong Flavour
Format: mylar pouch
Packets: two
Identifiables: macaroni, flavour powder, oily sludge
Sodium: 1.09 grams

I've reviewed macaroni and cheese. I've reviewed not-macaroni and cheese. Now, I review macaroni and not-cheese. If you enjoy the citrus-and-spice flavour of the Thai seafood soup known as tom yam goong then read on. If you don't enjoy it, then you're dead to me. Go away! (Okay, not really. You can stay.)

This particular journey starts with a packet which initially looks like any other ramen packet, except that the contents are loose and they rattle in that hollow way that only macaroni can. Inside the pouch are two smaller packets; one is opaque and filled with what looks and smells slightly like garlic powder, and the other is translucent to show the brown coagulation of oil and spice within. The latter smells very strongly of citrus, the key note in this dish.

Preparation is precisely the same as most other instant noodles. One needs only dump the contents into a half-litre of boiling water, wait three minutes, then stir in the contents of the packets and then enjoy. However, it is my firm belief that there should be one more step explicitly mentioned, and I would write it as such: "Let sit for two minutes such that the macaroni absorbs the broth and creeps toward the edge of the bowl like wheaty semi-sentient moss." This should be the inspiration for a dish to amaze kids. It amazed me a little, and I'm old enough to have a kid old enough to blog. (To think that my parents worried about how much time I spent on the computer...!)

Normally, I'd use a clear bowl, but only blue ones were available today. Still, I don't imagine much colour would show up in the broth anyhow. Aside from familiar orange oily dots at the surface, the broth is mostly clear. The flavour is subtler than expected, but that's in comparison to a dish which is renown for embarrassing those with delicate palates. It has a pronounced overtone of lime followed by chili and mixed seafood. The resulting hot-and-sour combination is satisfyingly tangy, though the instant version only comes so close as most similar ramen does.

As a note on the heat level... well, I have a confession to make. My last few reviews might be a little off. My tolerance for spice has risen sharply over the last few months, to where I order dishes at Thai and Indian restaurants "spicy as it would be back home" and I find the results to be comfortable, but not challenging. I'll do my best to attenuate that for the ratings, but I'm probably way off nowadays because I'd mark this a two and other would probably consider it a three-to-four.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 3, flavour 3, overall 3
Music: Neil D. Voss - Star Reach (PC) - Scene 6


Ace Cook "Oomoriika Yakisoba"

Brand: Ace Cook
Flavour: Oomoriika Yakisoba
Format: styrofoam tray
Packets: three
Identifiables: noodle brick, dried veggies, dried squid slices, soy sauce, herbs
Sodium: 0.20 grams

I purchased a new camera (with the gracious assistance of my roommate, Tanya.) This means that the ramen reviews shall rise again, and with new and improved photos! Naturally, to celebrate this fact, I review a ramen with no name.

In all honesty, it has a name, but not one that I can read conveniently. There isn't a single word of English on the packaging. I had to match squiggles on the packets to squiggles in the instructions to figure out the order... though, truth told, I could have guessed at it since most yakisoba prepares exactly the same way. I even took a little time to decode the katakana and found it to be an approximation of the actual brand name, "Ace Cook". It isn't visible in the photo, but the little pig next to the brand name? I think that's Ace. Ace is happy because he didn't have to be the mascot for "Lucky Me!"

The bowl is very well-designed. It's quite similar to the one used in Nissin's UFO Big in that one peels back one corner, puts veggies and boiling water in, the peels the other corner after three minutes and drains. The big difference is that the drain spout is larger... much larger. In fact, it's excessively large. It peels back to about a third of the lid's diagonal dimension and has so many drain spouts that the top two rows never had any liquid come out of them. It's hard to complain too much, seeing as how the usual problem is that it takes forever to drain the noodles.

There are small icons on the lid of the bowl to direct this process, but they're not as straightforward as one might hope. I'm reminded of the first time I came across one of these bowls, well before I started the review blog. I thought that all the ingredients were meant to go in during cooking, like most simple noodle cups. It turns out that yakisoba is far better when it's not made as soup.

The flavour is pretty much what one can expect from instant yakisoba. It's basically slightly-sweet soy with some varied vegetables and wheaty, well-textured noodles. This is a winning combination, and this particular brand has nailed it dead on. The large chunks of reconstituted cabbage and squid are quite welcome. Squid frequently scares us Occidental folks away from such a dish, but in the quantity found here, it doesn't provide a fishy flavour so much as a rich, satisfying meaty tone which really appeals. I imagine I could hand the prepared meal to somebody who didn't know it had squid, and they'd likely never realise.

I feel that the only way to improve the bowl itself would be to include a fork... or a naruto.

Numbers: packaging 4, preparation 4, heat 1, flavour 4, overall 4
Music: po! & Mustin - More Than Mario - Zebes Sunrise


Pulmuone "Fresh Noodles with Black Bean Sauce"

Brand: Pulmuone
Flavour: Fresh Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
Format: plastic bag
Packets: four
Identifiables: noodle nest, bean sludge
Sodium: 2.02 grams

Two months! I know, all you Keet fans out there are wondering if I fell off the planet. Rest assured that I did not. I have, however, had a turbulent time of it, and the worst part is that the camera I was using gave up the ghost. I didn't want to use my phone's camera because it's not the greatest, but the replacement camera I ordered is on indefinite backorder and I didn't want to leave everyone hanging forever.

This particular dish is quite a departure from instant ramen, but it's fun enough that I had to share. It's a sizable plastic bag from the refrigerated section of the market. It has a nice picture on it of a bowl of jjajang, a Korean noodle dish with black bean sauce. Note that the picture does not have the sauce mixed in to the noodles. That's because once mixed, the result is a terrifyingly nasty-looking concoction which could turn one away on the spot if not for the delightful smell of it. It's not only real food, but it's really good food when done right.

When I tore the large bag open, I found four packets inside, two matching pairs. One pair was translucent, showing the sturdy-looking what noodles inside. The other pair consisted of thick silver mylar pouches like one might see holding ready-to-eat meals in a camping supply store.

The first part of assembling the dish was easy; boil water, add noodles, cook for four minutes, drain. The catch is that the second part involved boiling more water and heating up the silver packets, then opening the hot packets over the noodles. That's right, it requires either a second pot, or the patience to fill the first one again and then let the noodles get cold while the sauce heats. I went for the second pot. Then there's the tricky step of opening a thick plastic packet full of hot black bean sauce and not making a disaster or scalding oneself. There are notches on the packets for this, but the force required to tear them open makes that a difficult and messy proposition, so a scissors came in handy.

Fortunately, the result was very pleasant. The black bean sauce is heavy, but well-balanced. The deep, rich flavour of it goes well with the wheat noodles. The vegetables weren't terribly plentiful, but quite welcome. The catch is that there's perhaps too much sauce for the noodles, and I'd have balanced them out differently, and with a little less sauce I might have had an easier time picking noodles up with chopsticks. The other catch is that preparation is a little complex and possibly risky. This isn't a pour-and-forget cup noodle; this is an instant meal that has to be kept in the fridge until it's prepared. For that, however, it's incredibly tasty.

Anyhow... you're unlikely to find this outside a Pal-Do Market or similar international place, so just enjoy the pictures. (Then go read Thirteen Ribbons, the serial writing project I've been engaged in while I haven't been reviewing ramen.)

Numbers: packaging 2, preparation 1, heat 0, flavour 5, overall 3
Music: Jivemaster - OCRemix - Sonic 3D Blast Power Puppet