Indomie "Onion Chicken Flavor"

Brand: Indomie
Flavour: Onion Chicken Flavor
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: three
Identifiables: noodle brick, chili powder, oniony oil, flavour powder
Sodium: 1.56 grams

Indomie, you disappoint me. Only three "seasoning sachets"? Only one grammatical oddity in the cooking instructions? A flavour that doesn't even really excite me? I suppose we can't be at our best all the time....

"Onion Chicken Flavor", also labeleld as "Rasa Ayam Bawang", comes in a pale yellow packet with white Helvetica Narrow Bold text on a red bar. The usual exaggerated serving suggestion is there, complete with a roast chicken breast. Do not be fooled, fellow ramenauts; the packet contains only noodles and flavouring. Preparation is quite standard for this brand, including the "bring water to the boil" part. Nothing is terribly unusual so far.

Sadly, nothing unusual means uninteresting. I found the flavour less compelling than the usual Mi goreng, but it wasn't bad.

As a note... I think my heat calibration score might be going further out of whack. Anyone relying on it should consider the source; I regularly add a drop or two of Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce to a sandwich worth of egg salad because anything less is boring. My heat rating of three might be anyone else's high four.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 3, flavour 3, overall 3
Music: Philip Glass - The Truman Show - Anthem, Part 2


Nissin "Cup Noodles: Chilli Crab"

Brand: Nissin
Flavour: Cup Noodles: Chilli Crab
Format: plastic cup
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle frustum, veggie bits, soup sludge
Sodium: 1.41 grams

How long has it been? Too long, I hear you say. You didn't think this was over, did you? That's right, the Electric Keet is back with a whole new set of scary stuff. Photos later; first, I want to get a very special review underway.

Cup Noodles are a comfort food known to so many here in America. Popping oven a styrofoam cup, pouring in hot water, and chowing down on noodles and reconstituted bits of veggies... it's almost like a zen ritual to me by now. I don't have to think while I do it; the motions are as natural as tying my shoes. Then, I ended up with this cup from Singapore and everything I thought i knew was turned upside down.

First, the cup is plastic, not styrofoam. This is, of course, inexplicable. Next, the packaging has a markedly different tone in the way the text is printed on there, the introduction of French and Japanese writing, and the fire-engine-red background colour. Finally, a burst on the box insts that this will be my "new hot favourite". We shall see!

Opening up the lid turned out to be the first challenge. I'm accustomed to Cup Noodles with a thin paper lid, not a foil-lined one... and apparently, so is Nissin. The paper peeled away from the foil, meaning I had to go after it with a chopstick and mangle the thing to open it. Peering inside, I spotted a packet with red print, filled with some kind of black sludge. Since when do Cup Noodles have packets? It's as though this surprised everyone, because there is absolutely zero mention of the packet in the instructions. I thought for a moment that I heard the Twilight Zone theme music. As can be seen in the photo, I was so curious about the contents that forgot to take the photo before opening.

I squeezed the ichor into the cup and added water. I waited three minutes. I stirred the result and marvelled as little bits of imitation crab surfaced. Shrimp is one thing, but bits of imitation crab? Is this how things are done in Singapore? Were my IKEA chopsticks ready for such a thing? Was I?

The flavour was reasonably good, and certainly spicier than any of the made-for-America "spicy" flavours. The broth is thicker-seeming than usual, certainly owing to the sludge and the lower amount of water required to cook. The noodles seem slightly more wheaty, denser but thinner. The bits of imitation crab were... well, they were to crab as reconstituted shrimp are to shrimp, meaning surprisingly tasty but certainly not to be mistaken for fresh.

The verdict? I certainly would take it over even my favourite American flavour most days, but the packaging leaves plenty to be desired. This, of course, is merely the warmup. Stay tuned, friends, as Cheaper Than Food: The Ramen Break enters Round Three: Graceful Noodle Savior Ramen 7 SPLASH!

Also, mad props for the name of the next round go to... well as it was put, "With a strong back and a ferocious will, breaking through heaven and earth to reach tomorrow, I, the great and powerful Boss Goji, am responsible for this title!" You heard it here first, true ramen believers.

Numbers: packaging 2, preparation 3, heat 4, flavour 4, overall 4
Music: Yuzo Koshiro - Streets of Rage 2 (GEN) - Good Ending


Maruchan "Yakisoba: Cheddar Cheese Flavor"

Brand: Maruchan
Flavour: Yakisoba: Cheddar Cheese Flavor
Format: plastic tray
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle brick, "cheese" powder
Sodium: 0.96 grams

I'm sorry... so, so sorry.

Numbers: packaging 4, preparation 3, heat 1, flavour 1, overall 2
Music: The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets - The Shadow Out of Tim - Epilogue: Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know

Ottogi "Jjajang Bokki"

Brand: Ottogi
Flavour: Jjajang Bokki
Format: cardboard bowl
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle frustum, flavour powder, dried veggies
Sodium: 1.26 grams

(Apologies; this review is actually from 2008 December 19. Also, for this review, Diamond – the arctic fox in the photos – insisted on helping, mostly by getting in the way of said photos.)

Ah, another instance of the famed jjajang. I'll admit, I'm assuming the brand based purely on the matching logo, as there was English enough on this bowl for only two things: instructions for preparation, and a warning that hot soup may be hot. Well, if I'm cooking it in boiling water, it bloody well had better be hot!

Similar to the previous Ottogi bowl, this one follows the standard of having four scored areas on the lid easily punctured by any random chopstick to allow the cooked noodles to drain. Different this time is the careful instruction to not drain it completely. "Drain Through The Holes Leaving 4 Spoons (60cc) Of Water, Add Powder Soup Base, Mix Well And Serve." The number of holes is left vague despite their very specific labelling, the number of spoons of water is very specific despite the measure of remaining water being a very vague thing, and the entire passage is typeset in capital letters, including articles. I am not making this up, and I have photographic evidence.

Also, the little Ottogi mascot looks like Vault Boy from the Fallout game series crossed with Big Boy from the restaurant chain. I just thought I should mention that.

The best part of the directions is that they are echoed just under the scored holes, but in three half-length lines of text instead of five full-length lines below. Is the language simply that much more compact and efficient? Are Koreans simply that much less prone to confusion? Is one of those lines perhaps simply ad copy and they're really kicking our butts in the category of language efficiency? I want to know, but I don't want to learn Korean just to find out.

Then again, upon viewing the side of the bowl, there's a heck of a lot more Korean along with icons of just how far one should tip the bowl to achieve the correct amount of remaining liquid. The confusion sets in as I begin to wonder just how much I'm missing. Is there more to read in English? Did I get only page one of the directions? Should I be, I don't know, adding something?

It turns out that, no, I followed the directions properly, even if I did fail to notice that the lid had three (!) table to open it and I tore it a little trying to "pull back to dotted line". It also turns out that unlike the Ottogi jjajang from a packet, this stuff seems too salty, which is incredible considering that the sodium level is pretty much equal. In fact, it's clearly a different dish, a little lacking in flavour by comparison. I'm left wondering why they would reformulate the bowl version to have one fewer packet and inferior taste. If you crave the hearty, beefy taste of jjajang, go with the Ottogi packet or a different bowl.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 1, flavour 2, overall 2
Music: The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets - The Shadow Out of Tim - Chapter I: A Marine Biologist