Mama "Shrimp (Tom Yum) Flavour"

Brand: Mama
Flavour: Shrimp (Tom Yum) Flavour
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: three
Identifiables: noodle brick, flavour sludge, soup powder, chili powder
Sodium: 2.42 grams

I really must find a more suitable host body.

This weak, inferior, human shell is vulnerable to all manner of hazards; radiation exposure, temperature extremes, rapid pressure changes, and so forth. That defeats me this time? A viral infection called the "common cold". Bah! Such difficulties will not impede my master plan, however!

It so happens that my master plan includes eating spicy noodle soup. For this reason, I love the well-known Thai dish called tom yum goong. It's got spicy heat and onion, tangy kaffir lime and lemon grass, and tasty seafood. What more can one ask from a soup? Having it ready in the comfort of one's own home in three minutes and with minimal effort, perhaps.

The Mama brand interpretation of this classic dish is not quite the same as the original, but the truth is that it'll do in a pinch. For one thing, it's fairly easy to prepare. The directions – printed, like everything else on the package, against a very shiny packground with pink stripes, making the small text difficult to read – guide one to put everything within the package into a bowl, pour 400ml boiling water over it, and let it sit covered for three minutes. Even taking account this host body's compromised state, I can do this!

The noodle brick seems fairly standard, though with slightly thinner noodles than most ramen. There are three packets, however, and that brings the preparation score dangerously close to being docked back down to a two. One packet has the brand name on it... in Thai. This contains a gritty flavouring paste the colour of tamarind. The other two packets are in a classic pair of shiny side-by-side pouches. one is labelled with the brand name in both Thai and English; this contains what looks like sand with bits of herb in it. The other is also bilingual, but this time it's actually descriptive, warning the unwary eater that it holds chilli powder within.

After three minutes' cooking in hot water, the result is a thin broth with orange dots of oil at the surface, and an abundance of noodles, The flavour is as described above; the sweet lime takes front and centre, with the lemon grass and seafood trailing behind, and a good level of heat throughout. I actually enjoy this particular arrangement, but others may disagree simply because it's not exactly balanced. Thus, I have to say that my verdict is: don't be afraid to include it in your next Ramenbox and give it a try (remembder the CTF discount code!) but don't fill the whole box with this flavour unless you already know that you'll really, really like it.

Now, I'm going to go curl up with a box of tissues and my various handheld game consoles.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 3, flavour 4, overall 4
Music: Dean Evans - Waterworld (SNES) - Diving


Sapporo Ichiban "Original"

Brand: Sapporo Ichiban
Flavour: Original
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle brick, flavour powder
Sodium: 2.06 grams

I've heard it said that the Japanese are fond of salty foods when drinking. Of course, so are we Americans (don't be fooled by my Commonwealth spellings!) but while we choose peanuts and pretzels, they choose edamame and ramen. Either way, we're talking about legumes and wheat. Thus, it shouldn't surprise that while we think of the name Sapporo primarily as a brand of beer, it is also a brand of ramen. (The two brands, however, are not of the same company.)

As one might expect, this ramen is optimised for easy recognition and preparation. Like many others, the package is simple and colour-coded to match the flavour within. The noodles take only three minutes to cook. There's only one flavour packet and it is added after the noodles are done. This is truly a ramen with impairment in mind – it could only improve if it were to appear in a cup instead. Thus, there's rather little to tell about the packaging or the contents. It's refreshingly unchallenging.

Once cooked, the nicely firm noodles are strongly wheaty, but of a dry sort that tastes almost dusty. The flavourings are impossible to pinpoint, save for soy. It's lightly sweet, rather salty, and completely nondescript. In other words, it's precisely the sort of accompinament to a Sapporo lager because it makes you want to drink more. On its own, however, it's not terribly notable.

To sum up: If you're looking for interesting flavours to put in your Ramenbox, you can safely pass this one by.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 0, flavour 2, overall 2
Music: Hybrid - I Choose Noise - Choke (feat. John Graham)


Komforte Chockolates "Ramen Noodle"

Brand: Komforte Chockolates
Flavour: Ramen Noodle
Format: bar
Packets: zero
Identifiables: chocolate bar
Sodium: 0.11 grams

A week ago, devoted reader Pat McK. (yes, the one who sent me my very first arrived-in-mail ramen) e-mailed me to ask if I'd seen the Komforte Ramen Noodle chocolate bar. I had not! I made vague plans to swing by the nearest Uwajimaya at some point to pick up one of these curiosities for review. Before I had the chance, however, my good friends Jason and Sylvia gave me a bar as a gift! After today's ramen, it would make the perfect dessert, yes?

The packaging is amazingly straightforward. It's a bold red and white package without gradients, pictures, or logos, but plenty of text set in Futura. I'm more than okay with that. This is the sort of design I absolutely adore, and it's not too much exaggeration to say that it really heightens the experience for me. Within that outer sheath is dark brown foil wrapping, similarly understated while still clearly designed. I love this sort of thing!

The chocolate itself is a well-tempered solid bar with break lines to make it four parts. Each is somewhat shiny with a wave pattern on it reminiscent of ramen noodles (though this may simply be the pattern they use for all their bars; I don't know yet.) The bar is 53% cocoa content dark chocolate with, as expected, crisp uncooked ramen noodles woven into it. The first piece I ate seemed a bit uneven and had rather few noodle bits, but the second had rather more. They provide a strange sort of crunch, not as noticeable as crisp rice but enough to give a curious texture to the bar and add a little bit of the wheaty lightly-fried goodness that only a brick of instant noodles can provide. Overall, the ramen plays only the tiniest role, so those looking for a chocolate-coated noodle brick won't find it here. It's also not terribly sweet, and that's a good thing even though it might be a little dark for the tastes of many.

Still, it's chocolate with ramen in it. I'm having to really work to not devour the rest of the bar before my wife can try some. Thanks again for pointing me at this, Pat, Sylvia, and Jason!

Numbers: packaging 5, preparation 5, heat 0, flavour 4, overall 5
Music: Jean-Jacques Perrey - Moog Indigo - Passport To The Future

Paldo "Green Tea Chlorella"

Brand: Paldo
Flavour: Green Tea Chlorella
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, veggie bits, flavour powder
Sodium: 1.66 grams

Take a look at that thing. It's like a weakling packet of Maruchan was exposed to gamma radiation and mutated into a giant green shorts-wearing monster, except without the shorts or the sad music whenever it leaves town for another. This, truly, is a massive brick of green ramen. But this is no mere dye job like crappy beer at some pub that's desperately pretending to be Irish around St. Patrick's Day. This is honest green, green by lineage and by right. This is true green.

It's not the first time I've reviewed green ramen, so that part didn't surprise me. In this case it's not spinach that's responsible for the colour, but green tea powder, also known as matcha, which has become terrifyingly trendy. I must admit that I don't normally enjoy green tea all that much, but it is with the heart of a scientist that I pursue knowledge of this type of instant noodle. (Don't ask me which scientist; I assure you, he was rather surprised when I took it.) I have to admit that I thought a Chlorella was a type of compact car that could almost be the size of the noodle brick, but it turns out to be a nutritive, photosynthesising algae, which is nearly as useful.

Preparation is as simple as packet ramen gets. Everything is well-pinked for easy opening, including the outer package itself. Boil 550ml water, dump the contents of every packet involved in to simmer for four minutes. The outcome is a colourful mass of light green noodles, dark green seaweed, bright red pepper rings, and light brown broth. It barely fit into my bowl.

The taste is... blended. What I mean by that is that no particular flavour stands out much. There's a bit of green tea, but it doesn't overpower, meaking it pleasant even to my palate. The seafood base is slightly stronger, but it doesn't stand out in front either. There's a little spice, a level of saltiness that one expects from most ramen, and warm vegetable notes. This ramen may come across as nothing special, but despite its freakish mutant appearance, it's a well-rounded and mild-mannered noodle, worthy of our admiration. Perhaps there's a moral to this story, but I'm choosing to ignore it in favour of pointing and laughing at funny-looking ramen packages. I'm one of the mean kids.

Wait, the moral of the story is... if you're going to order something from Ramenbox, you can't really go wrong with this.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 2, flavour 4, overall 3
Music: Jean-Jacques Perrey - The In Sound From Way Out! - Cosmic Ballad