Nong Shim "Neoguri"

Brand: Nong Shim
Flavour: Neoguri
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, veggie bits, flavour powder
Sodium: 2.08 grams

Ever since I received it from Ramenbox (did you remember the CHEAPERTHANFOOD ten percent discount code?) I've had instant noodle fans knocking on my door, begging me to review Nong Shim's Neoguri. They want to know if it's as spicy as Shin Ramyun. They want to know if it's got more seafood flavour than Shin Ramyun. They want to know if it fills the bowl and the soul like Shin Ramyun. The answer to all these questions and more is an emphatic yes!

Similar to its fiery cousin, Neoguri starts with a brick of noodles. These are rather pudgy-seeming noodles, agreeing somewhat with the attractive package's claim of "Udon Type Noodles". Perhaps they're a bit thicker than those in Shin Ramyun, but I can't see opening a packet of that just to find out, because there's plenty to eat here! This is one of those rare times that a packet says "two servings" and just might actually mean it. Given that these are to be boiled in nineteen-and-a-half ounces of water (twenty would be right out, you see) it's a fairly sizable meal.

The simplicity of preparation is a joy, really. Toss the noodle brick in along with everything else – all at once! – and count off five minutes. The product is a rather opaque orange broth in which fat noodles swim happily along with bits of seaweed, carrot, and "sea tangle" (which turns out to be kombu). The flavour really is basically Shin Ramyun, just as spicy but with more seafood and seaweed flavour, and I approve of this heartily. If you're like me and have made Shin Ramyun your stable instant noodle, consider supplementing it with Neoguri. If you dislike the former for the spiciness, however, you'll find no relief in the latter.

Say... why did I rank Shin Ramyun so low the first time around? Perhaps I didn't realise how good I had it....

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 4, flavour 4, overall 4
Music: Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka - Super Mario Land (GBC) - World Music 3


Ibumie HarMee "Mi perisa udang: Prawn Flavour"

Brand: Ibumie HarMee
Flavour: Mi perisa udang: Prawn Flavour
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: five
Identifiables: noodle brick, vegetable oil, seasoning powder, soya sauce, chilli powder, onion bits
Sodium: unknown

Here, we have the fourth and final ramen gited me by your friend and mine, "Hana from MIT". This time, it's a warm, friendly, bright red package witha picture of noodles in broth with prawns stacked on top. I must admit a weakness of mine; I think I'd eat nearly anything with seafood stacked on top of it. Sadly, there's no seafood in the package, and I didn't have any prawns handy....

A pattern has evolved in these Malaysian instant noodles. The instructions for preparation are strangely specific about the amount of water involved – 270ml in this case! – and at least there's a mention of how long to cook the noodles this time, but from there it's not even obvious how many packets we're dealing with because all the directions say is "add seasonings and stir gently". I expected one packet, perhaps two. There are five.

Two foil packets containing chili powder and soup base are in a classic paired configuration, each with pinking that forces a tear along the long edge. A similar pair of conjoined clear packets holds palm oil (orange, with lots of flavonoids!) and kecap, a thick and sweetened soy sauce. Finally, there's a small packet with bits of fried onion, which is delightful but flawed in that there is no notch, no pinking, no tear-strip to open the little thing, and it's been imperviously sealed in a way that would put radioactive waste barrels to shame. I had to take a scissors to it. (Actually, I used a hole punch because it was at hand. Don't ask how that happened.)

I mixed the seasonings with the cooked noodles and stirred; the result is a mass of rather sturdy noodles in red-brown broth. (I really have to find some way to remind myself to get a photo of the cooked noodles.) When I say sturdy, I mean that these are very solid, satisfying noodles that could give Cintan a hard run for their money. The flavour of the broth is reminiscent of too many other things to pinpoint, prawns and chilis and onions and soy and fried stuff. All together, it's like the slightly more wet cousin of mi goreng, and I'll be honest here – that fills me with a smile. This is definitely the winner of the set.

Thanks again, Hana! Next review, I return to the goodies from Ramenbox. Stay tuned, ramen fans and fanatics!

Numbers: packaging 2, preparation 2, heat 3, flavour 5, overall 4
Music: Matthew Ebel - Goodbye Planet Earth - Everybody Needs A Robot


Maggi "Perencah Asam Laksa"

Brand: Maggi
Flavour: Perencah Asam Laksa
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle brick, flavour powder
Sodium: unknown

The third of the ramen flavours I received from "Hana from MIT" (thanks again!) turns out to be a very interesting one, a set of strange contradictions. I'll eschew the usual chronological style of my reviews and go with a more Powerpoint-ish point-by-point system for this one. Consider it a belated Valentine's Day gift, if you're into that sort of thing (and baby, there's almost nothing wrong with that if you are.)

The packaging of this Malaysian noodle starts out simultaneously more colourful and more "designery" than any of the common brands in the States. There are subtle gradient effects, a photo that doesn't look nearly so abhorrent as one might expect, and a cheerful illustration for cooking directions. Those directions are amusingly simple, however. They consist of a picture of a pot of water already over a flame with the noodle brick, the flavour packet, and two 200ml cups of water being dropped or poured in. It seems to imply adding ingredients at the same time, but that goes against conventional wisdom given that the noodles have to cook for two minutes and they'll barely be warming up if the water starts out at room temperature. It's an odd bit of ambiguity for a package that reminds me of the over-explained over-designed packages aimed at American audiences.

The over-explanation is saved for the flavour packet, which is pinked and has a clear (if small) instruction to "tear here". If one can assume boiling water but not figure out how to open a packet with zig-zag edges, then... well, I was going to remark on the absurdity of that, but I do wonder about folks who would wonder why I need instructions to boil water for such a simple food but assume that foil packets are natural. It's a culturally relative thing, perhaps? I wonder if the Na'vi make noodle soup. Wait, no, I don't.

I boiled the water first. It turns out that I may have been wrong, somehow. After two minutes' cooking, the noodles actually came out a little mushier than I'd usually like, which by contrast lends credence to the previously reviewed noodle's claim about noodle springiness. I expect mushiness from four minutes or so, but two-minute noodles really should be a little more al dente, even if they're not terribly Italian.

The single flavour packet turns out to generate something more complex. The pungent-smelling orange broth is rather tangy with a seafood-and-citrus theme, and some spice. More than most other noodles, I can see folks being split on whether this is good or not; I'm rather enjoying it, but I could see it being a real turn-off for some people in a way that most seafood ramen wouldn't be due to that moderately astringent note. It's almost balanced by being so overpowering in the citrus aspect that it seems like a feature. Without knowing the dish this is based on, I can't really tell if it's authentic or accidental. In fact, I think I'll just level the numbers across the board for this one, even if I like it a little more.

Post scriptum: There's a little semi-glurgey bit on the back of the package about the "just-in-case noodle traveller" who always packs instant noodles in their luggage just in case wherever they're going runs out of their culturally signature food. Somehow, I don't think I'll be bringing these noodles with me on my next trip. Then again, I just might for the bizarreness factor....

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 3, flavour 3, overall 3
Music: Inoue, Nozaki, Hirarin, Kame - Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones (NES) - China ~ Chin (Kungfu Master)


Cintan "Perisa Kari"

Brand: Cintan
Flavour: Perisa Kari
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: one
Identifiables: noodle brick, flavour powder
Sodium: unknown

It turns out that "kari" is simply the Tamil word (loaned to Malay) for "curry". While curry refers not so much to a group of spices as a style of food (usually, gravy or sauce), it's taken on a particular flavour association due to some of the most common spices involved. As always, there's an excellent Wikipedia article about it. In this case, it seems to be a spicy vegetarian soup with lots of noodles.

The rather smooth, gradient-laden wrapper for the five-pack reports that Cintan has a "reputation for high-quality, springy noodles". I usually don't think of springiness being a requisite, but the more I considered it, the more it rang true. Spring noodles are more fun, and if you're not having fun with what you're eating, you're taking it all too seriously. Bring on the springy noodles, I say!

It turns out that cooking such springy noodles is an exact science made inexact for the convenience of the consumer. The preparation directions say just how much water to use, but not just how long to cook the noodles. Quite literally, the direction given is, "Cook the noodles," which leads directly into, "Add soup mix." It's a good thing this isn't my first review, or I might have called the whole deal off right then! Experience tells me, however, that two minutes will usually suffice, especially when being cooked in a pot instead of simply being doused with boiling water.

My educated guess turned out to be correct. The noodles are as excellent as promised, springy and perfectly textured with only two minutes' cooking. The faintly orange broth is flavourful and not a little spicy. It's a straightforward and dead-centre curry, with neither distinguishing nor disappointing qualities, and in the grand scheme of flavour that's just fine. It's good to have something reliable. I find myself wondering how well this noodle would work done semi-dry style, the way the Maggi brand does it.

Post scriptum: I accidentally coughed while eating, and some curried broth went into my nose. I didn't snarf it all over the place, but I did have a terrific burning for a while which I normally only associate with horseradish. I've said it before, friends, and I'll say it again; envy it not, because this job has its hazards.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 2, heat 4, flavour 3, overall 3
Music: Chris Geehan & Dan Byrne McCullough - Iji (PC) - Kinda Green


More noodles arrive.

I recently received a variety of instant noodles, courtesy of one "Hana from MIT". Hana didn't just send single packets; these are multipacks, meaning that if I find a favourite I get to have more of it! This sort of generosity warms every last bit of my heart, friends, and of course great thanks go out to Hana for enabling my ramen addiction contributing to the ongoing ramen adventure.

The four packages include three different styles of instant noodle, and one bag of what turns out to be snack ramen. I'm no stranger to this sort of thing, personally. These look like standard ramen packets, except that instead of directions to cook the contents, one simply eats the noodles which are either pre-flavoured or meant to be shaken with the contents of a flavouring packet. This is something I've done with standard ramen before (sometimes to great amusement) so it's no surprise that it was adapted into a snack food, sometimes with more sweetness than would go into noodles meant for cooking.

This particular brand is called "Mamee Monster" and claims to be "BBQ flavour". The colourful packaging, clearly meant for the younger set, bears a fuzzy creature with the appearance of Cookie Monster if he put on a clown nose and an 80's surplus headband. He's pictures leaping through a ring of flames, which I believe is the international symbol for, "Lunch will soon be ready, and it's likely to be roast monster." That's all right... I'm adventurous.

In this particular case, there's really no excess sweetness. It does indeed have a sort of well-rounded and strangely subtle flavour of roasted spiced vegetables and... meat. No particular meat, just meat. It's close enough to neither fowl nor pork to definitively declare it to be one or the other, though judging by the halal designation I'm leaning towards fowl. Possibly, it's monster-flavoured. Overall, it's a nice little snack, and I'm guessing these packets won't last long at all around here. However, I promise that my next review will be one of the proper cook-then-eat noodles from this package.

Thanks again, Hana!


Koka "Spicy Singapore Fried Noodles"

Brand: Koka
Flavour: Spicy Singapore Fried Noodles
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, flavour powder, white stuff
Sodium: 0.73 grams

I wanted to go back and slip in a review of a ramen package that's been sitting on my shelf for a while now. It's the anticipated counterpart to another flavour of the same brand. About the only claim on that package which doesn't appear on this one is "low fat". Well, it does say the noodles are fried....

Preparation gets a bonus for this one because the noodles only need boiling for two minutes. I keep wondering if I could get away with just pouring the water into the bowl and covering it like yesterday's lunch but no – when I do these reviews, I follow the directions on the package, full stop.

The packets come as an attached pair with the word "SEASONING" emblazoned across both. They're decently pinked, but opening can be a trick because the one with powder is filled to the brim. I recommend opening over the noodles. The other sub-packet is full of white palm oil. An advantage of having an opaque packet is that I tend to spend less time squeezing every last bit out.

The result? These are, in fact, spicy. Surprisingly spicy. I'd put them on the level of Shin Ramyun (which has, in fact, become the one I compare others to.) Fortunately, they're also very tasty, mixing that prominent hot pepper with the sweet onion flavour that makes "Mi goreng" so popular among instant noodle aficionados. It doesn't have the fried onion bits of Indomie's Mi goreng, but I have to admit that I gladly trade that for the spiciness. If you're an Indomie addict, be sure to try this one also, if you can find it.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 4, flavour 5, overall 5
Music: Moxy Früvous - 'b' - Johnny Saucep'n


Kung-Fu Brand Instant Oriental Noodle Soup "Artificial Beef Flavor"

Brand: Kung-Fu Brand Instant Oriental Noodle Soup
Flavour: Artificial Beef Flavor
Format: brick-in-packet
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle brick, dried herbs, flavour powder, orange oil
Sodium: 2.20 grams

I've heard it said that "kung fu" roughy translates to "how to do it right". It's a promising name for this brand of instant noodles. I can say with certainty that it does not apply to the graphic design of the packaging, as evidenced by the photos. If there's one thing I've learned from doing this blog, however, it's that the appearance of a package has basically zero correlation with the quality of the contents. (As a note, the contents are visible through a little clear window on the packet, which does seem a little pointless....)

The contents of the package start with a heavily fried noodle brick. I say this because it's somewhat yellow with browned areas and feels slightly oily, as opposed to most instant noodles which are sort of pale ivory and dry. A foil sachet opens easily to reveal dried herbs and a strangely sweet-smelling flavour powder. A clear, well-pinked packet shows thick, semi-solid oil the colour of orange juice. That's actually good, because in this case it means that the palm oil is unrefined. Health benefits!

The directions are the best part of this packet. There are two sets. The second is a standard "boil for two minutes" deal, but the first is a more convenient method of putting all the stuff in the packet into a bowl, pouring 400cc (two cups by their measure, but those are six-ounce cups) of boiling water in, and covering for three minutes. This appeals to the lazy part of me, which is approximately all of me, so I did that. After three minutes, I lifted the cover off the bowl so as to drip steaming hot condensate from the lid all over my hand get at the cooked noodles.

The flavour... well, it's lightly beefy, yes, but due to the sweetness and the pronounced wheatiness of the slick noodles, I was reminded more of graham crackers than cow, especially as I sip the salty, oily broth. I'm not really sure how to rank this. It's not bad, but it's not quite what it claims to be, and it's a bit oily for my tastes. As far as the choices in my Ramenbox order, it's the least-appealing ramen I've had, and the first I wouldn't really recommend.

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 3, heat 0, flavour 2, overall 3
Music: Elvis Costello - Spike - Veronica


Paldo: King Cup Noodle "Lobster taste LANGOSTA"

Brand: Paldo: King Cup Noodle
Flavour: Lobster taste LANGOSTA
Format: cardboard bowl
Packets: two
Identifiables: noodle frustum, dried veggies, fish cakes, flavour powder
Sodium: 2.68 grams

The Paldo King Cup Noodle! Few things in this world are as awe-inspiring as the height and girth of this ramen bowl. In fact, it takes up three slots in a Ramenbox! The grandiosity doesn't stop there; it takes five distinct languages to fully express it though none of them do it in quite the same way. Japanese seems to be used for everything. English is used for the name of the bowl, the nutritional information, the import label and the instructions. Spanish is used for the ingredients list. French is used for the allergy warning. Korean is used for the name of the bowl and part of the directions. It's as though straws were drawn for whose language got the most coverage.

Once the foil lid is off the bowl, it's fairly standard, except that it becomes apparent that a significant part of the height of the bowl is empty space even past the fill line. This may make for a convenient bowl for those who are messy with their noodles, but it's also why the thing takes up three slots! The packets are actually rather standard, and I may start referring to them as the "Common Two"; one shiny packet with flavour powder and one translucent or transparent packet with veggie bits. In this case, neither has any English.

Preparation, according to the ring of directions around the lid, consists of opening the lid partway, adding the soup base and boiling water, and closing the lid to wait three minutes. Nothing is mentioned about the veggie bits or just how much water, though an assumption to include the veggies with the powder and pour to the inside fill ridge seems to have worked out decently.

The results are basically Nong Shim's "Seafood Ramyun" with more and larger pieces of seaweed and fish cake, and grittier broth. The heat level and flavour are very similar, and in no way is this a bad thing. It's a very satisfying bowl, though I wish it were shorter....

Numbers: packaging 3, preparation 4, heat 4, flavour 4, overall 4
Music: Jake Kaufman - Contra 4 (DS) - Factory