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nissin ramenya-san yokohama chukasoba: rather good for you

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Nissin’s “Ramenya-san” might well be the plain-wrap equivalent of instant noodles. With a name that literally translate to “Mr. Ramen Shop”, you know their company marketers were on holiday the day they launched this campaign. Or maybe that’s the point, as the four varieties on offer are basically no-frills reductions of four “classic” ramen archetypes - Asahikawa Shoyu ramen, Hakodate Shio ramen, Sapporo Miso ramen, and Yokohama Chukasoba, in as generic a fashion as possible. And although they fall on the pricey side (at four or five dollars for a 5-pack Stateside), they’re arguably worth the expense. A far cry from Sapporo Ichiban or Top Ramen, they’re like a modded out Civic Hatchback, budget noodling done up with thought and care. Quite frankly, they’re excellent.

Let’s start with the best of them. The Yokohama Chukasoba, or “Chinese noodle”,  is the odd one of the set. It sells out quicker and is typically priced a dollar higher than the others. The package touts it as having a “nostalgic shoyu taste” in the traditional shoyu style, but its most appealing selling point is that the noodles are non-fried. Those familiar with Momofuku Ando’s flash-fry process know all too well that the saturated fat in instant ramen is um, not exactly good for you; take frying out of the equation and you’ve got yourself a much healthier way of ingesting your daily dose of MSG.

Yokohama Chukasoba skirts the issue, and to great effect. Although the noodles require an extra minute of boiling (and considerably more water in the pot), they manage to maintain an astounding resliency, a thin, white profile, and a very delicate mouth feel when fully cooked.

But it is in the soup that this inauspicious packaged ramen really shines. Subtle, crisp, and more oily than it deserves to be, this clear-broth instant shoyu chukasoba is bursting with clean flavor, eerily reminiscent in ways of some top Tokyo ramen shops (Ganso Ebisu comes to mind).

Not bad for a generic instant ramen 5-pack. Top the whole thing off with some menma and finely chopped negi (sold separately), and you’ve got yourself a convincing approximation of the real thing. For four minutes of cooking in the comfort of your own kitchen, you could do much, much worse.

 

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