Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Care Package From Japan (or, The Best Packaged Ramen Noodles I've Ever Eaten)

In an ideal foodie world, every meal eaten would be made-from-scratch, just for you, at the time you were hungry. :) While many mass-produced manufactured meals may hardly excite one's palate, sometimes you stumble across something prepackaged that exceeds all your expectations and would be worthy of something served in a restaurant. And that's exactly what happened to me when I received a care package from my 'dachi Keizo, who picked up 3 Nama Ramen (Fresh Ramen Noodle) packages while visiting the Shin Yokohama Ramen Hakubutsukan (Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum) in Yokohama, Japan.


While the ubiquitous Instant Ramen (or Cup Ramen Noodles) can be found practically everywhere now, Nama Ramen (Prepackaged Ramen with Fresh (Non-Dried) Noodles) is less common, and it's nothing like the Nama Ramen I received in the care package. This care package was like a gift from Heaven: I was slowly pining away, severely missing the stunning Ramen I had in Japan, and giving up hope that L.A. would ever get Ramen specialists that rivaled the mother country, when these 3 tiny boxes arrived in my kitchen.

Wakayama Chuka Soba Ide Shoten (井出商店)
The first Nama Ramen I tried was one that I have heard so much about from Keizo and others, the legendary, humble specialist out of Wakayama, Japan: Chuka Soba Senmonten Ide Shoten. They've gained great popularity across Japan, and are the representatives at the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum for Wakayama-style Ramen.


Opening up the box, there's a package with Negi (Green Onions), Soup Base and Nama Ramen (Fresh Ramen Noodles). Following the simple, but detailed instructions (e.g., they recommend cooking the Fresh Noodles for 2 minutes and 15 seconds :), a bowl of Ide Shoten's Wakayama-style Ramen was sitting in front of me at home, thousands of miles away from its origin.



Taking the first spoonful of Soup: Silky, with a deep Shoyu (Soy Sauce) flavor, Pork and Lard, with a nice undertone of Torigara (Chicken Bones) and Sake. The Noodles are absurdly good for prepackaged Ramen: A straight, white, thin Hakata-style Noodle with good chew(!) and the bits of Negi (Green Onions) are a great match. Ide Shoten's Ramen left me with a nice, slightly viscous mouthfeel afterwards, probably from the Gelatin and Lard used in the Soup base. Delicious. :) One small note: I couldn't finish the whole soup for fear there'd be an MSG backlash, but the partial amount of soup I drank wasn't bad at all (much more minor a reaction than the MSG overdoses I've had at some local Ramen shops around L.A.).


For 600 Yen, it's a bit pricier than a standard Instant Ramen, but it's *so* worth it. :) I felt like I was in Japan again.

Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0)

Wakayama Chuka Soba Ide Shoten (井出商店)
新横浜ラーメン博物館
〒222-0033 神奈川県横浜市港北区新横浜2-14-21 
Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Japan 222-0033
Tel: 045(471)0503


Sumire Miso Aji (すみれ)
The next Nama Ramen package I tried was the famous Sapporo institution of Miso glory, known as Sumire (pronounced Soo-Me-Reh). This Hokkaido Ramen shop is famous for its Miso Ramen and I was lucky enough to try the next best thing to a fresh bowl of their Miso Ramen in Sapporo.


One of the noteworthy items in Sumire's Miso Ramen package is their vacuum-sealed pack of Fresh Menma (Bamboo Shoots)! It's not as eye-popping as some of these Ramen packages that come with vacuum-sealed Chashu (Roasted Pork Slices)(!) that Keizo keeps tempting me with, but this is still pretty cool for "Instant Ramen." :)


Following their straightforward instructions and not overcooking the Soup stock and flavor-infused Oil packet, the first thing that's apparent with the finished bowl of Sumire Miso Ramen is the unmistakable sheen of Oil (a very good thing for certain types of Ramen).


I carefully take a sip of the soup: Wow. The amount of Soup Oil and Fat that comes with this packaged Ramen was the perfect amount to trap the heat of the Soup into the bowl itself, keeping every bite of Ramen Noodles and Soup piping hot. This is what I had hoped Santouka Costa Mesa and Torrance would be able to generate on a more consistent basis with their offerings, and here it was, a perfect paradigm for Miso Ramen from a prepackaged product.

This Sapporo-style Miso Soup has a smooth, luxurious mouthfeel. The Sapporo-style Miso flavor is strong and delicious: Images of Miso, Pork, Chicken, Fish and Soy Sauce flood my mind. The Miso Broth is ridiculously good, and this is a mass-produced manufactured version of the original Sumire Ramen that made them famous; I can't even imagine what the real thing tastes like.


The yellow, curly Noodles are hearty and a fine match for this soup. But the fresh Menma (Bamboo Shoots) is what's the most impressive (after the Miso :). The Menma tastes so fresh with a good crunch that's really satisfying.

At ~600 Yen, like Ide Shoten's Instant Ramen, this is more pricey than what we're used to in the U.S., but it's really worth it if you're thousands of miles away from Hokkaido and craving some great Miso Ramen. :)

Rating: 8.1 (out of 10.0)

Sumire Miso Ramen (すみれ)
新横浜ラーメン博物館
〒222-0033 神奈川県横浜市港北区新横浜2-14-21 
Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Japan 222-0033
Tel: 045(471)0503


Kurume Taiho Ramen (久留米 大砲ラーメン)
The last Ramen I tried from my care package was the one I was most looking forward to. Kurume Taiho Ramen has been in my dreams ever since I read about this mystical Ramen specialist that caused Rameniac to go on a pilgrimage to visit their Honten (Main / Original Branch) in Kyushu, Japan! And then hearing Keizo go bonkers over this place only built up my excitement even more. I had to check and remind myself that this wasn't a bowl of their freshly-made Tonkotsu Ramen (Pork Bone Ramen Noodles), but given the home runs hit so far with the other two packaged Nama Ramen I tried, I was hopeful.


Like the other packages, I love their simple and easy-to-follow directions (with just the right amount of mind-boggling detail on how to cook the perfect Ramen at home :).


Opening up the box, there are some impressive items: Goma (Sesame Seeds), Beni Shoga (Red Pickled Ginger), their Soup base, and Jikasei Nama Men (Handmade Fresh Noodles)(!).


I follow the instructions and soon, the bowl is ready: An "instant" version of the famous Kyushu Ramen: Kurume Taiho Ramen! :)


This Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Soup is milky, creamy, with a great porkiness. There's a real purity and clean focus in the soup. You can taste a bit of the Pork Fat, Shoyu (Soy Sauce) and Salt, and it's very good. I never thought I'd be able to get a Tonkotsu "Instant Ramen" that has flavors that exceed what a regular sit down restaurant like Shin Sen Gumi Ramen or Daikokuya could put out. It's that good.

The Goma (Sesame Seeds) and Beni Shoga (Pickled Red Ginger) taste fresh and really give an added dimension to this Ramen. And their Jikasei Nama Men (Handmade Fresh Ramen Noodles) are (by following the directions) firm, with a straight, thin, white Hakata-like Noodle. It rivals Ide Shoten's amazing Nama Men, but I think Ide Shoten wins by just a hair (but both are leagues beyond what I've ever had with Instant Ramen).


Like the other 2 Nama Ramen packages, Kurume Taiho Nama Ramen sells for ~600 Yen at the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum, and it's worth every penny. :)

Rating: 8.3 (out of 10.0)

Kurume Taiho Ramen (久留米 大砲ラーメン)
新横浜ラーメン博物館
〒222-0033 神奈川県横浜市港北区新横浜2-14-21 
Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Japan 222-0033
Tel: 045(471)0503

http://www.raumen.co.jp/home/index.html

With these 3 simple-looking boxes of prepackaged Ramen Noodles, my world of "Instant Ramen" has changed forever. From Ide Shoten's Wakayama-style Ramen with beautiful Shoyu notes with amazing Noodles, to Sumire's outstanding Miso Oil Broth, to Kurume Taiho's delicious Tonkotsu Ramen, it's no hyperbole in saying that if our local Mitsuwa Markets started carrying these products, it would cause a few local Ramen shops to close down.

While prepackaged food items would never trump the original item it's based off of, these Nama (Fresh) Ramen packages are so good, they put many local Ramen shops to shame. If you ever find yourself at the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum (or have friends / family stopping by), be sure to load up on some Nama Ramen to ease the withdrawals from not having Ramen from Japan. (^_~) Thanks again Keizo! :)

8 comments:

weezermonkey said...

How cool! I wish these were readily available in the U.S.! Let's lobby for Mitsuwa to carry these!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi weezermonkey,

Tell me about it! :) I *so* wish Mitsuwa Market (or Nijiya or Marukai) would carry some of these top-quality Nama Ramen. One can hope it happens one day...

Keizo said...

どういたしまして! Guess what? I may be able to get you some more soon. You got any preferences?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Keizo,

Yatta! :) Hounto ni kanshashimasu! (^_^)

ila said...

dear keizo got me one too, which i split with don. i agree, its the bestest packaged noodles evar.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi ila,

Joy. :) I'm happy to hear you got a chance to try these Noodles as well. Some wonderful stuff! :)

Anonymous said...

Does the Museum do mail order shipping? I could not find a place to order from on the site?

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

I wish they did mail order. :( Unfortunately, I think the only way is to visit their Market/Shop at the Museum itself. Thanks.

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