Today we are taking a second excursion into noodledom and this time, it’s getting fancy.
Ya know, so many of my favourite things are a jumble of high and low brow things. I love drag and the way it satirises and deconstructs gender norms whilst queens shablam across the stage to the Cheeky Girls. My favourite film is The Matrix, which explores the philosophical discourse on self determination through the medium of kicking people in the face in new and exciting ways.
Megan and I have just spent a couple of days in the British Museum looking at
the cool shit the British nabbed amazing historical artifacts from around the globe. We particularly enjoyed the Japanese gallery and the beautiful wood block prints depicting court life in 19th century Tokyo. We decided to get a print from the gift shop as a souvenir of our visit. Which one did we choose?
This, because LOL MARDY FROG.
Why do I mention all of this?
Well, imagine the very finest of food. Something from a Michelin starred restaurant for example. Wouldn’t it be funny if you took the very fanciest haute cuisine and transformed it into a dirty, mass produced snack food? Like a pot noodle or something.
Snack: Nikiryu Tantanmen Ramen
Bought at: Received as a Christmas prezzie (Ta Dan and Lisa!)
Price: Free obvs, but about £5 when bought in a set
Well. Alright then!
This premium instant noodle bowl is a make-at-home version of the signature dish of the Ramen Atelier Nakiryū restaurant in Tokyo. They earned a Michelin star in 2009 and specialise in Tantan noodles – a Japanese take on a sour and spicy noodle soup from the Sichuan province of China. Tantan noodles are typically made in a chicken and beef broth with chilli oil and a creamy sesame paste. They sound lovely.
The Nakiryū restaurant has a delightfully web 1.0 site that tells us that it does not do take away or delivery and only has 10 seats. Despite this, a bowl of Tantan ramen will cost you only six quid! I immediately start looking at plane ticket prices. No wonder this instant cup noodle version is so popular in Japan.
Megan and I have wanted to visit Japan for some time for many reasons, but in no small part due to the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama. A revelation that both perplexed and amused a friend of ours from Japan when
we shoehorned it into the conversation as usual it came up in conversation. She was amazed that we both had heard of the place and gave even the remotest eff about it. The museum describes itself as ‘four floors of food themed amusement park’ for goodness sake. What’s not to like?
We could go there and make our own unique bespoke noodle cups, marvel as 4000 marbles traverse a miniature version of the factory process or even play the part of an actual noodle moving along the production line as we traverse a ‘huge athletic facility’. It literally could not be more exciting and is not even the only noodle museum in Japan. We must all dream of something.
On to the noodle bowl itself.
Megan: ‘How good can an instant noodle be? But then, surely you wouldn’t put your Michellin star on this if it wasn’t going to be great?’
To be honest, it is hard to imagine how you can make this special. I imagine you can only make ultra processed food so good. If the law of tiny packets of stuff previously mentioned is true, this is going to need at least 10 sachets of ingredients to live up to the hype.
We peel back the lid to find that there are only three packets of ingredients, but they are all a generous size. On the inside of the lid, there is a lengthy description of what is to come. We are assured (via Google translate) that these noodles are ‘an excquisite balance of umami, spiciness and acidity’. We’ll be the judge of that thangyuverrymuch. There are usually pictures along with the preparation instructions on this genre of noodle, but not this time. Perhaps the manufacturers weren’t expecting people overseas to get their hands on this swanky treat. We therefore rely on the internet to tell us what to do.
First we must add the brown packet to make the noodle base broth. There are little meaty looking bits and spring onion alongside the powder in this packet . I dip a finger in as the primal part of my curious monkey brain commands and a taste reveals it has a deep, savoury flavour with a generous amount of five spice in the mix. It smells kind of fruity. Very nice.
The noodles themselves are very fine for wheat noodles and aren’t brittle like you would expect. They are wound into an elegant hockey puck of carbs and look significantly less like Justin Timberlake’s hair circa 2000 than your usual ramen block.
While the hot water softens the noodles, we are to place the other two packets on top of the bowl lid to warm. A reassuringly specific instruction. I feel like the quality of the noodle dish produced here depends on my own actions a lot more than your standard pot noodle. With time and experience, I have developed my own specific quirks when making cup noodles that I have found vastly improve the results and I feel very strongly about it.
Lottie: ‘You MUST add 1/2cm less water than the official fill line for optimal flavour intensity without compromising the texture of the noodles. You gotta clamp the cup SHUT by sliding the lid and lip of the container between the prongs of your fork so the steam doesn’t escape. After five minutes open the lid QUICKLY and give everything a stir. Then LEAVE IT ALONE for another five minutes before eating. The three minutes suggested on the cup IS A LIE and WILL NOT soften the noodles enough. The things at the bottom of the container will become CLAGGY unless it gets a propper whizz at the five minute mark.’
Terrified party guest: ‘Um. Who are you again?’
It is hard to ignore my instinct to make a dryer, more intense soup base than suggested but I suppose a Michelin starred chef may in fact know a bit more about preparing instant ramen than I do. Just. I’ll do as they say this once.
The warming of the two remaining packets has made the contents more liquid and squishy. Very good. Next we are to add the green packet of chilli oil and vinegar to the bowl and mix it up. This transforms the broth into a vibrant and tempting red-orange colour that looks the part of a hot and sour soup. Next comes the final red packet, which contains the sesame drizzle and causes clouds of cream to burst through the broth. It looks beautiful.
The glorious sight of the finished product makes miso happy.
Time to eat. We grab a clump of noodles, making sure to get some of the meaty bits and spring onion in the same bite and….. Oooooooooh.
A creamy tahini flavour slowly gives way to the deeply savoury, spicy broth drifting away just in time for a sharp vinegar tang to kick at the end. Oooooooooooooooooooh.
The texture is perfect. The noodles are soft, not soggy. The broth is neither overly thick or watery. Even the little bits of beef/soy/summat have a little bite before melting away in puff of five spice. This is fantastic. Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh.
I am not usually much of a soup person and make usually make my noodles absorb all of the liquid rather than eating them in a soup, but i can’t get enough of this delicious combination and go to grab a spoon.
Ugh. I need to give one waiting to be washed a quick scrub again.
The flavour is a little spicier than Megan would usually choose and it is a bit uncomfortable for her to eat, but it is delicious enough for her to power through regardless. We both quickly devour the noodles before polishing off the soup. I think I could easily have enjoyed a mug of it – like a fancy Bovril.
These. Are. Excellent. Sophistication in an injection moulded polystyrene bowl. I enjoyed every moment of eating them and cannot think of a way they could be improved. They genuinely taste restaurant quality – and a damn good restaurant at that. Megan says she would have preferred them to be a little less hot and gives these a 9/10. She is entitled to her wrong opinions. For me these are perfection and, thanks to rounding conventions…… are our first
These were quite simply the best cup noodle I have ever had and could well be the best there has ever been. They are pricey in the UK, but if you get the chance to get your hands on one, go for it!