Cultural Japan

Cup Ramen

Cultural Japan

Cup Ramen. Cheap, quick, easy to eat, delicious.

The original Cup Noodle, created by the ‘Father of Instant Ramen’, Momofuku Ando, was launched in 1971 and, according to the Nissin website, is Japan’s number 1 brand of cup instant noodles, being found in 80 countries and regions. During my recent stay in Tokyo, I found out Nissin has an interactive Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama, however, since I didn’t have room in my schedule to visit, I thought I’d go around and find all the Nissin Cup Noodles I could and give them a try.

The most popular found in konbini, the convenience stores, are original, seafood and curry, but by searching through different chains and locations, you can find others such as cheese curry, tom tum and chilli tomato. There are some I knew you could get in Japan, such as cheese tomato and milk seafood as well as some limited-edition ones but I couldn’t find them. So, once I returned to Melbourne, I remembered there was a Japanese supermarket nearby and in it, found, chicken, laksa, spicy seafood and chilli crab.

My first memories of cup noodles were the rivalry between homebrand and named brands like Maggi in Australian supermarkets. They didn’t have many flavours but ones they did have were generally chicken, beef and oriental, chicken being the most popular so of course, the first I tried from the Nissin brand was chicken. Unfortunately, it didn’t have much of a chicken flavour and tasted like ordinary chicken cup noodles. It had a few tiny pieces of dehydrated chicken but other than that, it was nothing special.

Second on the agenda, laksa. I love laksa and its orange colour and spice and that was exactly what this cup had. The cup was bigger than the ones from Japan and the flavour wasn’t too strong but you still tasted that curry flavour. You know when the spice is just right when you get that tingling feeling around your lips and that’s what I got.

Next up, chilli tomato. The material was the cup was different, more like Styrofoam packaging and the noodles were thicker than the previous two. It was red in colour and flavour wise, it was delicious. You definitely got that hint of tomato and there wasn’t too much chilli so you actually tasted each of the elements. There were a lot of noodles in this cup and it meant that you could slurp away, just as the Japanese do. I realised after this cup, once I looked at the backs of the remaining cups, that the ones I’d bought in the Japanese supermarket in Melbourne were actually imported from China and the difference was astounding. When in Japan, I highly, highly recommend you buy cup noodles there as they are much more flavourful and delicious.

The curry cup noodle was my favourite of the lot. It tasted exactly like a Japanese brown curry and had a strong curry scent. It had thick noodles along with beef and potato pieces and when you fill the cup with just enough water to cover the noodles like I did, the powder thickens and becomes a thick sauce. This one was my favourite due to the flavour and the memories it brought me as it reminded me of my time in Japan, eating a delicious chicken katsu curry in Coco Ichibana.

The spicy seafood cup noodles didn’t absorb as much water so it became more like traditional soup ramen. Inside were mini muscles and cabbage and it was spicy and red in colour. Once again, it wasn’t as good as the ones bought directly in Japan and it had heaps and heaps of corn, one of the vegetables I don’t like.

The seafood flavour had a very strong smell, even before pouring any water in. This one didn’t have as many noodles in it but it had a wide variety of toppings like crab pieces, octopus slices, green onion, corn and egg. It had a strong, umami, seafood flavour and was quite delicious.

The last of the imported cup noodles, the chilli crab cup noodles again didn’t absorb as much of the liquid, making it soupy. It also had thinner noodles than the Japanese ones and didn’t have much of a scent. Despite this, it was very flavourful and was overall, the best out of all the imported cups. It had corn, crab pieces and spring onion and there was a delicious spice constantly sitting at the back of my throat. It also contained coriander, but only a tiny bit so it wasn’t overpowering. Trust me, I would know since I absolutely hate coriander. Strangely enough, it was also slightly sweet.

The next one confused me as it had no flavour written on the front so I always assumed it was original however, once tasting it, I would swear it was beef. Inside this cup, were pieces of dehydrated beef, baby shrimp, eggs and spring onion and it had a strong, delicious, meaty and herby broth. There were a lot of noodles packed into this cup and while the noodles themselves didn’t have too much of a flavour, they were a bit salty so nothing was bland.

The cheese curry cup was the most filling of them all. When filled with just enough water to cover the top, and when cooked and the paper lid is fully off, the first thought that came to mind was that it was thick. You can see the cheese layer on top as well as the powder of the sauce so when mixed thoroughly, the remaining water mixes with the powder and creates a thick sauce. The noodles were the same thickness as all the other Japanese ones and inside there were mushroom and beef pieces as well as some red crunchy things but I couldn’t figure out what they were. Flavour wise, this one tasted similar to the other curry but it was milder with a very, very mild spice to it. Even though you could see the cheese at the start, it only contributed to the thickness of the sauce as I couldn’t taste the cheese at all, so in my opinion, the plain curry cup noodle was superior. Also, because the consistency is so thick and cheesy at the beginning, most of the beef doesn’t cook fully through so some are a bit crunchy in the middle from being dehydrated.

Finally, the last cup noodle to try, the tom yum. Again, this one was bought in Japan and had the same Styrofoam type packaging but the difference between this one and all the others was that it came with a little package stuck to the top filled with a sauce that you added once cooked. From trying to decipher the back, you didn’t have to pour out the remaining water so once cooked, I pressed out the dark red/brown sauce, what little was in there, and stirred it through. Inside the cup were a lot of noodles, again, with some mushroom slices, chilli pieces, spring onion, a tiny bit of coriander that I could hardly taste and some shrimp that was a little tough. The sauce was orange in colour and had a strong citrus, traditional tom yum scent which is exactly what it tasted like too. It was immensely citrusy, the main ingredient I could taste was lime, and it had a good amount of spice that my lips were numb and throbbing for about 15 minutes afterwards. There was also some liquid on the bottom so it wasn’t dry and overall, it was quite a delicious meal.

Even if you aren’t a big fan of cup noodles, I’d highly recommend you give the Nissin brand a try at least once and buy them if you’re in Japan. When I go back, I’m definitely buying some chilli tomato and curry cups and going on a hunt to find any others I haven’t yet tried. Dee-li-cious!

Courtney Cunningham
Courtney Cunningham
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Courtney Cunningham

Travel writer, photographer, artist, author and entrepreneur living her best life while helping others live theirs.

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