With so many different ramen restaurants in Japan, you have to do something pretty special to get yours to stand out. One establishment that certainly qualifies is lengthily-named Papapapa-Pine, whose claim to fame is its ramen with chunks of pineapple and broth made with the juice of the tropical fruit. But with only one branch in Tokyo, most people living in the capital haven’t had a chance to try this unique concoction.
That all changed on June 3, though, when instant ramen based on Papapapa-Pine’s went on sale at the Daily Yamazaki (also known as Daily Store) chain of convenience stores. We dispatched our crack reporters for an immediate taste test.
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▼We made the rounds to various Daily Yamazaki locations the day the instant ramen went on sale, June 3.
▼It’s in stock!
▼In our excitement, we bought five of them.
▼ Papapapa-Pine’s owner looks confident in the finished product.
The cup ramen version is produced by the company Tokachi Menkobo, which has a reputation for making excellent instant noodles. We opened up the packaging, and aside from the noodles found a vacuum-sealed pack of toppings, plus three more packets containing additional dried topping, spices, and the broth base. But can the flavor of Papapapa-Pine ramen, particularly the pineapple’s precarious balance of sweet and sour, truly be reproduced in instant form?
We filled the container to the indicated line with hot water and waited the four minutes directed by the packaging. With the noodles cooked, we tore open and added the broth and flavoring packets. The noodles are slender, and we immediately noticed their firmness when we grabbed them with our chopsticks. But enough talk, let’s dig in!
You can really feel Tokachi Menkobo’s attention to detail in the toppings. The flavors of the black and red pepper are as prevalent as at the actual Papapapa-pine branch, and help to draw out the sweetness of the pineapple.
So was the instant version as good as the real deal served at the restaurant?
To put it bluntly, no, it was not. The pineapple flavor is miles away from the genuine article, and we wish the noodles had a little more elasticity. That said, it’s still definitely recognizable as Papapapa-Pine ramen. With each bite you get a pleasing sensation from the noodles’ firm texture and subtle sourness of the broth. Compared to other instant ramen this really is quite tasty, and you could say it serves as a good preview for Papapapa-Pine’s restaurant version.
We could be jaded ramen fan-boys and say that Tokachi Menkobo dropped the ball on this one, but given their outstanding track record, we suspect that this may be the limit of what current instant ramen techniques can accomplish in replicating Papapapa-Pine’s delicately balanced flavor. As a humble suggestion, we recommend using only two-thirds of the amount of hot water indicated on the packaging, and also cooking the noodles for three minutes instead of the directed four. This results in a broth that’s slightly pleasingly sour and also brings the black pepper a bit more to the front. If that’s not enough, you can always order the frozen version of Papapapa-Pine ramen for delivery over the Internet.
In conclusion, we learned three things:
1. Papapapa-Pine instant ramen is really good–for instant ramen.
2. It’s still not as good as the restaurant version.
3. We really have to make another trip to the Papapapa-Pine branch in Tokyo!
Papapapa-Pine Tokyo Branch
Address: Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Nishi Ogikubo 3-12-1
Open 11 A.M.-8 P.M.