Cup Noodles are an iconic part of the Japanese food landscape and of course they’re no stranger to the Japanese custom of adding unusual new flavors to stuff. This time around their maker Nissin has been inspired by some of their international partners and developed two flavors in the “Ethnic Series” of Cup Noodles based on Thai and Indonesian dishes.
The first one is modeled after the spicy Thai soup tom yum goong, and the other is said to resemble Indonesia’s savory noodles mie goreng. Having just been released on 14 April we went straight to the supermarket and picked them up to bring you the Asianiest taste that only a Chinese food made by a Japanese company based on South East Asian dishes can provide.
■ Cup Noodles: Tom Yum Goong Noodle
At first glance, Tom Yum Goong Noodle is very similar to your regular cup noodles except in this case there’s a packet of tom yum paste attached to the lid. When soaking your instant ramen for three minutes the sauce is to stay resting on the lid so it gets heated in the process.
After lifting the lid, a very potent aroma came out. It was a pleasant tangy smell that promised good things to come, but first I had to apply the now-toasty tom yum paste.
At first I was a little disappointed. Judging by the size of the pack I was expecting more to come out than these little dabs. However, I would soon realized that it was more than enough.
Upon taking the first bite I was amazed at how much this stuff tasted like Fruit Loops, the breakfast cereal I used to eat as a kid. At least it tasted like that for a moment before I got smacked in the jaw with a spicy blast from those dabs of paste.
I thought the spiciness level hit hard at first but mellowed into a more pleasant taste after a minute or so. Helping tame the slow burn of the chili peppers was the highly fruity tastes of coconut milk, lemon grass, and lime juice. It was very different for instant ramen but it worked well.
If I had one complaint it’d be that the Tom Yum Goong Noodle was a little chintzy on the toppings. I think I counted about six very little prawns and a couple slices of mushroom that got lost amid the mass of noodles and soup. Still, this little cup packed a wallop in terms of taste overall.
■ Cup Noodles: Mie Goreng
The Indonesian fried noodles known as mie goreng is similar to Japan’s yakisoba in many ways. Thus, folks who have tried one of the various instant yakisoba kits sold everywhere in Japan should know what they’re in for.
Prepared like other instant yakisoba you remove the topping pouches and add hot water for three minutes. Then you pour out all the excess water and mix in the sauce and in this case fried shallots. The sauce is a sweet type of soy sauce also much like the kind served with Japan’s fried noodles.
That’s where the similarities end, however. Cup Noodles Mie Goreng has a surprisingly deep range of flavors going on at once that’s definitely different from yakisoba. The base is a sweet and salty soy sauce, but there’s also a spiciness that’s nowhere near as in-your-face as the tom yum, but a very nice compliment to the other flavors.
All the parts together added up to a bold yet mild savoriness that could be enjoyed by anyone. Cup Noodles Mie Goreng did much better in the toppings department as well. The fried shallots were a very welcome addition for both their flavor and their slightly crunchy texture. In addition to that, small yet plentiful pieces of carrot, cabbage, and meat could be found throughout the noodles.
If you’re looking for something new in your instant ramen, these two flavors will have something to satisfy you. Those who want a crotch-grabbingly bold taste should look no further than the fruity/spicy combination of Cup Noodles Tom Yum Goong. Others in for a more laid-back yet rich Cup Noodles experience should pick up a box of their Mie Goreng.
Although today was the first day they went on sale, they were a little difficult to track down. The roll-out might be a little sluggish but when its complete you should be able to find these all over Japan for around 130 to 170 yen (US$1.27 – $1.67).