A few days ago, we heard that Nissin, maker of Cup Noodle, was now selling ice cream topped with meat, chives, and all the other fixings that are found in instant ramen at the Cup Noodles Museum. One of my coworkers, who lives not far from the Osaka Cup Noodles Museum, bravely volunteered to try it out, and I was all set to let him be our guinea pig, since I’ve already taken one for the RocketNews24 team as far as strange desserts go.
But as it turns out, the Cup Noodle Ice Cream is available exclusively at the second Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama. Hey, wait a second! That’s where I live!
But hey, ramen and ice cream are two of the simplest, purest comfort foods, right? Maybe putting the two of them together isn’t as crazy as it sounds. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as I walked up to the front door of the Cup Noodles Museum, located near the waterfront in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district.
You’ll need to purchase a ticket if you want to try the Cup Noodle Ice Cream, since it’s sold inside the museum’s dining area. At 500 yen (US$4), admission is fairly reasonable as far as museums go, and while the facility isn’t particularly sprawling, there are a couple of interesting exhibits about the invention of instant ramen, plus a showroom of various types Nissan has sold in the roughly four and a half decades since it first answered the prayers of impatient noodle lovers.
The museum’s biggest draw is the My Cup Noodles Factory, where you can customize a cup of instant ramen just how you like it, then take it home to enjoy later. If you’re hungry then and there, though, you can head up to the fourth floor’s Noodle Bazaar, a food court offering different types of noodle dishes from around the world in a Southeast Asian night market-like setting.
Inside the Noodle Bazaar are a number of stands selling things like Vietnamese pho and Indonesian mi goreng. But when I stopped by, the longest line, by far, was the one for Cup Noodle Ice Cream.
Nissin is actually crazy enough to offer not just one, but two kinds of ramen-y deserts. The standard Cup Noodle Ice Cream is topped with dried chives, egg, shrimp and bits of ground pork. If that still doesn’t sound weird enough, you can also opt for the Cup Noodle Curry Ice Cream, which comes with chives, ground pork, carrot, and potato. Both are priced at 300 yen.
Figuring that ramen ice cream was already fancy enough for me without the extra curry seasoning, I bought a voucher from the vending machine…
▼ This is the button for Cup Noodle Ice Cream (you request the regular or curry version when you hand the food ticket to the server).
…and after a short wait in line, I was back at my seat with my standard Cup Noodle Ice Cream.
Appropriately, it isn’t served in a cone, but in a cup. And not just any cup, but the exact same kind used for packaging Nissin’s world-famous instant ramen.
But while the container may be something you’ve seen a million times, what’s inside is a different story.
You’ve got to give Nissin credit for presentation, as the vanilla ice cream is tantalizingly swirled, and its pure white color makes for a nice contrast with the toppings.
▼ In the world of Cup Noodle Ice Cream, dried shrimp = cherry
It’s sort of convenient that the Cup Noodle Ice Cream is pretty nice to look at, because that way you have a view to enjoy as you work up the nerve to eat it. Still, don’t wait too long, because while the toppings aren’t going to get any drier, the ice cream will melt.
I decided to start with the egg, the only one of the toppings that’s actually used in certain varieties of non-crazy ice cream (although usually not in dried form). I took a bite, and the initial taste sensation was one of saltiness. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Salty vanilla is actually a refreshing and popular ice cream flavor in Japan, especially during the summer.
There’s a similar salt kick with the ground meat, and surprisingly, both of them have a great texture when mixed with ice cream. Being dried, they add a nice bit of firm crunchiness, more satisfying than sprinkles but less invasive than chopped nuts.
You know what? Maybe this isn’t going to be so ba-.
Oh, wait, the aftertaste. Yeah, after a brief moment where the ice cream’s flavor seems to blend with the toppings, the egg and meat start to taste exactly like what they are. It’s pretty startling and discordant, and when they’re sharing your mouth with the ice cream, the egg and meat don’t make it taste creamy, but greasy.
Hard as it may be to believe, the chives actually have the smallest effect on the ice cream’s flavor, maybe because of their small size.
On the other hand, that shrimp throws a haymaker at your taste buds, as it instantly replaces the flavor of vanilla ice cream with that of shellfish. While I usually experience a pang of sadness when I eat the last shrimp from my cup ramen, I was extremely relieved that the Cup Noodle Ice Cream only comes with one.
For all the weirdness going on in the topping department, the ice cream itself isn’t half-bad. It’s not a particularly sweet strain of vanilla, but it’s still flavorful enough to be pleasing to the palate and mild enough to be refreshing on a hot Japanese summer afternoon. It’s also got a tiny bit of grittiness to it too, making it feel great as it slides across your tongue.
As a matter of fact, I’d recommend devouring all of the egg, meat, chives, and shrimp first. Since they’re sprinkled across the top of the ice cream, not mixed into it, you can polish them all off in four or five bites, enjoying their crunchiness and…trying not to focus on their flavor. Do that, and you’ll be left with about three fingers of unmolested ice cream, plus a story to tell.
In the end, I wouldn’t call Nissin’s new dessert delicious. But considering that ice cream, being more of less devoid of nutritional value, is all about having fun, it’s sort of hard to fault Nissin from a design standpoint when everyone who was eating it was laughing and smiling.
Really, if I’ve got a complaint, it’s that despite being called Cup Noodle Ice Cream, there aren’t any noodles present, which now has me wondering: Is there any place in Japan that serves ice cream with ramen actually in it?
Cup Noodle Museum / カップヌードルミュージアム
Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Shinko 2-4-2
Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (entry until 5 p.m.)