Last week, I stopped by the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama to try its just-released Cup Noodle Ice Cream, with its chives, shrimp, and all the other fixings of instant ramen. It was definitely an interesting experience, but I did have one complaint, which is that Cup Noodle Ice Cream doesn’t actually have any noodles in it. Technically, it should be called “Cup Noodle Topping Ice Cream.”
Thankfully, it turns out there actually is a place in Japan where you can get ice cream with ramen noodles mixed in. Since I suddenly found myself with the unlikely title of RocketNews24’s resident ramen ice cream expert, I figured it was time to go another round with this unorthodox class of dessert, and to crown a winner in this battle of the ramen ice creams.
It’s not the biggest city in Japan, or even the biggest in Yamaguchi Prefecture, but Iwakuni has a handful of specialties any lover of food or drink should sample. As you might guess from the traditional architecture of the town’s Kintai Bridge, several of these are classically Japanese, and Iwakuni produces some of the country’s tastiest sake and lotus root, plus a distinctive type of box-pressed sushi.
But make your way over the bridge to the far side of the Nishiki River, and you’ll find a place to stop and enjoy a treat that’s Western in origin: ice cream.
The ice cream stand’s name, Musashi, immediately brings to mind Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s most celebrated swordsman, who fought a duel with Iwakuni-born samurai Sasaki Kojiro. And yes, there is another ice cream shop in the plaza named Kojiro, but just like how Miyamoto Musashi won the battle with his rival, Musashi is the more successful ice cream stand, thanks to its massive menu.
How many varieties of ice cream does Musashi offer? On the day I stopped by, its sign proudly gave the tally as 140.
▼ A portion of the menu is listed above the counter…
▼ …and there’s even more on the bottom. Thankfully there’s an English menu available too-just ask the staff.
Of course the standard flavors, such as chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, are all accounted for. Let’s take a look at some of the more unique types of ice cream on offer, though:
● yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus fruit)
● blueberry cocoa
● premium milk tea
● mango yogurt
● roasted green tea
Just about everything is priced between 250 and 350 yen (US$2 to $2.80), and as a reward for everyone who reads all the way to the end of the menu, you’ll eventually come to the “Novelty” section.
Oddly enough, the Iwakuni lotus root ice cream, which contains a fried slice of the vegetable, isn’t included in the Novelty group, but you will find such temptations as curry, wasabi, and bifidobacteria. Still, I wanted to see if Musashi could beat the big boys of Cup Noodles producer Nissin at their own game, and so I ordered the 350-yen ramen ice cream.
Instead of ramen toppings, Musashi adds ramen noodles themselves to a swirl of vanilla ice cream. The exact type of noodles used is Baby Star, short lengths of fried ramen that are a popular snack sold in Japanese convenience stores and inexpensive candy shops.
There’s a pretty decent amount of Baby Star here, too, so it should have an impact on the flavor.
▼ Smiling now, but for how long?
▼ Here we go again…
Unusual as the idea may sound, Musashi’s ramen ice cream isn’t half-bad! The Baby Star gives it a nice little crunch, but it’s not nearly as hard as trying to bite through an uncooked pack of dried ramen. And while the toppings of the Cup Noodles Museum’s Cup Noodle Ice Cream give only a split-second of palate-pleasing saltiness before punishing your taste buds with the flavor of meat and shellfish, Musashi’s ramen ice cream tastes like ice cream from start to finish, with a little bit of extra saltiness from the Baby Star that’s nice and rejuvenating on a hot summer’s day.
So in the rumble of ramen ice creams, Musashi is the clear victor, and even if you’re not in the mood for something so outlandish, you’ve got 139 other varieties to choose from.
Musashi / むさし
Address: Yamaguchi-ken, Iwakuni-shi, Yokoyama 2-1-23
Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (9 a.m.-8 p.m. in summer)