Ramen. Just the mere mention of this ubiquitous student staple makes me cringe. I’ve had plenty of the stuff, but I thought I had left it far behind when I graduated from law school. What used to be a really cheap meal is no longer appealing to me. Dress it up with slices of meat, fresh vegetables, or an egg and it’s still ramen. Whenever I get the craving for noodles at home, I usually stick to pho or udon. They’re both available fresh over in my area and are a considerable improvement over ramen. So while at the local supermarket the other day, I had a really bad idea. It’s time to test some ramen. So I purchased one of every variety of ramen and cup noodles that was on the shelf, called a few friends to be my test subjects and started boiling a lot of water. In total, there are 8 types of packaged ramen and 9 types of cup noodles. Products from both Nissin and Maruchan were purchased, and surprisingly enough, it doesn’t seem like these products were any more expensive than they were back in 1999 when I last ate them.
So first off, let’s meet our noodles. For our packaged ramen that needs to be cooked on a stove, there are 4 entries each from both Maruchan and Nissin. For the cup noodle variety, there are 5 from Maruchan, and 4 from Nissin. The wild card in all this is the Maruchan Cheddar Cheese flavor. I fully expected this to be the worst, so it would be tasted last, so it wouldn’t interfere with the results. I had three friends join me in the tasting and none of use were looking forward to it. Scores from 1-10 were given for each item. Here’s how it went.
We started with the packaged ramen. The tasting were done with one brand following another with the same flavor. That way we could compare similar flavors and see who had the better product. It actually didn’t start out too bad. We started with Oriental flavor. I’m not exactly sure what marketing folks are trying to trick people into when they say it’s oriental flavor. I’m Chinese and I can’t identify any flavor other than salt. On the good side, it wasn’t offensive at all. The Maruchan scored higher than Nissin due to slightly better noodles. The next round was beef. While neither tasted like beef, at least it was different than the oriental flavor. The Nissin beef wasn’t too bad. I scored it a 5, which was higher than I gave the first two entries. The Maruchan version was just awful. It tasted completely of chemicals. I’m pretty sure that whoever developed the chemical formula for it never had beef in their life. The next round was Chicken. Both scored very well with my testers, but I didn’t care for the fake chicken flavor and the weird yellow coloring. I rated both equally bad, but both scored very high overall. The last round was Nissin’s picante beef vs Maruchan shrimp. For those that don’t speak ramen, picante means worse. All they really did was take some low grade chili flakes and put it in with beef flavor. It made the ramen worse the scores were less than half of the regular beef flavor. On a side note, the flavor pack on the inside of the picante beef was just labeled “seasoning” while all the others had their specific flavors printed on the pack. The Maruchan shrimp was acceptable to me as it wasn’t too salty, but it didn’t sit well with the other testers.
After this, we moved immediately into the cup noodle category. Maruchan calls their version Instant Lunch, which Nissan calls their Cup Noodles. With these, you just add water and wait for 3 minutes. There’s usually a few freeze dried goodies on top to add a bit of color. From Nissin, we had chicken, hearty chicken, shrimp and beef. Maruchan brings chicken, roasted chicken, beef, shrimp and the dreaded cheddar cheese. Both the Maruchan chicken flavors scored very well compared to their Nissin counterparts. They tasted a bit less salty and more like chicken. The addition of freeze dried carrots, corn and peas, didn’t help either brand. And the freeze dried chicken had the consistency of eggs. The two beef flavors were very similar. They ended up tied with each other. Nothing was special about them, but nothing offensive either. The Nissin shrimp was a lot better than the Maruchan Shrimp. I’m not saying it was good, but it was less awful. I had the little freeze dried shrimp in my bowl and it actually tasted like a piece of shrimp after being reconstituted. The Maruchan shrimp was just plain awful. It got a rating of 1 from everyone.
That left us with the dreaded Maruchan cheddar cheese. I asked around about it before. One of my friends tried to tell me it would be like cheap mac and cheese, but he was way off. Upon opening the cup, there was a weird odor of cheese powder. The inside was orange and a bit sour smelling. When water was added, the smell just got worse. It tasted just as we expected. Just like defeat. The flavor was similar to watered down Cheetos. It’s as if someone just threw some cheese puffs in hot water with noodles and decided to sell it to the public. We all agreed it was one the worst of the bunch. Even worse, I’m not sure if I can eat Cheetos again.
As you can see, my sink got a workout as 17 different packs of noodles is a lot to test in one afternoon.
In true Wreckless Eating fashion, the test couldn’t just end there. As we were testing each item, I threw about a half bowl of soup and noodles from each pack into a pot. So in the end, all 17 items were combined to see what would happen. The result was surprising. It wasn’t great, but it was miles beyond the lower rated products and thankfully, no one could taste the cheese.
Final results are below. And more gonzo style taste testing will be coming.