How do European noodles taste to a Japanese palate?

A serious culinary dive for those who need their instant ramen to taste like Japanese instant ramen.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the humble Nissin Cup Noodle, a common sight in any supermarket or convenience store both within Japan’s borders and abroad. Well Named, more than 50 billion of these portable noodle meals have been sold all over the world! And so today we choose to celebrate Nissin Cup Noodlesthe global reach of by reviewing their international versions.

Our Japanese-speaking reporter Ikuna Kamezawa currently resides in Spain, which makes her the perfect candidate to sample the European editions of our favorite carbohydrate.

In Japan, Cup Noodle is known to use “mystery meat”, a mixture of pork and vegetables that turns into small, dense and tasty cubes. Ikuna was surprised at how boldly each of these Cup Noodles proclaimed they had… well, real meat inside! And one of them even used duck meat. Intriguing.

First of all, we’ll start with something pretty obvious: These European noodles actually don’t taste very similar to the Cup Noodle products you can buy in Japan. In fact, buying imported Japanese noodles is expensive: they cost around 4.58 euros (US $ 5.35) while a local product is 1.1 euro (US $ 1.29).

So with that in mind, let’s move on to tasting. First on the role of Ikuna was this fleshy wonder: the 5 Spice Beef Spicy Aromatic Soup.

“Maybe it’ll taste like the beef bone ramen we have in Japan?” Ikuna wondered. She opened the container and looked inside. Ah, lots of broth, ground beef, scallions, scallions and paprika.

▼ Real beefy instant noodles.

She made her noodles with hot water and got ready to eat.

And to his surprise …

▼ It tasted …rather strange!

It was honestly difficult for her to find the words to describe this flavor. The mixed beef was tough and chewy, so it felt meaty… in a way. Meanwhile, despite the brown color of the broth, the taste was reminiscent of Japanese Seafood Cup noodles. The different flavors merged into something that resembled Chinese Sichuan dandan noodles.

On top of that, it was slightly spicy and had a strong aroma of animal flesh, so overall Ikuna was not impressed.

Final score: 3/10.

Presentation of our next challenger, the Tasty Asian Chicken Soup!

▼ After being shocked at the odd beef flavor, Ikuna opted for the safe-looking chicken version.

Chicken meat appears in Japanese noodles, especially in their chili tomato flavor. Ikuna observed that this container boasted of being “Asian style,” but as we all know that can mean anything in the West.

Here is the content before adding hot water …

And here they are after.

This one tasted not only of chicken, but of tomatoes, and shiitake mushrooms, and pepper, and ginger… The flavors were harmonious and delicious. Did it remind Ikuna more of Vietnamese pho or Taiwanese porridge? One thing was for sure: it was very, very tasty and Ikuna couldn’t take it anymore.

Final score: 8/10.

Let’s move on to the third challenger: Sweet onion soup with roasted duck.

Ikuna couldn’t help but feel some trepidation about this one. Can you blame her? It was the notoriously gamey Duck meat. In Instant noodles.

▼ Clearly there were spices meant to balance the flavor, but still…

Quack, quack.

It turns out it tasted very similar to duck meat. While Ikuna was a little alarmed by the taste of duck, she would definitely recommend it to those of you who are desperate to try duck meat in a noodle cup. Because it really, really tastes like duck. It is inevitably flavored with duck. This is a ducktacular instant noodle product.

Final score: 1/10.

Hoping for a less unique flavor on his next attempt, Ikuna turned to the Japanese curry soup with spicy curry version.

It had to be the safest bet of the six cups. Ikuna was especially comforted by the way he announced that it was a flavor of Japanese curry, in particular.

▼ The spicy-looking yellow powder certainly looked promising.

She brewed her cup and took a deep sip, begging it would take away the lingering duck flavor that lingered on her tongue.

Good news everyone!

It was good !

Although it tastes a little different from Japanese curry noodle products. These have more of a brown curry flavor, while this variety was more yellow. It had a thick, mellow flavor that was reminiscent of curry powder and wheat flour rather than a typical curry rice dish. It also had a hint of consomme flavor in its broth, and more importantly… It completely destroyed the leftover duck ramen in Ikuna’s mouth.

Final score: 9/10.

As she neared the end of the glove, Ikuna set her sights on the Soy Sauce Shrimps Pepper Soup Shoyu version.

What an interesting sight. Shrimp are common enough to be seen in instant noodles of course, but they usually play a supporting role – they’re used in the original Cup Noodle flavor, after all. Could they manage the spotlight to be the main ingredient?

▼ Wait, shouldn’t there be more shrimp here ?!

Ikuna ate with relish and determined that this one is certainly the closest thing to an original and classic Cup Noodle in flavor. It would be a great option for anyone yearning for Japanese noodles. As for Ikuna… she was a little disappointed. She wanted the shrimp to steal the show, and they ended up as secondary supporters again. Sigh.

Maybe next time, little shrimp.

Final score: 6/10.

It’s our last suitor time! Ikuna watched him in all his searing splendor: the Spicy Roasted Sesame Soup flavor.

In Ikuna’s experience, it’s actually quite difficult to find places in Spain that satisfy his desire for spicy food. Even trying Korean and Indian restaurants in Spain left her yearning for something with real warmth. Too bad. She would always face that so-called cup of spicy noodles with the respect she deserved.

He looks quite spicy …

Oh ! After taking a bite, Ikuna was pleasantly surprised. These Spicy Roasted Sesame Noodles had a kick out for them!

The peppers provided a pleasant heat and the tomatoes in turn were deliciously tangy. It wasn’t spicy enough for Ikuna standards yet, but it was spicy, and she was very happy with the high quality sesame seeds sprinkled all over it. She decided it was a solid choice that tasted quite similar to Japanese Chili Tomato Cup noodles, a variety she had been missing since arriving in Spain a few weeks ago.

Final score: 6/10.

So what have we learned? Well, if you fancy a Cup Noodle at least similar to the ones sold in Japan, you’d better buy a chicken or curry flavor, whereas if you want to venture out, you should definitely try the duck. Despite Ikuna’s own hesitation on this, she thinks you should look for special flavors that you can only get in this country and do your best to enjoy them!

Meanwhile, if you’re in Japan, you definitely owe it to yourself to try the combined versions of the classic Cup Noodle flavors. What are you afraid of? To fall in love?

Images © SoraNews24
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