So, between the cold weather and the near total lack of restaurants open for business, I decided to just stay in for dinner tonight. To be more specific, I decided it would be a good (or at least not completely terrible) idea to crack open the two canned ramens that I picked up last week. I first heard about canned ramen while reading an article about Akihabara, Tokyo's anime nerd and computer geek neighborhood - apparently canned food items (that is, cans of things one does not often think of as cannable) caught on among the otaku in Akiba a couple of years ago, and have become something of a popular tourist souvenir.
I didn't feel like dropping 420 yen to get some no doubt gross canned pork marrow soup, though I was a bit tempted by the Habanero ramen on the bottom row. Still, I took a couple of pictures and took a pass.
Fast-forward to a couple of weeks later - I'm at Tokyu Hands department store with my cousin and cans of ramen are on sale for a mere 100 yen a shot. This was an offer too good to pass up, or at least, an offer that made it seem like less of a total waste of money. For the sake of the blog, for the sake of research, I decided to give it a shot. I don't really have any interest in doing instant noodle coverage, but canned ramen was just too weird to pass up. So I grabbed a couple of cans, one each of miso and shôyû, taking a pass on the tonkotsu, which was not on sale.
The "Hakata ramen" was over 600 yen for the can, which actually makes it more expensive than a bowl at a real ramen shop, though I do have to give them props for including an second mini can with a kaedama (second helping) of noodles. In any case, I took a couple of the 100 yen cans home and decided to crack them tonight.
The main question that was on my mind was "Is this going to be pretty gross or really gross?" There was no chance that these canned noodles would be good, but would they at least be edible? I took a quick trip to the convenience store to grab some beers in case the answer to that question was no. I decided to start with the shôyû flavor. The label on the can warned me that "There may be a white lump floating in the soup; this is congealed fat, do not be alarmed." Umm, gross. I'm glad that I read the label, because I was that much less surprised when I opened the can to see this:
Indeed, there was a big lump of pure fat bobbing in the can. I tossed it, but not before some got stuck to the mini foldable fork that came with the can; it proved disconcertingly hard to get unstuck - ever handled pure processed fat before? I had originally thought about eating straight from the can to get the pure unadulterated experience, but in the end chickened out and dumped the stuff in a bowl and nuked it.
I say "stuff" because really, this can't be called ramen. No, it literally can't be called ramen - the "noodles" are actually thin threads of konnyaku, a jelly made from a yam-like plant also known as "devil's tongue." Regular noodles made out of things like egg and wheat would absorb the soup and end up a soggy mess, so the "developer" of this stuff came up with the yam jam solution. What these noodles really were was "shirataki", the thin strands of konnyaku found in oden stew. For what it's worth, other ingredients in the soup include rice flower, mirin (cooking sake), soy sauce, pork lard, sugar, salt, fish extract, ginger, garlic, spices, sesame, vegetable oil, apple vinegar, konbu seaweed, amino acid, and artificial coloring. But honestly, that makes it sound tastier than it is. There were also a few menma (bamboo shoots) floating in there, for what it's worth.
The soup was I guess like soy sauce, kind of, if you close your eyes - not totally unpalatable, but in no way tasty. It was more like eating really bad oden - the only thing that made it seem even remotely like ramen was the presence of the bamboo shoots. I guess it's the kind of thing that you might eat on a camping trip, after having hiked all day and just needing calories. The serving size was thankfully small, but I decided to go ahead and crack the miso can to just get this experiment over with.
To the eye, the miso was a bit more unpleasant-looking. Since miso is a paste, the sediment had filtered out a little bit and there were particles floating around, in addition to a (this time browner) hunk of fat that went down my toilet. This can also included a rather dog food-esque hunk of pork that I also sent to sleep with the fishes:
The miso was maybe a little bit better-tasting - it might have had a little more flavor, but it might also have been that my tastebuds died due to all the chemicals in the first can. I picked up the noodles with the mini-fork and did my best to drink as little of the soup as possible.
Writing this report is making me relive the experience all over again, and to be perfectly honest, remembering it all in detail is making me feel a bit sick to my stomach. I'm not sure if I'm more disgusted with society for inventing this, or with myself for actually eating it. In any case, I'm very glad that I only spent 200 yen on these atrocities. I'd eat them if I was wandering in the woods, but I can't imagine many things (if any thing) that I would choose these over. Plenty of stores have plenty of cans of this "ramen" for sale, so I wonder if anyone might actually...like it? Or do the same cans just get passed around as gag gifts? Only time will tell...