An exciting one today, this is my very first instant ramen pack from Japan! ＼(＾▽＾)／
I’m sure you all remember how impressed I was with the last two Zenpop packs I reviewed, after discovering how delicious the noodles from the ramen + sweets mix pack were I just had to try more noodles. I didn’t have long to wait as this box arrived in just 7 days, that’s amazingly fast for Japan-UK post! o(>ω<)o
What is the Zenpop Ramen Pack?
- 9 or more Japanese instant noodle bowls
- $29.50 per box including free worldwide shipping
- One off box purchase, no subscription necessary
Japanese instant noodles are much higher quality than the ones you can get here in the UK and feature much more interesting and authentic flavours. Zenpop’s ramen packs include a range of unique flavours from different brands and include hard to find, limited and regional noodle pots. The packs change often so click here to see what the current theme is. I’ll be showing you the Tastes of Japan pack in this review, which debuted in May 2017 and included 9 bowls of ramen plus a bonus pair of chopsticks.
Ramen not your thing? Don’t forget Zenpop do beauty, stationary and sweets packs too, you can see their full range here. I actually bought one of their beauty boxes recently and will be uploading a review soon, do check back if you’re interested ｡^‿^｡
Okay, let’s get to the ramen~
(by the way, please excuse the really awkward chopstick shots… I had to hold the chopsticks in my left hand to take the photos and I really can’t use them with my left hand! x_x)
Duck Broth Soba
Starting strong with some delicious buckwheat soba noodles, this pot features a unique twist on the classic ramen broth. The base stock (dashi) for the broth would usually be made with bonito, but with this pot it is made with a duck broth flavoured with shitake mushrooms and seaweed. Yum!
All the bowls included are super easy to make; for this one simple add water, wait 3 minutes then add the powdered soup sachet and enjoy. Not all the noodles pots are prepared the same way, but Zenpop include instructions in the information leaflet to make sure you get it right each time.
Look at all those pretty toppings! This is one of the main things that sets Japanese instant ramen apart from the instant noodles here in the UK, the toppings are amazing. Not only are the portions generous, the toppings always rehydrate really well and taste just like fresh ingredients! This pot has fried tofu pieces, slices of fish cake and green onions. I think there are little pieces of minced meat in there too?
Here’s what they look like cooked:
Glorious! So many toppings you can’t even see the noodles until you stir it all up~ (✧ω✧)
The broth is absolutely delicious, just a little sweet with a really deep savoury flavour. I found all the noodles in this pack quite salty, though maybe that’s just because I don’t eat a lot of salt normally?
The toppings are all wonderful but the star of the show has to be the tofu; it sucks up the flavours of the broth and intensifies them, so with each piece you get a burst of flavour plus some great chewy texture. I thought this was one of the more chewy textured pots all round, with the tofu, the fish cake and the soba noodles, which are firmer and have a lot more texture than the noodles in the rest of the pots. The green onion is great too, it adds a lovely fresh taste that cuts through the richness of the broth. This pot is SO filling because of all that delicious tofu!
This one gets a solid 10/10 from me, between the strong yet well balanced flavours and amazing tofu this one was my favourite pot ｡^‿^｡
Sapporo Miso Ramen
The ‘Tastes of Japan’ theme, in case you hadn’t guessed, aims to showcase some of the best flavours from Japan by including some special regional dishes. Miso ramen was born in Sapporo (the capital city of Hokkaido) and this bowl is topped with pork meat balls, cabbage, corn and carrot, a combination Zenpop say represents ‘the bounty of the northern lands’. Sounds good to me!
That’s one big flavour sachet! These larger bowl shaped pots really do have a lot of food in them, I only thought the cup shaped pot above was filling until I made this one up…
The miso broth is really rich and there’s so much of it, I couldn’t finish the whole bowl. Actually, I don’t think I finished any of the pots on my own…but my partner was happy to help with the leftovers so it’s okay! ^_~
Again the toppings are outstanding, you’d think they’d all been added in fresh not dried. The corn is so sweet and delicious and there is plenty included so you get lots of little pops of sweetness. The meatballs are really savoury, though I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea of re-hydrated meat so I let my partner eat most of them. The cabbage is so amazing, I don’t know what makes the cabbage in Japanese instant noodles so good but I am obsessed with it. I did wish there was more cabbage in this one just because it is so delicious, but there was plenty of corn, pork and carrot to make up for it.
Another 10/10, I can imagine curling up with a hot bowl of this when the weather gets colder as it is really warming and comforting.
Spicy Miso Ramen
Another miso treat, this time with a spicy kick!
The toppings are similar to the Sapporo ramen, but instead of carrot this one has green onion along with the sweetcorn, meatballs and cabbage. You add the spice sachet after cooking, I forgot to at first and wondered why it didn’t taste spicy…oops!
As delicious as the Sapporo miso ramen was, I think this one is even better. The spice makes this even more warming and comforting, it has a fair kick to it but isn’t super spicy. The miso broth is rich and even more satisfying with the spice, I thought the meatballs were more savoury in this one too. The green onion is much better than the carrot included in the plain miso ramen, and there’s so much of it! (´▽`人)
This one gets a 10/10 from me. I preferred this one to the other miso ramen, the addition of spice and green onion lifted the flavour and made it so much more satisfying.
Okonomiyaki Sauce Yakisoba
Okonomiyaki sauce is a sticky, sweet sauce usually used on the famous Japanese okonomiyaki (‘grilled how you like it’) savoury pancakes, but with this snack you get to mix it through noodles instead. Yum!
The preparation method for this one is interesting because, unlike the rest of the noodles in the pack, you add water then pour it all out once the noodles are cooked. You do so using this built in strainer in the lid:
You also get lots of sachets to play with! There’s a sauce sachet to mix through the noodles once they are cooked and drained, along with garnishes of mayonnaise and seaweed.
Once prepared you end up with something like this:
Excuse the messy mayo, I have very shaky hands and poor mayo control apparently! It all gets mixed up as you eat it anyway so it’s all good ^_~
While the Duck Soba were my favourite of the broth based noodle pots, this is definitely my overall favourite. The noodles are absolutely covered in the delicious sauce and there’s lots of lovely cabbage mixed in. Adding mayonnaise to noodles does something magical that I can’t explain (my partner has since started adding mayo to lots of different foods to explore this phenomenon) and the seaweed adds a great burst of salty umami flavour. There are so many flavours going on that every mouthful is a little different. The overall flavour is an intense, savoury sweet and utterly delicious experience that you really have to try to fully appreciate.
A resounding 10/10 from me, these noodles are a must try! They’re a really filling and fun meal, I could eat these everyday (≧◡≦)
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen
The next regional ramen is tonkotsu ramen, a specialty from Fukuoka, Kyushu that features bone broth soup and thin chewy noodles. This pot has garlic and seasame flavours and is topped with pork, mushrooms and green onion.
The dried slice of meat freaked me out a little, I don’t know why dried meat toppings seem so strange to me but they do. I guess it’s because you’re lucky to see a piece of sweetcorn in a UK instant noodle let alone pieces of meat! It’s not like I’ve never had jerky though so I don’t know why I can’t get on board with meat toppings…
The meat looks a lot better when cooked, and it actually tastes great! The broth is slightly creamy and is lighter than the others so far, with a delicious savoury pork flavour and lots and lots of garlic goodness. While the garlic is strong the sesame wasn’t noticeable to me. My favourite thing about this pot was that the noodles actually had flavour! They were even more garlic-y and delicious than the broth itself and because they are so chewy they’re really satisfying. So good!
A 10/10 for the great garlic and pork flavour and delicious noodles, I really enjoyed this one!
Tempura as a noodle topping? How odd, thought I, but apparently it’s quite popular in Japan. Who knew!
The tempura is so colourful! There’s plenty of green onion in there too, I love green onion in noodles~ (´▽`人)
The tempura is substantially less pretty once it’s cooked. It looks like a bit of a mess! I didn’t like the smell of this one either, it really put me off (though thankfully it tastes better than it smells). I wouldn’t take this one to the office!
The udon noodles are really good, great texture. And believe me, this pot needs some texture because the tempura gets so soggy it’s almost impossible to pick up. It soaks up the flavour of the broth well, but so did the tofu in the Duck Soba (without turning into a soggy mess). I guess I just prefer my tempura crispy, or perhaps dipped in soup not left to soak in soup.
The broth has a light and salty flavour, a little too much shrimp flavour for me but it’s still edible. Except the pink tinted shrimp flavoured pieces, they were pretty inedible. If I’d tried this pot first I’d probably have enjoyed the broth more, but the other flavours we’d tried before left this one seeming a bit lacking.
This one gets a 6/10, I get the concept but the Duck Soba had a better flavour and better flavour absorbing toppings. This one was a bit too much effort to eat for a not so great flavour.
Energy Mochi Udon
This one sounds so cool! o(≧▽≦)o
The mochi is added to give you extra energy, in fact the leaflet says to ‘Feel the power! Do something awesome after you eat this!’. The descriptions Zenpop write always give me a giggle! I don’t think I did anything awesome after eating this though (unless writing this review counts as awesome?).
That big rock hard rectangle right there is the mochi, how bizarre! You need to pour the water directly over it to soften it up. There’s also some slices of fish cake, tempura pieces and fried tofu. Excited as I was about the mochi, I was even more excited to see more fried tofu! (♡´౪`♡)
Okay, so the mochi still looks a bit strange when it’s cooked. It looks a bit like cheese, haha! At least it’s soft and chewy like it should be rather than brick like. I don’t know why the rainbow bubbles appeared, it’s not washing up liquid though if that’s what you’re thinking ^_~
The broth is nice and light, I think it is just standard dashi? I’m not too sure (obviously I am not a ramen expert) but it’s really good anyway, it has a nice salty and refreshing taste. I wish there were some veggies in there instead of green coloured tempura pieces though!
The fried tofu was every bit as awesome in this bowl as the other, it has a chewy, spongey sort of texture which may not sound great but it’s so good, especially when it soaks up all the flavour from the broth. Yum! The tempura, on the other hand, fell apart and kind of disappeared into the broth. Oh well. Tofu!
The mochi is a great addition, it’s so chewy and delicious and it really fills you up. This bowl is great if you want meal that is light yet filling. It definitely gave me an energy boost too! (b^_^)b
A 10/10 for this refreshingly light yet energy packed meal, mochi may not seem like an ideal ramen topping but it’s really good!
Low Sodium Curry Noodles
I’ll admit that after all the other exciting flavours, a pot of curry flavoured noodles wasn’t exactly enthralling to me. Especially given that Japanese curry tends to be mild and made from powder, which isn’t a bad thing but I’m more of an Indian curry kind of girl.
Of course, it was delicious. Why did I expect so little? Hadn’t I tried enough Japanese instant noodles at this point to know better? (－‸ლ)
A nice little scattering of toppings inside. See those white cubes? They’re potato! I love potatoes, this is so awesome! Why aren’t they in more noodles? Of course I want more carbs with my carbs! (≧▽≦)
There’s also some corn and cabbage and when I stirred it all up, I found lots of mince pieces throughout and some red pepper too.
The curry flavour is quite mild and sweet, as you’d expect from a Japanese curry, but with the cabbage and potato toppings it’s really good. It’s hearty, it’s warming and the curry spices are surprisingly aromatic. I can’t decide which I like more, the cabbage or the potato, but there is plenty of both!
This one gets a 10/10 for proving me wrong. This is delicious, I was silly to think it wouldn’t be. This one did stain my chopsticks though, so beware!
Kitakata Shouyu Ramen
Last but by no means least is the final regional dish; shouyu (soy sauce) ramen, a dish that originated in the small city of Kitakata, Fukushima. This one sounds incredibly complex; the broth features chicken, pork bone and sardine while the toppings include pork, naruto, green onion and fermented bamboo. That’s a lot of flavours going on in one bowl of ramen!
Another dried meat slice, hmm. Doesn’t the naruto look like it’s straight out of an anime episode though? It just doesn’t look real! Cute though ｡^‿^｡
I think the noodles are cute too, you can’t really tell from the photo but they’re all curly. Am I weird for thinking noodles are cute? Probably. They are good noodles though, good amount of texture to them. Nothing worse than a slimy noodle…
The slice of meat was pretty salty in this one, while the naruto is chewy and adorable but largely flavourless. I couldn’t taste fermented bamboo either, although I honestly am not sure what that tastes like anyway. The broth, for having such a complex looking ingredients list, actually has a very simple and delicious salty/savoury flavour. It’s hard to beat a good hearty broth, I wouldn’t say this is the most exciting bowl in the box but it’s still one I’d eat again.
This one gets a 10/10 for just being a good honest bowl of ramen.
You would not believe how long it took to eat all this ramen, the box arrived in July and I’m only finished with it now. Even with my partner helping to eat it, it still took this long. I thought it would be gone in a week! (≧▽≦)
All in all I think this pack had a fantastic selection of noodles at a great price, whoever picked the flavours did a great job of balancing traditional/standard flavours with more unique ones I hadn’t even heard of before let alone tried. My favourites were the Duck Soba (I need more of that tofu!) and the Okonomiyaki Sauce Yaki Soba. There is literally one type of instant noodle I will eat here in the UK, so to find so many exciting noodles in one box and to love all but one of them is pretty amazing for me. I should have known I could count on Japan to make instant noodles amazing~
I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this box again and I highly recommend it for ramen lovers. If, like me, you can’t get to Japan, having these authentic meals delivered to your door is probably the next best thing!
Thanks for reading (＾▽＾)／
~♡ ZenPop kindly provided this box free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinions on the box contents, the service or anything else, nor was I asked or paid to say nice things. The noodles earned my love on their own merit, as have Zenpop♡ ~