Instant ramen is always touted as a food for college students, but in jails across the country, it is as good as gold (used as a currency). Except, on the outside, here are five other types worth going to jail for (well, not really, that’s hyperbole).
Inmates might be limited to Maruchan ramen, but for those of you on the outside who are not on a college student/inmate budget, you have a number of other choices. The only other thing you’ll need is your freedom and access to hot water and chef Mic(rowave) to be able to try these other five types of Japanese instant noodles.
Beyond just 1. ramen (in Japanese, “ramen” is a type of noodle), and then there are also 2. soba (buckwheat/wheat), 3. somen (thin wheat noodle), 4. udon (thick wheat noodle), and 5. yakisoba (stir-fried ramen) instant noodles.
If you want to know if I have a favorite, I love them all because they are something the other is not. Ramen can have the most variety, soba, and somen feel refreshing due to the simplicity of “healthy” toppings. Yakisoba just hits the over-indulgent non-broth cravings, and udon has a lot of range like ramen. Udon can go from soy sauce, curry, tomato to a creamy seafood/uni dish.
Ramen Is a Type of Noodle and Not All Instant Noodles Are Ramen
In the US, food producers will often market their instant noodle product as “ramen” (all that ‘Oriental stuff,’ it’s the same) to cash in on you vs. simply touting “instant noodles.” Except, I don’t think so, homie don’t play that.
I don’t have to explain this to Asian food producers in Asia, but the West cell block doesn’t know the difference which is why I have to put them on blast. So even though these are all instant noodles listed below, they are not all “ramen noodles.” Although, if you know people who think it’s the same, they’re the ones who drop the soap just to create some drama.
This List Is Dedicated to All the People Who Are Currently Incarcerated.
If I only had one Japanese noodle to eat, I would feel like I was doing time.
1. RAMEN (“Soups” aka Wheat Flour with Kansui)
The most popular and widely known of Japanese instant noodles is ramen.
Instant ramen brands tend to have noodles with a mundane chew and taste that’ll remind you that you’re eating an instant noodle (the deep-fried kind). If that reminds you of the time you were doing a stint either in the big house or in college, you should drop a few more George Washington’s on the Myojo brand which has an air-dried noodle that’ll taste like freedom.
Type of noodle: wheat flour with the key ingredient, kansui.
Type of broth/flavors: sesame flavored sauce with mustard.
Brand/product: Myojo Chukazanmai Hiyashi Chuka (a cold ramen).
Preparation type: hot water
If you fancy: you got to get fancy with this one, so don’t waste this packaged noodles on eating it straight. Go out and get and julienne cucumbers, ham/shrimp, tomatoes, kaiware, and some eggs for an omlette (also the must have condiment is Chinese mustard). If you’re limited on ingredients, maybe these jailhouse recipes by Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez will help (here’s a preview of his book)
Size: 4.9 oz
If you want a ramen hack, when I worked in the IE/Riverside county, a co-worker mentioned preparing jailhouse chichi to recipes, which almost always included instant ramen. The only difference was the varying amounts of, or inclusion of mayo, cheese, canned sausages, pepperoni sticks, hot sauce, chips (corn chips, Doritos, Cheetos, etc.), to various seasonings.
This is ramen, it’s an eff’n Japanese noodle that is typically yellow due to the kansui (alkaline solution in the noodle)… how eff’n hard is it to understand that? Not hard, but “Becky’s Craft Free, Gluten Free Pho Ramen Oriental Noodles” struggles to comprehend that. They consider pasta or pho, as long as it has “Asiany” ingredients to be a type of “instant ramen.”
1A. RAMYUN (Wheat Flour Noodles)
Surprise, surprise, FYI: the Japanese are not the only ones that do instant noodles, and you can buy instant noodles from China, Thailand, Indonesia, to Korea (the RamenRater.com knows this).
Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc., it doesn’t matter because anybody who loves spicy will have to turn to the Koreans or Thai people for that because Japanese don’t really do spicy (only hentai).
Type of noodle: wheat flour
Type of broth/flavors: spicy enough to slightly burn your bunghole.
Brand/product: NongShim/Shin Ramen
Preparation type: hot water/microwavable
If you fancy: “Budae jjigae (click the link for the recipe)” or “booo-tayyy, jiggle it all daaay,” is not how you pronounce that, but I can tell you that it is dish that you can mimic with a package of Shin Ramyun. The only other thing you’ll need to start off with is some Spam, hot dogs, or Vienna sausages. Toss that all in, along with some veggies, kim chi, and you have got a dish good enough to serve in a restaurant in Seoul (yea, that’s where I got taken too even though I was hoping for galbitang).
Pricing: $3.88 (x4)
These are not ramen noodles either, but they’re good AF, and you have to give the Koreans credit for calling it ramyun which is straight out Korean even though it rhymes with that other noodle.
2. SOBA (100% Buckwheat or a Blend of Buckwheat and Wheat)
If you want a gluten-free noodle (‘juwari‘ is 100% buckwheat), this is it or shirataki (konnyaku/konjac yam) is what you want to track down/buy.
If you want to get healthier, you just might want to be looking at an entirely different web page, but I get it, but baby steps. So I can’t fault you for starting with a healthier instant noodle because these noodles are partially made of buckwheat, and if you don’t know the exact significance of that, either do I because I just finished off a handful of dark Almond Roca candies.
Type of noodle: wheat flour and buckwheat
Type of broth/flavors: midori no tanuki soba (1st pic), sansai soba (2nd pic)
Preparation type: hot water (the bowl is not microwavable).
If you fancy: some kizami nori, green onions, and if you’re an “A” student, some tempura (keep in mind, I’m a “C-” student, and I still manage to put in the extra effort to do tempura).
Unlike ramen, these noodles also have buckwheat mixed into them.
Either warm or cold soba served with hot, crispy, and crunchy tempura is so damn good. Except the instant version is just “aigggghhhht.”
3. SOMEN (Thin Wheat Flour Noodles)
Somen is what the Japanese and I eat during the summer, and my grandmother would always serve it up chilled (except she was basic, and she only did green onions. BTW, that’s not a slam on gam gams).
The best way to eat somen is chilled with a basic dashi, green onions, and myoga. That is all you need because we good with just that.
Type of noodle: thin, wheat flour noodle
Type of broth/flavors: soy and bonito dashi
Brand/product: Shirakiku/Sanukiya spicy somen
Preparation type: hot water (microwable cup)
If you fancy: no need to get fancy with somen, but putting in the extra effort to chill the dashi, dice some green onions, and grate some ginger or slice up some myoga are all you will ever need.
Unlike ramen, these noodles are primarily only wheat flour, salt, and water (it’s what most American instant noodle companies try to sell you as ramen #wypipo)
4. UDON (Thick Wheat Flour Noodles)
If you do not want to feel like you are eating instant anything, instant udon is what you want. The udon in this version are not dehydrated, so warming up the noodles and dashi are easy and quick.
Ohhhh yea, as for instant noodles, I have got to say udon reigns supreme because I got a thing for aburaage (fried tofu), tempura, and curry which all go great with udon.
Type of nooodle: thick wheat flour noodle
Type of broth/flavors: bonito/katsuo dashi
Brand: Shirakiku/Sanukiya udon
Preparation type: hot water
If you fancy: bust out the deep fryer because tempura veggies to shrimp go great with udon. If you don’t deep fry, try thinly cut strips of beef to green onions, fish cake, and curry go extremely well with udon.
Yea, if somen is the thinner version of American ramen, than udon is the thicker kind sold by One Culture as “ramen” (damn, wtf, and they’re Asian from the SGV, and they don’t know better… #twinkies
5. YAKISOBA (Stir FriedRamen Noodles)
Found at festivals in Japan and sometimes served up on a hot dog bun, yakisoba is stir-fried noodle goodness that more Americans should try (cuz it’s got mayo and sauces, and I know Muricans love their sauce).
This one can be a life changer for noobs because yakisoba in instant form isn’t that far off from the real thing. I also survived off of instant noodles or yakisoba when I could not cook with crap, and yakisoba had me feeling competent. BTW, “yaki” means grilled and “soba” which is short for chuka soba because that is the OG name for Chinese lamien/ramen (the etymology of the name).
Type of nooodle: wheat flour noodle (not actually soba)
Type of broth/flavors: brothless but doused with yakisoba sauce.
Brand: Myojo/Ippei-Chan Yakisoba
Preparation type: hot water
If you fancy: add sautéed veggies such as onions, cabbage, and bean sprouts although most veggies work for yakisoba. As for meats, my go to is pork belly. Additional condiments and add-ons include beni shoga (pickled ginger), ao nori (green seaweed flakes), and more Kewpie (Japanese mayo).
Not soba, but more like ramen noodles although stir fried like chow mein (everything originated out of China).
If you want to fool yourself into believing you are all about eating healthy, add a bunch of sautéed cabbage, onions, to whatever other vegetable you would like to add (dealers choice).
You can keep on calling the po-po “5.0” even tho they do not drive Mustang’s with 5.0L’s (I don’t know anybody who says it based on the show ‘Hawaii Five-O.’) The same goes for douchey “influencers” and food producers who will continue to call any and all instant noodles “ramen,” well that’s cool June bug.
These 5 Types (6 Listed) of Instant Noodles Should Taste Like Freedom and Now Get Back to Your Cubicle/Cell (Same Thing).
Well that is a total of five Japanese and one Korean instant noodle, and if you thought these were any good, wait till you find out what the rest of Asia has to offer. Not to mention how cheap and tasty Thai instant noodles (sweet, sour, salty, spicy) can be…. without having to rely on anybody’s prison pocket to smuggle it in.