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Instant ramen is not just for college students and 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 if you are on the outside and are not on a college student or inmate budget, you have several other choices. The only other thing you will need is your freedom and access to hot water and “chef Mic(rowave).” If you have all that, you can try these five other 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. I have also added links to purchase/recipe.Wheat became a necessity in Japan and was provided post World War II in the form of American emergency aid.
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 hits the over-indulgent non-broth cravings, and udon has a range like ramen, which 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” (they see it as “Oriental stuff, it’s all the same”) to cash in on you vs. simply touting “instant noodles.” Except, I don’t think so, homie don’t play that.All pasta is not spaghetti and all instant noodles are not ramen.
I do not have to explain this to Asian food producers in Asia, but the West cell block does not know the difference and 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 is the same, they are the ones who drop the soap 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. Ramen refers to the type of noodle and style of broth (pork to chicken with salt, soy sauce, to miso flavoring) and toppings served with it.All instant noodles are not “ramen.”
If you want a ramen hack, when I worked in the IE/Riverside county, a co-worker mentioned preparing jailhouse chichi (from when he served time), which almost always included instant ramen. The only difference was the varying amounts of, or inclusion of mayo, cheese, canned sausages, pepperoni sticks, lime, hot sauce, chips (corn chips, Doritos, Cheetos, etc.), to various seasonings.
The picture is an example of ramen, it is 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 Gluten Free Pho Ramen Oriental Noodles” struggles to comprehend that. They consider pasta or pho, as long as it has “Asiany” ingredients in it, to be a type of “instant 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 (hiyashi chukka recipe link), so don’t waste these packaged noodles on eating it straight. Go out and get and julienne cucumbers, ham/shrimp, tomatoes, kaiware (sprouts), and some eggs for an omelet. Also, the “must-have” condiment is Chinese mustard (this is also a great vegetarian dish). Although, if you have limited ingredients, these jailhouse recipes by Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez will help (here’s a preview of his book).
Size: 4.9 oz
Competitive Pricing: $1.38 each
Amazon Pricing: 4.9 oz/$2.64 each (6-pack/$15.84)
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).
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.
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 the dish that you can mimic with a package of Shin Ramyun. The only other thing you’ll need to start with is some Spam, hot dogs, or Vienna sausages. Toss all those ingredients in, along with some veggies/kimchi, and you got a dish good enough to serve in a restaurant in Seoul. (yea, that’s where I got taken too, “an instant noodle restaurant, even though I was hoping for galbitang).
Size: 4.2 oz
Competitive Pricing: $3.88 each
Amazon Pricing 4.2 oz/$2.22-$2.54 each (4-pack/$8.89-$10.19)
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 based noodle) is what you want to track down/buy.
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.”
If you want to get healthier, you might want to be looking at an entirely different web page, but I get it, baby steps. So I can’t fault you for starting with a “healthier” instant noodle because these noodles partially consist of buckwheat, and if you do not 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 (shredded toasted seaweed strips) , 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).
Size: 3.49 oz/2.8 oz
Competitive Pricing: $1.98-$2.48 each
Amazon Pricing: 3.49 oz/$4.69 each (6-pack/$28.14, tanuki)
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).
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).
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 (the broth), dice some green onions, and grate some ginger or slice up some myoga (a Japanese ingredient that is a cross between a shallot and ginger) are all you will ever need.
$3.29 I do not like the pricing of the vendors, so I recommend the homemade version.
Amazon Pricing: the pricing is too ridiculous to give you a link, and I suggest you avoid the instant version. You can easily prepare with a bottle of Kikkoman tsuyu (the soy broth), 4-pack, 17 oz, $14.97 and a Hime brand some noodles, 2-pack, 28.21-Ounce, $13.95 (that’s it, and the noodles take 30 seconds to cook).
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.
Like somen, udon is also wheat-based with varying thicknesses. They are white and never have a yellow hue like ramen due to the alkaline, known as “kansui.” That specific ingredient defines ramen as ramen, and you can not get any simpler than that. Although, if you were to ignore that basic level of understanding, you would be like numerous US-based brands and their knowledge of Asian instant noodles that would call all pasta spaghetti and all Asian noodles ramen.
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.
Size: 7.76 oz
Competitive Pricing: $2.98-$3.29 each
Amazon Pricing: 7.76 oz/$5 each (6-pack/$29.99)
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).
Not soba, but more like ramen noodles although stir fried like chow mein (so much has 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).
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 worth a 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).
Size: 4.77 oz
Competitive Pricing: $2.38-$3.79 each
Amazon Pricing: 4.77 oz/$3.49 each (12-pack/$41.99)
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 relying on anybody’s prison pocket to smuggle them in.