Some time back, JTS sent me a care package full of imported ramen soups:
The intention was to give me a REAL selection for the second phase of my ramen test tasting.
It took me a while, but I have the final results:
Flavorful and spicy
This one surprised me. It's beef flavored, but has spices that make it taste like pho. (As much as any pre-packaged product can approximate that deliciousness.)
This one is much like the first, flavorful and spicy.
The final three, the Sapporo Ichiban and the Tung-I, I saved for the last, as they were cited as favorites by MWT and JTS's lovely wife. That is endorsement enough for me!
I wasn't sure what to expect (would it have the same pho flavoring?), but what I found was that this is a simple, but well done soup. The flavor is tasty and not flashy. I was not sure what to think. Then...
Here's the funny thing. I'm not a big fan of the shrimp flavored ramen. I don't dislike it, but I generally choose something else. The spicy shrimp flavor is better (as with the ones tested above). However, when I had the shrimp flavored Sapporo, it was the answer to the question generated by the beef flavored Sapporo. I'm not a big fan of shrimp flavor and this one... was GOOD. Really good. Nothing hidden with extra salt or hot spices, just very good flavor. That is what Sapporo Ichiban does well -- nothing flashy, just smooth, good flavor.
After the revelation of the Sapporo, the Tung-I was a little anti-climactic. It was good, but the flavorings were a little different, a little alien to me. It was a little heavy on the star of anise than I usually like. I would like to try Tung-I with a different flavor, so I'll keep my eyes peeled.
I HAVE been visiting the local Asian markets lately. I went to one on Federal that I'm sure (from the ahem style of the chaos) is visited by the local immigrants. Very different in tone is the one at Sakura Square. I'm sure that one is mainly visited by Western urbanites with a "yen" for authentic Asian ingredients. To be perfectly honest, I liked the tidy vegetable section with the beds of ice. The selection was better too. There's a third one I'd like to look into, on Alameda between Sheridan and Wadsworth. It looks bigger than the other two put together, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they have. And I could have sworn there was an Asian market on the way to my sister's, but it doesn't seem to be on Sheridan, so I'm guessing it was on my old route on Lowell. We'll see.
Any who... the results. I'm now a big fan of Sapporo's mellow flavor. I'd like to try other flavors of the Tung-I if I can find them. And, although it's not as good as having real pho, I'd like to see if I can find the "yummy red man" brand (take a look at the package if you wonder where I came up with that). I'm sure none of these choices are as cheap as the ramen one can get at King Soopers or Safeway (I've found Sapporo Ichiban for about $.75 a package) but I would say it's generally worthwhile. Sapporo is less salty than those more convenient brands. I will still get Maruchan's Creamy Chicken flavor, since it's one of my favorites and I've seen no other brand with that flavor. However, since I plan to visit an Asian market more often in the future, I think I can manage to keep stocked up with Sapporo.
Thank you again, John. This was fun. :D