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Taste test: Instant ramen

A longtime neighbor recently called on a busy morning and asked me to come to lunch. I winced because of some early afternoon appointments but she insisted, luring me with the news that she had made a fresh pot of ramen from scratch. We both share the experience of growing up in Hawaii and eating good Asian foods. That was all the push I needed to walk down the street for a meal. Her homemade ramen was perfect, with bits of fresh fish, crunchy bean sprouts and a smooth and delicious broth with just enough salt. It left me craving more. So, this week, our panelists tried some of the instant ramen packages found at local grocery stores and a popular oriental food market. All of the beef-flavored options were prepared on the stovetop and are listed here in order of the judges' favorites.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

ProductNissin Top Ramen Sapporo Ichiban Maruchan Thrifty Maid

One panelist described this ramen as "important" looking. "These noodles have transformative powers. I taste a mouthful of this ramen and, 'BLING,' I'm on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Western Avenue in Koreatown in Los Angeles, California," he said. Another judge appreciated the "pale noodles flecked with green herbs" for their savory and interesting flavor. "It's not just soy," she said. "I love the broth but I can't totally place the flavor." The outdoorsman on our panel said this ramen was good enough to serve to his wife "if I can talk her into going backpacking in Alaska."Sturdy noodles put this brand of ramen in winning contention among our tasters. "They are very tasty and the noodles are very on point, being good to the tooth with a great bite," said one panelist. Another described the texture of the noodles as "having a little bounce." She said the glossy noodles had a nice soy flavor. "I like the darker, beefy looking sauce," she added. Even judges who said they prefer homemade ramen said they would buy this brand for its fresh-looking, curly noodles and glossy, salty broth. "The taste matches the appearance," said one judge. A couple said they would use this option as a base for a semi-homemade version, adding some fresh vegetables and, perhaps, chunks of seared beef. "The noodles in this have great tooth resistance and the broth is understated and demure in a good way," said one judge, who also would buy the brand.Only one judge said he would purchase this brand. He liked the "nice kick in the sauce" and the good bite on the noodles. "It would be easy to add more ingredients for a full and satisfying meal," he said. But the blandness of the base was what turned off the other panelists. Most of the judges said the broth was too starchy and the noodles too limp.


they buy?
All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information79 cents for an 18-ounce package of six 3-ounce packs from MD Oriental Market in Pinellas Park. 79 cents for a 3.5-ounce package from MD Oriental Market in Pinellas Park.25 cents for a 3-ounce pack from Walmart.$1 for an 18-ounce package of six 3-ounce packs from Winn-Dixie.

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of [email protected]; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All foods were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to [email protected] Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving sizeHalf packageOne packageHalf packageHalf package
Fat/Fiber7g / 2g18g / 4g7g / 0g7g / 2g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 760mg0g / 2050mg1g / 790mg0g / 760mg
Carbs/Protein27g / 5g65g / 10g26g / 4g27g / 5g

Taste test: Instant ramen 04/24/17 [Last modified: Friday, April 21, 2017 5:33pm]
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