Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Search for the Edible Pot Noodle: Episode 1

I tell you one thing: I've been to a parallel universe, I've seen time runnin' backwards, I've played pool with planets and I've given birth to twins - but I never thought in my entire life that I'd taste an edible pot noodle.
Ah, the humble pot noodle, that dessicated confection of instant broth, salty spice packet, and noodles that is the sustenance of broke college kids and hungry stoners everywhere. Red Dwarf fans will also know that pot noodle is the culinary bane of David Lister's existence; he loathes it so much he'd rather eat dog food first. To his surprise, on the High Red Dwarf in the episode Demons & Angels, Lister and the Cat encounter something Lister had never expected: an edible pot noodle.

Red Dwarf geek that I am, I had to wonder: could such a thing exist on this humble planet Earth? An edible pot noodle?

Well, you know the intrepid gals of Feastygeeks. For your edification and mine, I have begun the search for an edible pot noodle.

For those not in the know, pot noodle is basically a cup of dried noodles with salt, spices, and various other additives (such as bits of dried veggies or tofu). It's cheap, fast, and easy: all you do to prepare it is peel back the lid, add boiling water, let it sit for a few minutes, and eat. There is actually a brand in the UK called Pot Noodle™, but I don't know whether or not pot noodle is called pot noodle because the brand existed first and people just call pot noodles after the brand (the way we call facial tissues Kleenex™ even if they're a different brand), or if Pot Noodle™ trademarked a common phrase. Either way, I'm on the search for a Pot Noodle™source in the US so I can try it as well. UPDATE: I may have found a source. Stay tuned.

My own personal standard for whether or not a pot noodle is edible is admittedly a bit elusive. What's the overall flavor and texture? Does it smell appealing? What does it look like? Is it tasty enough that I can eat the entire pot or cup? Would I eat it again? Those are some of the questions I'm going to be asking myself, in my search for the edible pot noodle.

With that said, for my journey I've decided to start with the U.S. gold standard: Nissin Foods' Cup Noodles.

I don't think there's actually a chicken head in there.
Nissin is the same company that makes Top Ramen, probably the cheapest food on the planet. It was founded by businessman Momofuku Ando, whose experience with food shortages in post-war Japan led him to invent the instant noodle. In 1971 he put instant noodles in a styrofoam cup, and the cup noodle was born.

Cup Noodle has been around since I was a kid, though I remember it as Cup O'Noodles. Little about the packaging has changed - it still has the bright red label, the same fat, swirly typeface, the same pretty product picture that looks nothing like the actual product.

And it still has more or less the same foam cup, with the same insulative properties as I remember. Lightweight, too. Plus you can make neat little patterns in the cup with your thumbnail. (Somebody tell me I'm not the only one to do that...)

And the same simple directions: Peel back the lid to the dotted line, add boiling water, close lid, let stand for 3 minutes and eat. Seems straightforward enough...

This is the sight that greeted me when I achieved step one (pulling back the lid to the dotted line). A tangle of dessicated flash-fried noodles with some bits of freeze-dried veggies (looks like carrots and peas), all coated with a yellowish dusting of flavoring. Some cup noodles come with the flavorings in a packet that you tear open and add before the hot water; Cup Noodles puts the flavoring right into the noodle brick so you don't have to go to the extra effort of adding it in yourself. Points for convenience.

And step two achieved: add boiling water. I think there's some corn in there, or maybe bits of dessicated chicken, I'm not sure which. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Letting it steep for 3 minutes. I hope Spock didn't mind that I let my pot noodle steep on his face.

And the final result, ready for noshing. I ate it with a fork: yeah, I do know how to use chopsticks, but the package had a fork on it and I succumbed to American laziness.

I have to admit here: I'm a tough nut to crack when it comes to instant soups. To my palate, most of them have WAY too much salt, and the seasoning packets rarely taste anything like what they say on the box. (Case in point: "shrimp" flavor. I don't think I need to say anything more on that.) These are my thoughts on Nissin's Chicken Flavored Cup Noodle:
  • Texture of the noodles is just fine. They're wiggly, smooth, and a little salty, with enough oil to keep them together without falling apart in the hot water. 
  • Texture of the veggies left something to be desired. The corn in particular seems like it didn't rehydrate evenly, so it was chewy in parts and very soggy in others. The carrot bits held up the best.
  • The broth was as I expected: too salty and it didn't actually taste anything even remotely like chicken. I have yet to eat any "chicken" flavored instant soup or bouillion that actually tasted like chicken, so I can't hold that against Nissin as it seems to be an industry-wide thing. There was a strong taste of turmeric, and this weird sort of industrial chalky, almost metallic taste. The amount of salt actually burned my tongue and the inside of my cheeks. Which led me to discover...
  • of the standards for whether or not a pot noodle is "edible": can I actually finish the entire cup? Can I finish it, and if I can't, is the reason due to taste, or because there's just too much soup in the bowl and I'm full? In this case, I couldn't actually finish the cup. The salt was just too strong. I managed to eat about half of it before I put it aside.
 Gwen's verdict on Nissin's Chicken Flavored Cup Noodle: NOT EDIBLE. The quest continues...

1 comment:

  1. You need to try REAL Pot Noodles.
    All the other brands taste bland cardboard.
    Official Pot Noodles are actually really nice. I was always surprised that Lister hated them.
    They seem the perfect food for him.