When was the last time you had instant ramen? Until recently, I could genuinely say college, but not anymore. For out first DIY post, we decided to try out a new kind of instant ramen - the new Sun Noodle Ramen Kits.
Since I discovered what I like to call "real ramen" (which was shamefully recent considering my ancestry) I've never given instant ramen a second thought, because it's just not nearly as satisfying. The broth is non existent, the noodles are sub par, I could go on but you get the gist; there's simply no comparison. So, after hearing all the buzz about the Sun Noodle kits I figured maybe it was time to revisit instant ramen.
At this point, unless you're ramen nerds like us, you're probably like "yeah ok what's the big deal about a new ramen kit?" Well to start off, these kits aren't the typical dried packs you're probably used to seeing in the store. They are packs containing fresh noodles, and not just any old noodles, Sun Noodles. They supply noodles to Momofuku, Ivan Ramen, Chuko, and a very long list of other shops in the country and even Japan! Point is, you don't get to supplying noodles to some of the best ramen shops around unless you know your shit. I could probably write a whole post about Sun Noodles, so I'll spare you any more details and get back to the kit.
Why does the title say whole foods?
These kits are "exclusively" sold at Whole Foods, but only in the New York City area. This probably has something to do with the fact that Sun Noodles has one of only three factory locations in Teterboro, NJ, and the noodles are fresh not dried. I don't love Whole Foods, and I certainly don't love their prices; in fact there are only two reasons I go out of my way into one. 1. Their fresh pizza dough (in New York it comes from Arthur Ave, and it's FANTASTIC!) 2. For random hard to find products that they carry, e.g. ramen kits. So I made the dreaded post work trip to Whole Foods in Union Sq (think hunger games meets maze runner followed by a 30 minute line, if you're lucky). After, scouring the ramen isle (yeah that's a thing), I found the kits in the refrigerated case on the end of the isle by the produce. Right as I spotted them, the lady next to me started freaking out because they were in stock. Apparently, they are frequently sold out. It turned out they were only partially in stock and I was a little bummed to see they were sold out of the shoyu variety, but considered myself lucky to snag a few of the miso ones.
Alright I've been going on about the noodles, who makes 'em, and where you can get 'em. So let's take a look at what you actually get in these kits. These exclusive Whole Foods kits (not to be confused with other kits Sun Noodles has sold, and might still sell?) come in two varieties shoyu and miso with kaedama packs also available. In each pack you get two servings of noodles, two broth packets, and a directions card that also has a brief history of the ramen styles for the uninitiated. They are all MSG free and the miso variety appears to be vegetarian based on the ingredients. Besides the fresh noodles, the biggest difference between these and other instant ramen packs is the broth packets. Sun Noodles opted for a paste rather than a powder.
Getting down to business
The directions are basically the same as other instant ramens, if any thing it's faster since the noodles are fresh. There are three simple steps:
- You boil the noodles for 2 minutes and 15 secs (this is shorter for the Shoyu noodles)
- Mix the broth paste with hot water in the bowl you are gonna eat out of. NOTE: They do not recommend mixing it with the noodles on the stove top because the amount of water it takes to bowl the noodles is much more than you eat in a bowl of ramen and will dilute the broth resulting in a watery disappointment.
- Drain the noodles, add them to the bowl, and add whatever else you wanna put in your ramen.
Topping it off right!
Obviously real ramen is more than a broth with noodles. In fact, I would argue the toppings are just as important, and that bad toppings can ruin an otherwise perfectly good bowl. The directions recommend green onion, fish cake, a boiled egg, and ham. I agree with everything, but the ham. I have to believe that most of the people making an instant ramen aren't gonna spend 4 hours making their own chashu pork; I know I didn't have time for that this go around! So I understand the ham suggestion, but you can and should do better! Great easy ham alternatives are bacon, ground pork, or chicken. This time around, however, we weren't prepared to make any of those ourselves. So, we decided to pick up some takeout instead. If you have a bao joint around, that would obviously be the closest alternative to chashu pork, since they are essentially the same. Alternatively, if you have a BBQ place near by you can get a great option like pulled pork, brisket, or what we picked up - smoked pork belly.
Here's a list of the toppings we used:
- Smoked Pork Belly
- Nitamago (Seasoned Soft Boiled Egg)
- Dried Kikurage (Wood Ear Mushrooms)
- Green Onions
- Black Sesame seeds
- Sesame Oil
I would give you quantities, but we just winged it. For the nitamago, we used Serious Eats' recipe, but if you don't have time to make these beforehand, a regular soft boiled egg does the trick. We picked the kikurage up at an Asian grocery. This was the first time we used dried ones, and they expanded to more than twice their size once we put them in the ramen!!! We ended up with a bowl filled with kikurage and had to fish a bunch of them out.
With our bowls ready to go we dug in and got our slurp on, and the ramen kits did not disappoint. The broth was more flavorful than the typical instant ramen, but after an initial hit of umami, it still had a watery finish. You just can't get the same depth of flavor from a paste as you can from hours and hours of cooking. I enjoyed the broth with all of the other ingredients, but I wasn't dying to drink it straight like I do with real ramen. The real star was the noodles! The noodles by far out do any other instant ramen, and even some real ramen shops. Their texture and taste were great! They are the real deal. I'd say it's not even fair to other instant ramens to compare them. Needless to say, I finished all my noodles. I can confidently say that this was the best instant ramen I've ever eaten! At $6 per 2 serving pack, they cost substantially more than the average instant ramen, but the fresh noodles make that totally worth it!
grew up as a nomad, and currently calls New York home. When he's not slurping noodles he's editing stuff for TV. He's a quarter Japanese and has been using chopsticks since he can remember. His go to ramen order: Spicy shoyu with wavy noodles.