I’ll start off by saying that it’s really hard to replicate real ramen at home, so obviously a pack of instant ramen will not do the trick. But why am I here talking to you about just that, you might ask? Well, we’re all human beings, and sometimes we just want something that’s quick and warm and kind of satisfying in a way.
That’s why we buy instant noodles isn’t it? It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s non-fussy, and we can get it in our tummies in less than ten minutes. I actually decided on posting about this because I saw it in the International Aisle at a supermarket and was so curious about instant noodles claiming to mimic tonkotsu broth– aka broth that takes such a long time to prepare– that I wanted to see exactly how far they could take that statement. A pack of this serves two, and it only costs Php 64.50 each off a clearance sale. Cheap thrills, ya know?
And honestly the packaging does a good job of making these seem mouthwatering.
Marutai is a Japanese food company that specialises in various types of instant noodles like packed stick noodles and cup noodles, as well as different types of condiments and flavourings. I wish I could say more but their website is in Japanese, which I cannot read. Japan does have the reputation of producing some above average instant noodles so I figured, this can’t be too bad.
So let’s put these two flavours of Marutai Instant Ramen to the test, shall we?
Before anything else, let’s take a little look at the back of the packaging, where the instructions are written. Though in Japanese, I managed to read some of the words because they were in Mandarin, but come on, it’s instant noodles. Basically you boil water, cook the noodles, and add the seasonings. How hard can it be?
The main difference that I noted between these two is that it takes less water and less time to cook the finer noodles that come with the Hakata-style ramen. 500mL versus 470mL, and 3 minutes versus 2 minutes. I didn’t add many toppings apart from some scallions plus sesame seeds, (and Korean seasoned seaweed just for the heck of it) because I was too lazy, but I never eat ramen without them eggs.
To make soft-boiled eggs, place your eggs gently into some boiling water and let it boil away for about 7 minutes, after which just scoop it out and gently place into some ice water until the eggs completely cool down. Then the tricky part will be peeling the eggs ever so gently, because they will be super tender! (If you prefer eggs with a more solid yolk, just boil the eggs for a couple more minutes before placing in the ice bath.)
Daaaaaang that oozing yolk. I cannot resist it.
Okay, let’s get back to the noodles. First I will talk about the white pack ramen, which is the Hakata-style one. Traditionally, Hakata-style ramen makes use of fine noodles, which Marutai actually makes sure to follow. Of course we all know tonkotsu is made from slowly simmering pork bones until a milky broth from the marrow is produced. Here we get packs of powder and flavourings infused in oil. I appreciate that there’s a decent amount of sesame seeds and dried scallions here though.
I always find that Hakata-style broth is thinner and indeed milkier than full-bodied tonkotsu broth, and I do think the texture that comes out of this is quite close to that. BUT the taste is nowhere near any of the Hakata-style ramen I’ve tried before. In fact, this tastes a lot like regular instant noodles, just with the addition of a white broth.
Thanks to the addition of the Korean seasoned seaweeds, and of course my beloved soft-boiled egg, this became a bit better.
I do have to mention though, that I really like the noodles. Granted, stick noodles will often be better than the packed noodles in cups, but I would actually consider purchasing this just for these stick noodles anytime I need fine Japanese ramen noodles for a recipe.
This Hakata-style instant ramen is definitely not something I would recommend if you’re looking for something closer to ramen, but it’s good enough if you just want a quick instant noodle fix. The broth is just light enough and the noodles fine enough to make this a decent experience.
Between the two I picked up from the supermarket, I would say the Kumamoto Tonkotsu Ramen is the clear winner. Both Hakata and Kumamoto ramen hail from Kyushu, but the latter one is the more flavourful variation since it’s tonkotsu broth infused with mayu black garlic oil. (Basically garlic burnt in sesame oil.)
I just want to point out that upon opening the pack of powder for this ramen, the scent of pork was so strong it was actually quite stinky! (That’s like a legit tonkotsu experience right there hahaha!) But once you get that into the water the stench dissipates. And as you might’ve noticed, this one is oilier than the Hakata-style ramen above. The condiments made this look seriously unappetising before being mixed in! 😛
The thing about this ramen is that it had a pretty nice amount of umami, plus a slight saltiness that ends in a porky aftertaste. (I hope that makes sense.) There’s a garlicky kick here for sure, but I can’t say it’s as strong as it’s supposed to be. I don’t actually have any memory of ever eating Kumamoto-style ramen in a ramen place.
Traditionally, Kumamoto Ramen is topped with garlic chips, but since I didn’t have that and the instant noodles didn’t really provide that, I just placed some sesame seeds and scallions again– and okay the Korean seasoned seaweed too because I’m addicted to that– plus the soft-boiled egg. I wish I had some pork or chashu slices to go with this.
The soup is noticeably more opaque and more creamy as well. It doesn’t smell pungently porky once the powder is mixed well into the water, but as I mentioned, it does leave a light aftertaste like most ramen do. It doesn’t feel oily to the mouth either, which is good.
As for the noodles, once again I absolutely love the texture of these. Kumamoto Ramen is normally served with square-cut, medium noodles, and I thought that detail was incorporated well into these instant noodle packs. I prefer these noodles over the thinner ones, and again, I’d buy this just for those stick noodles. But in this case the broth is pretty decent too. In fact, I can probably dress this noodle up pretty well, with chashu pork, garlic chips, and the whole lot of it!
If you’re looking to buy some instant ramen to have on hand for quick cravings, I would definitely pick up the red Kumamoto over the white Hakata ramen. But I read somewhere that the miso ramen is the specialty of this brand, so maybe I’ll try that one out next time alongside a shoyu variation. Let me know down below if you’ve tried any of the packed instant ramen from this Marutai brand before and what variation is the best tasting!
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way. All opinions stated above are my own.