Sometime last year, a bowl of instant cup noodles took the world (and the internet) by storm.
The target in question- The cup noodle version of Nakiryu’s Dan Dan Noodles, created by instant ramen giant Nissin exclusively for 7-Eleven in Japan.
Nakiryu is a ramen restaurant located in Tokyo, about a ten minutes walk from Otsuka station (Source: therantingpanda.com). In 2017, it became the second ramen restaurant to obtain a Michelin Star (after Tsuta in 2015). Nakiryu became famous for its signature dan dan noodles (担々麺). The cup noodles that were created by Nissin was a bold attempt to replicate the dish.
What are Dan Dan Noodles?
Dan dan noodles (known as ‘dan dan mian’ 担担面 in mandarin is a noodle dish originated from Sichuan, China. It consists of a spicy sauce (containing chilli oil) topped with ingredients such as minced pork, preserved vegetables and spring onions, etc.). The Japanese version (stylised as ‘tantanmen’) is a noodle dish with a spicy broth. Tantanmen is quite popular in Japan, evident of the tantanmen restaurants scattered all over Japan, but some ramen restaurants serve the dish as well.
Nakiryu Cup Noodles
The First Impression
At first glance, it looks pretty unassuming. Inside, it looks like a regular bowl of cup noodles- the dried block of noodles, with three packets of sauces and toppings. What stood out for me was the noodles, they weren’t curly and were thinner than the regular instant noodles, which reminded me of the dried Hong Kong noodles I find in supermarkets. The three packets consisted of the sesame sauce, the chilli oil and toppings (minced meat, scallions, etc.).
Got a bit stunned for a minute because I couldn’t really read all the Japanese, so didn’t really know how to prepare the noodles. Some instructions on the internet simply suggested to pour all the ingredients and pour hot water over it; others poured everything, leaving the chilli oil to the last. Did the former, I feel that both methods will do just fine though. After pouring the hot water over the noodles (until the marked line), I covered the lid and let it cook for 3 minutes.
After three minutes, the noodles still looked a bit clumpy and some of the strands weren’t separating very well. However, they were definitely cooked well. The noodles were springy and had a nice firm bite to them, and I was surprised that they did not have a plasticky taste to them (unlike the regular Nissin cup noodles).
The soup was what stole the show for me. It was creamy and fragrant, with a rich meaty flavour, the perfect hint of sesame and a tinge of sourness, and finally a little bit of heat afterwards. If you tried bak chor mee, it reminded me of that, except that it’s creamier, richer, and more luxurious. The richness got a bit too much for me afterwards, as it felt a little too salty afterwards.
Regarding the toppings, I was pleasantly surprised by the dehydrated minced meat. It wasn’t soggy or spongy like I get from regular cup noodles. Instead, it had a texture like real minced meat, and was a little salty, like it was marinated with something. The greens, on the other hand, were pretty similar to what I would usually get from regular cup noodles- bland and with an unusual crunch.
If you were to serve this dish to me in another, more presentable bowl, I honestly won’t be able to tell straightaway that it’s from a bowl of instant cup noodles. I haven’t tried the original dandan noodles from Nakiryu, but I must say that Nissin has done a splendid job of creating a bowl of instant noodles that is unconventional and exceeds our expectations of what cup noodles are usually like.
Nakiryu Instant Dan Dan Noodles are definitely worth a try, though I’m not sure if I’ll want to have it again. It seems like a once-in-a-while, novelty thing to me. If you’re hungry in the middle of the night and want something hearty, this will probably be a good idea.
With that, I give this a solid 8/10. Minus one point for the clumpy noodles and another for the artificial-tasting veggies. Can’t compare this to the actual dish because I haven’t tried it, but I wish I can have the chance to try the original from Nakiryu. My opinion will definitely change.