While traveling in Iwate Prefecture recently, one of our reporters stumbled across a brightly decorated pack of instant ramen. Although first drawn by the buxom moe character on the front, it was the name – Rare Cheese Kimchi Natto Ramen – that made this a must-buy.

After taking the box home and opening it up, it was discovered that the maid-uniform-clad mascot was named Tsukiko and drawn by an artist who resides in Morioka City, Iwate. There were also detailed instructions on how to make this culinary curiosity.

The ramen has four key components:

Miso – Used a base for this ramen, miso is a rather salty seasoning made by fermenting various grains or legumes such as soy beans.

Natto – Natto are soybeans fermented with a bacteria rather than the fungus which produces miso. It’s well known for its rather unpleasant smell and slimy consistency.

Kimchi – A cultural institution of Korea, kimchi is a collection of seasoned and fermented vegetables for a sour and spicy taste.

Rare Cheese – Rare Cheese is fermented milk otherwise known as cream cheese. Used almost exclusively the North American-style of cheesecakes sold in Japan, rare cheese is only different in texture but maintains the sweetness of cream cheese.

With that fountain of fermented flavors all mixed up, how could it possibly miss? Our reporter got boiling and prepared the ingredients. Since this was instant ramen there wasn’t any real kimchi or natto but only some powdered flavors. So, if you’ve ever wanted to capture the great used-sock-like aroma of natto and avoid all its pesky health benefits here it is.

The ramen was swiftly completed and our reporter took a tentative slurp of the soup. The word “disgusting” immediately sprung to mind, but was soon replaced by “year-old bowl of cat urine”. Upon first taste the powerful sweetness of the rare cheese filled the mouth but was soon followed by a lingering aftertaste of natto and kimchi. It was the gourmet equivalent to receiving a teddy bear and then getting punched in the nose.

It was hard to bring the chops stick towards the bowl for more, as if the body was waging mutiny on the mind for disobeying common sense and going in for more of this horrid soup. Sadly, it wasn’t just the taste that lingered. Well after the cooking and eating was finished, a strange odor filled the room for some time even with the windows open and fans running.

With the taste trial complete, only one question remained: Who the hell would make this crap? Do people in Iwate dig this unusual combination of tastes? Was it meant to be a practical joke to play on illiterate friends?

Speaking of jokes, the biggest one was left for the end, as this ramen was in fact a two-pack, for the low, low price of 1,200 yen (US$12), and there was still one bowl left.

Photos and Video:Kie Yoshikuni

The one bright side to Rare Cheese Kimchi Natto Ramen is that it’s easy to make.