It’s said this Tokyo dish looks like vomit, so does the instant cup version look any better? 

Instant cup noodles are a mainstay in Japan, where they take up more space on supermarket shelves than bread or cereal and come in all sorts of weird and wonderful flavours like matcha, mystery meat and ‘almost sea urchin‘. Heck, even Pringles released their own instant noodles back in 2018.

With so many varieties to choose from, it takes a lot for a new release to stand out, but popular brand Baby Star — well-known for their crunchy, eat-from-the-pack fried noodle snacks — is doing just that with a new cup noodle called Baby Star Monja.

The new product is based on monjayaki, a specialty dish from the Kanto region in and around Tokyo, which is often described as Tokyo’s version of okonomiyaki, a dish famous in the Kansai region around Osaka. While both monjayaki and okonomiyaki are cooked on a grill at the table using batter and fresh ingredients, monjayaki is spread out flat on the grill before eating, retaining a glossy appearance with all the ingredients visible. Some say this makes it look like vomit, but those who’ve had it before know monjayaki tastes a whole lot better than it looks, filled with hearty flavours that go down particularly well with a side of beer.

▼ Monjayaki

Image: Wikipedia/Jpatokal

Being Tokyoites ourselves, we have a literal and figurative soft spot in our bellies for monjayaki, so when we heard about the new Cup Monja, we knew we had to give it a try. Though Baby Star has had a ‘Guru Guru Monja’ instant noodle on the market since 1996, this is the first time for the brand to serve up instant monjayaki in a cup, and according to the label, the Cup Monja contains spicy mentaiko (pollock roe) sauce, an excellent choice given the popularity of mentaiko as a monjayaki ingredient.

Each cup contains noodles, soup, and seasoning, which uses the much-loved Baby Star chicken flavour base. While the crunchy fried noodles look just like the ready-to-eat Baby Star snack, we resisted the urge to snack on them and instead followed the instructions to transform them into monjayaki.

Step 1: First, add the noodles and soup to the cup and mix well.

Step 2: Pour hot water over the mix and stir with a spoon until thickened. The instructions say any type of water is fine to use, but it’s probably best to make it with freshly boiled water.

Step 3: Sprinkle the seasoning on top and it’s done!

At first, it didn’t look exactly like the monjayaki we know and love, but when we picked up a spoonful, there it was — the glossy, colourful look of monja. We were surprised by the aroma too, which smelt hearty and enticing. The only thing we were lamenting at this point was the fact that we didn’t have a small, flat spoon to eat it with, as is tradition when eating real monjayaki.

We may not have had the right eating utensils, but we were eating monjayaki out of a cup, after all. We popped a spoonful onto the tongue and sat back, closing our eyes as we imagined ourselves sitting in front of the grill at one of the popular monjayaki restaurants at Tsukishima in Tokyo, where the specialty is most famous.

We were instantly impressed with the slightly chewy texture, but then we were overtaken by the flavour, which was slightly spicy, thanks to the cod roe sauce, and absolutely delicious! It was much more than a cup noodle — this was, in fact, distinctly monjayaki, and it had a flavour that was well-rounded, moreish and incredibly addictive.

We may not be able to visit Tsukishima for monjayaki on a daily basis, but now with Cup Monja on the market, we can enjoy the flavour of the grilled dish at home in seconds. The Baby Star Monja was released in convenience stores nationwide from 27 July at a recommended retail price of 160 yen (US1.52).

Now all we need is for Baby Star to bring back their ramen ice cream and ramen fried chicken, so that soft spot in our bellies can grow ever softer.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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