7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart all have their own exclusive instant noodles, and we were surprised by who makes some of them.

Every convenience store in Japan has a ramen shelf, filled with various varieties of instant noodles. But while there’s a lot of overlap in the selection from store to store, Japan’s biggest convenience store chains also all have their own store-brand instant ramen.

These store brands are usually lower-priced than other brands, and since “craving ramen,” “too lazy to cook,” and “wanting to spend as little money as possible” are all boxes you can check on our psychological analysis, we decided to hit up Japan’s top three convenience stores, Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-Eleven, for an instant ramen comparison taste test.

▼ Left to right: Lawson, 7-Eleven, and Family Mart cup ramen

First up is Lawson’s Lawson Select Rich Soy Broth Ramen. At 150 yen (US$1.40) it’s actually the most expensive of our three entrants, but it’ still about 30 yen cheaper than Nissin’s Cup Noodle, the king of instant ramens.

And speaking of Cup Noodle, we were surprised by how similar Lawson’s ramen tastes to Cup Noodle. The broth and ingredients were an almost complete match.

The difference here, though, is the noodles themselves. Many kinds of instant ramen (including Cup Noodle) fry their noodles before drying and packaging them, but Lawson’s noodles are non-fried, which gives the Lawson Select Rich Soy Broth Ramen a lighter, less junk food-y feel than Cup Noodle.

It even has Cup Noodle-style “mystery meat!” Really, there were so many similarities that we almost started to wonder if our Lawson ramen wasn’t actually a mislabeled Cup Noodle, so to make sure we looked at the package…only to learn that Lawson Select Rich Soy Broth Ramen actually is made by Nissin for Lawson!

▼ 製作所 日清食品株式会社 静岡工場 = Place of production: Nissin Food Shizuoka Factory

This wasn’t the only surprise appearance by Nissin in our test either. It turns out that Family Mart’s 142-yen Rich Umami Chuka Soba is also made by Nissin, with our cup coming from the company’s Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture) factory.

However, this time around the eating experience was different from Cup Noodle. The soy-based broth here has more sweetness than Cup Noodle of the Lawson brand, thought the fried noodles are a bit closer to what you get from Nissin’s flagship ramen.

Finally, we come to 7-Eleven’s Soup wa Kimerute Chuka Soba, which roughly translates to “Ramen where the Broth Makes it Good.” Instead of Nissin, this time the ramen production company is Shinetsu Myojo in Hyogo Prefecture. And the broth is indeed good, with a subtle sweetness that’s close to Family Mart’s.

The noodles here are non-fried and have just the right balance between firmness and chewiness. Overall, this was the most balanced cup ramen out of the three, and also the cheapest at just 138 yen.

As always, those, these are merely our opinions, and so we encourage you to try them for yourself to see which one suits your personal palate best, because it’s always good to have one more reason (or three more, actually) to eat ramen.

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