Why savor one when you can savor them all?

In the midst of staying at home and keeping up good health during a global pandemic, everyone needs to find their own happy space. For our reporter Takashi Harada, creating his own happy space meant eating not one, not two, and not even three, but all seven of instant ramen giant Marutai’s Kyushu line-up. And without further ado, here are his final thoughts from these seven heavenly, scrumptious instant noodles!

▼ Let the games commence!

7. Oita Prefecture — Chicken Shoyu

Dressed in flashy green, the contents special to Marutai’s Chicken Shoyu ramen include packets of liquid shoyu, or soy sauce-based, broth as well as yuzu chili spice mix, which is seasoning characteristic of Oita prefecture. Preparing the noodles for sampling took little time, and Takashi noted how finely ground the yuzu powder was.

On first bite, the noodles were delicious, but as Takashi kept eating, he noticed that the ramen overall had a very singular flavor profile. Rather than eating ramen, Takashi felt like he was eating salty soup that just so happened to have noodles deposited into it. While the Chicken Shoyu was unfortunately not his ultimate favorite, Takashi mused about giving it another chance and cooking it again in the future with eggs or green onions to see if there would be an improvement in flavor.

6. Saga Prefecture — Beef Shio

At first glance, the Beef Shio (salty broth) ramen looked unassuming. Takashi didn’t know what to expect, and admittedly, the phrase “Beef Shio” didn’t really bring any specific image to mind. However, his lack of expectation only made this ramen’s taste more memorable.

While Takashi wasn’t initially sure what the Beef Shio entailed, the overall result was very tasty… and extremely strong-flavored. The thin noodles complemented the flavorful broth, and the toasted seaweed included gave a smoky edge to the ramen. If you’re short on cash or want an extra filling meal, Takashi thought folks in such situations should add rice and mix it with the leftover soup for a perfect way to soak up those deep umami flavors.

5. Kagoshima Prefecture — Black Pork Tonkotsu

Next in the group is a ramen variety from Kagoshima Prefecture. Included in the packaging, along with the noodles, seasoning, and powdered soup, was a special ingredient native to Kagoshima: black pork stock.

Compared to other tonkotsu ramen, or ramen with a pork stock base, the Black Pork Tonkotsu was definitely more mild. It held a robust but not overpowering flavor—great for folks who may find most tonkotsu ramen broth too strong. While it wasn’t number one in Takashi’s heart, he still found the flavor to be very distinctive in its own way.

4. Kumamoto Prefecture — Black Garlic Oil Tonkotsu

Garlic played center stage for these instant noodles representing Kumamoto prefecture.

Enthusiastically digging in, Takashi was pleased with the instant ramen’s fragrant smell as well as its subtle taste. This was definitely a tonkotsu for those who don’t want anything particularly heavy. The proportion of the garlic was also just right, and Takashi found himself relatively content after finishing the Black Garlic Tonkotsu.

3. Fukuoka Prefecture — Hakata Tonkotsu

One of the most standard flavor profiles for ramen, tonkotsu ramen can be found anywhere in Japan, but Fukuoka is often considered the country’s best when it comes to determining the top tonkotsu in the island nation. While there are many different kinds of tonkotsu ramen, the one Marutai chose to represent Fukuoka is the Hakata style. With minimal toppings, thin noodles, and smooth broth, the ramen looks deceivingly simple but packs a powerful umami punch.

With Marutai’s Hakata Tonkotsu, Takashi’s impression wasn’t just he was eating any old tonkotsu ramen, but he was eating THE tonkotsu ramen. A savory smell, a rich broth accented with sesame seeds and onion, the nuanced depth of the pork flavor, how the thin noodles traveled effortlessly from his chopsticks to his mouth—all the elements were just right. In Takashi’s head and to his palette, there were no doubts: tonkotsu ramen was Marutai’s signature ramen.

2. Nagasaki Prefecture — Flying Fish Shoyu

For the average individual born and raised in Japan, the first prefecture that pops into mind when ramen is mentioned usually isn’t Nagasaki. But Marutai’s homage to the prefecture comes in the form of incorporating a special regional twist to the soup stock—flying fish.

Regardless if he was feeling hyped out of curiosity or the sheer novelty of trying out instant ramen with flying fish soup stock, Takashi was pleasantly surprised by another ingredient in the seasoning mix: sesame seeds. The sesame seeds provided balance to the broth, and Takashi found that after his first bite, he couldn’t put down his chopsticks until every last strand of noodle was devoured. The soup was also neither too fishy nor too light, and overall, Takashi was impressed by the complex and delicious taste of the Flying Fish Shoyu.

1. Miyazaki Prefecture — Chicken Shio

Takashi had no particularly high expectations for the Chicken Shio, given how its home prefecture is more associated with gyoza when it came to regional food specialties. Not to mention when he opened the packaging, all that plopped out were the noodles and a single bag of soup.

▼ Kinda looking lonely over there…

However, Takashi was proven wrong immediately. Despite having no extra seasoning, the soup was refreshingly light, but still delivered a strong savory flavor. This was definitely an instant noodle where it’s deliciousness convinced Takashi that nothing else could be added as it was perfect as is. Anything more than cut green onions would be excessive for the Chicken Shio. Takashi didn’t dare let go of his bowl until every drop of broth was lapped up and gone.

Though Takashi’s favorites were the Flying Fish Shoyu and the Chicken Shio, our instant ramen-devouring reporter recommends that everyone try out the Kyushu line-up for themselves. Just be sure to pace yourself if you plan on sampling all seven in one sitting!

Photos © RocketNews
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