We send our reporter to perform the most thorough test of a cup ramen’s quality we can manage.

Restaurants doing tie-in deals with convenience stores is no new phenomenon, especially not in Japan. Between curry chain CoCo Ichibanya lending their spicy curry to convenience store buns to globally-recognized ramen restaurants packaging their wares for mass sale, it’s becoming easier than ever to purchase a little taste of a sit-down meal at a one-stop convenience shop.

We decided we wanted to put one of these so-called restaurant-quality products to the test. And since this was a ramen product, it qualified for our reporter P.K. Sanjun‘s Instant vs. Restaurant Ramen Project.

Our subject today is the Moko Tanmen Nakamoto Umakara Miso (deliciously spicy miso). This convenience store cup ramen is sold at 7-Eleven stores and enjoys a good reputation, with some online even claiming that it tastes better than the ramen they serve at Moko Tanmen Nakamoto restaurants themselves.

Now, there’s an interesting slant on P.K.’s trial this time—namely that he doesn’t hold Moko Tanmen Nakamoto in especially high regard. There was a branch near his old workplace from seven years ago, and…well, simply put, he wasn’t impressed. A coworker at the time told P.K. that he was so obsessed with the chain that he would eat there three times a week, and P.K. just didn’t get it. It just seemed to be all spice and no spark. It wasn’t out of a distaste for spice, either, since P.K. is pretty into spicy food.

▼ The sign outside Moko Tanmen Nakamoto’s branch in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood

The 216 yen (US$1.97) cup ramen, though? P.K. likes that just fine. He eats about one cup of it a month and praises how it balances spice with its full-bodied flavor. The noodles themselves are glossy and smooth, too. He considers it something of a king among convenience store ramen.

To truly claim that the cup ramen was the superior version, though, he would have to brave the gauntlet of his old nemesis… Moko Tanmen Nakamoto’s restaurant.

▼ To battle we go!

Once inside, he placed a request for the dish closest to the cup ramen in question. His server recommended the Gomoku Moko Tanmen, priced at 900 yen.

▼ P.K. had waited seven years for this fateful encounter!

Immediately after finishing his hearty dish, he went outside to eat approximately the same thing but in cup form.

▼ This is the dignity of a SoraNews24 reporter.

And the verdict…?

▼ Close…but no cigar!

So here’s the thing. When P.K. tried the infamous Moko Tanmen Nakamoto dish again, he was actually astounded by how tasty it was. Maybe it was his taste buds maturing, maybe it was the product itself. But whatever the reason, the rich flavor flirting with his taste buds was undeniable. Back in the old days it felt like all the flavor had been annihilated by the spice level, but this flavor was complex and full-bodied, incorporating eggs, stewed vegetables and other accents into its broth. It was…superb.

▼ So this is why it’s so popular.

None of this changes how impressive its convenience store counterpart tastes, of course. It has an excellent ratio of flavor to spice, and its broth could almost pass for a twin of the dish served in the restaurant. But unfortunately, the cup ramen suffers just a little from having all the accent flavors added at once. In the restaurant they are introduced gradually, building layer upon layer of umami into the broth.

▼ It got close but tripped at the finish line.

Strangely, although P.K. had enjoyed the cup-version’s noodles in the past, they felt somewhat cumbersome after comparing them to the restaurant dish. They were something of a blockade to the delicious spicy broth and lacked the glossiness of the restaurant noodles. It just goes to show you that even top-grade cup ramen has something to learn from the real thing.

▼ You can enjoy P.K.’s journey in video format, too.

Need more noodles? Why not have a gander at the latest chicken-wing noodle flavor, or how to treat yourself to a decadent ramen dish using nothing but convenience store ingredients.

Images © SoraNews24
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