What kind of flavor IS it?!

If there’s one thing we love at SoraNews24, it’s instant noodles. Okay, there’s a lot of things we love, especially when it comes to food, but instant noodles are one of our top favorites, and what we love even more are weird or unusual flavors. The weirder the better, honestly.

So when our Japanese-language reporter Takashi Harada spotted a mysterious brand of Korean instant noodles he’d never seen before, it piqued his interest. It was, according to a sign at the store, called “Chashuran,” and was produced by instant food brand Ottogi. It sold as a pack of five for 1,059 yen (US$7.96), putting each individual pack at about 211 yen, which is relatively high for instant noodles.

What’s more, Takashi had no idea what “Chashuran” was. The package revealed absolutely nothing about the flavor. To begin with, it had been imported directly from Korea, so everything was written in Korean. It did have a picture of the noodles, which appeared to be served in a deep, black broth, but what on earth would that taste like?

Would it be salty? Sweet? Spicy? The design was pretty cute, so maybe it would have a milder, softer flavor. Obviously, Takashi was far too invested not to give it a try, so he bought a pack and brought it home.

On the back of each individual bag, they’d helpfully added a small label that translated the ingredients list, nutritional information, and instructions into Japanese, so Takashi had some sort of idea of how to make it. Anyway, even if they hadn’t included the cooking method, he probably wouldn’t have made any serious mistakes, used to making instant noodles as he was.

Inside the bag were curly, slightly thicker-than-usual noodles, an oil packet, a powder soup base, and toppings and seasonings.

Takashi cooked it, glancing between the Japanese-translated instructions and the original Korean packaging’s illustrations to see how they compared.

It took altogether only about five minutes, but the result was…

▼ …Chashuran?

The black soup was frankly darker than Takashi had expected, so he actually sort of recoiled. The packaging had tried to warn him, but this was more intense than he’d thought!

The more he looked at it, and the more he examined the packaging, the more Takashi started to sweat. These instant noodles had to be spicy. Just look at them! The very color was formidable! Takashi’s utmost limit of spicy is Shin Ramen, the most popular variety of Korean instant noodles in Japan, which, many spicy fans will say, “isn’t really that bad.” If this ended up being super spicy, he wasn’t sure how he would handle it.

With shaking hands, he scooped up some noodles with his chopsticks and brought them to his trembling lips…



They weren’t spicy at all!

Nope, not a taste of hot peppers or red pepper flakes anywhere. And furthermore, it tasted and felt completely unlike any kind of ramen or yakisoba he’d ever eaten. The soup (sauce?) was not especially viscous or sticky. It wasn’t completely delicious, but neither was it disgusting. It wasn’t sweet or spicy. In fact, Takashi couldn’t pin down at all what it tasted like. The whole experience caused his brain to bug out a bit. It was a mystery that he only cleared up with a bit of sleuthing later.

When he looked back on the photos he took, he realized the shop had put up a sign that said, “A whole new standard for zhajiangmen.” Zhajiangmen is a Beijing-style fried noodle dish in a dark sauce. This was further perplexing, because wasn’t this a Korean instant noodle brand? It did, however, explain the noodle’s saucy rather than soupy appearance.

Upon further investigation, Takashi learned that the “new standard” is actually a different cooking method. Usually, when making instant zhajiangmen, you use only a bit of the water you cook the noodles in to make the sauce. In the case of Ottogi Chashuran, however, the instructions explicitly say not to dump the water, and to use it all to make the sauce. In Takashi’s humble opinion, this is probably why the flavor seemed so unremarkable. It had been diluted with too much water.

Of course, whether you prefer it this way or not is probably up to your own tastes, but either way, Takashi says it’s less of an instant noodle dish that you just slurp up on its own and more something that should be paired with other dishes. If you’re interested, though, why not give it a try and see how you like it?

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[ Read in Japanese ]