Taste-testing the Shirunashi Saba Ramen.

Visiting Costco in Japan is an appetite-stimulating mix of East meets West temptations. You’ll find the same rotisserie chicken and chocolate chip cookies as the chain sells in the U.S., but also a huge selection of things like sake, green tea, and octopus.

On his latest Costco run, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun was passing though the prepared food section when he came across a new Japan-exclusive item: Shirunashi Saba Ramen, or Brothless Mackerel Ramen.

Shirunashi ramen isn’t to be confused with tsukemen, where you get a bowl of noodles and a separate bowl of broth to dip them in before each bite. Shirunashi is a no-broth dish using ramen noodles, also sometimes called mazesoba or abura soba (none of which are to be confused with the buckwheat noodles called just “soba”).

P.K. has actually tried a few different mazesoba varieties from Costco Japan, and liked them all. He’s doesn’t know why they’ve gone with a name change to shirunashi ramen for this version, but he grabbed a pack as soon as he saw one because of the mackerel. Saba/mackerel is one of Japan’s favorite types of fish, especially to grill, and P.K. says Costco has earned a reputation among foodies here for selling some really delicious salted mackerel filets. If this brothless ramen had the same quality of fish, then P.K. was definitely down to try it.

As with most items at Costco, it’s a big portion, so even at a price of 1,552 yen (US$10.35) for his pack it still felt like a good value in terms of how much food he was getting. Back home, he took the lid off of the package and was immediately happy to see just how much mackerel was in it.

The heating instructions say to heat everything but the seaweed in the microwave for a bit, then to stir the contents up and heat it a little more. Once that’s done, sprinkle on the seaweed, and you’re ready to eat!

It’s been P.K.’s experience that Costco Japan lets the main ingredients take center stage in its noodle dishes, instead of relying on heavy seasonings. That’s the case once again with the Brothless Mackerel Ramen, which has a simple, straightforward quality to it.

This, however, really lets the mackerel shine, and just like P.K. had hoped, it was outstanding, leaving him incredibly satisfied, and his stomach incredibly happy.

P.K. still isn’t sure why Costco decided to replace the mazesoba name with shirunashi ramen for this dish, but if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, surely noodles by any other name taste just as good.

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