Is this guilt-free way to “eat” noodles a trend that’s going to catch on?

As a lifelong noodle lover, our reporter Mr Sato knows what makes a good instant ramen, and surprisingly it’s not always dependant on the noodle. In fact, back in his student days he and his friends would choose their noodles based on the taste of the broth, and this remains one of the major buying factors when it comes to picking out a product from store shelves.

So when Mr Sato heard about a new product called “Nomen“, which contains no noodles whatsoever (“men” is the Japanese word for “noodles”, hence the name), he was immediately intrigued. Then, when he read the below tweet from Amiin Foods, the company behind Nomen, he knew he had to try it.

The message reads:

“This product is perfect for people who want to eat ramen…but don’t want to go over their calorie count…and are concerned about stomach heaviness.”

Mr Sato has been watching his diet these days, which means he no longer eats ramen as often as he used to. However, with the calorie content of Nomen ranging from 24-42 kilocalories — only about a tenth that of regular cup noodles — could this new product satisfy his cravings for ramen in a guilt-free way? He headed down to his nearest stockist, a store named Kakuyasu, to purchase the new three-flavour lineup and find out.

The three flavours in the Nomen range are (left to right, below): Agodashi Soy Sauce, Hakata Tonkotsu and Jidori Style Shio.

The first thing he noticed about the Nomen was the handy guide on the side of the cup to indicate the recommended hot water levels.  The red red line is where boiling hot water should be poured up to, but curiously, the black line was called the “Nonbee Line”, which puzzled Mr Sato at first, but as he later found out, this line is deeply connected to the birth of this product.

▼ More on the Nonbee Line (のんべえライン) later.

Removing the lid from all three cups, Mr Sato proceeded to empty the sachets inside and fill each cup with boiling water.

▼ Left to right: Agodashi (flying fish stock) Soy Sauce Nomen, Hakata Tonkotsu (pork bone stock) Nomen, Jidori Style Shio (Chicken Style Salt) Nomen.

One of the great things about these new products is the fact that they’re ready to consume as soon as you pour the hot water into them — no need to wait three minutes like you would with regular instant ramen.

▼ No noodles, no wait.

Taking a sip of each, Mr Sato’s discerning palate immediately warmed to the idea of noodle-less ramen, as the broths had such a sophisticated flavour on their own they didn’t need any extra accoutrements. The taste profile was delicious, having been carefully developed from some of the company’s most popular products, and far more complex than their simple appearance let on.

The Agodashi Soy Sauce Nomen was packed with the flavour of seafood, while the Tonkotsu Nomen contained a subtle scent of sesame oil and a taste reminiscent of authentic Hakata ramen (Hakata is the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen). The Jidori-style Shio had a rich chicken flavour but a refreshing aftertaste. Every sip was good without the noodles, and the broths had a delicious and satisfying taste that set them apart from more widely available instant noodle broths.

As well as the taste, Mr Sato loved the marketing, thinking it was a clever move to market the product as “men nuki soup” (no noodle soup”) rather than “ramen soup”, the latter of which is a line that some other brands have taken.

So what was the story behind the product and its creation? Mr Sato’s curiosity to find out more led him to call the company, where he spoke to a Nomen representative who revealed some interesting background information.

Mr Sato: “How did talk of commercialising this begin?”

Nomen: “Well, it was the president’s idea.”

Mr Sato: “Wow, the president himself! What was the idea?”

Nomen: “After drinking alcohol, you feel like eating ramen, right?”

Mr Sato: “That sounds about right — for some reason, I feel like eating ramen after drinking.”

Nomen: “But when you get to a certain age, you can’t eat as much, so you don’t want that much, right? That’s why we decided to remove the noodles.We created a soup without noodles that still allows you to enjoy the taste of ramen.”

Mr Sato: “Oh! That idea is amazing. It’s simple, but it makes sense.”

Nomen: “So, after doing some research and having customers try Nomen after drinking alcohol, they found that they were very satisfied.”

Mr Sato: “I drank it myself, and I was satisfied with the taste.”

Nomen: “Since it’s ramen soup, it has a stronger flavour than commercially available miso soup or soup. That’s why I think one bowl is very satisfying.”

Mr Sato: “I had it with my lunch, but I was still satisfied.”

Nomen: “We have received such feedback. In particular, women are using it as a soup and side dish to accompany their lunch.”

Mr Sato: “I think rice balls and Nomen would be a very satisfying lunch.”

Nomen: “In future, we would like to be able to sell it at other places like convenience stores.”

So, there you have it — the idea behind Nomen took flight after looking for a way to make post-drinking ramen indulgences healthier. As a result, we now have an alternative that satisfies our craving for ramen at any time — post-drinking or otherwise — at just a fraction of the calories, and a fraction of the cost, as each cup is priced at 162 yen (US$1.10).

▼ That brings us back to the “Nonbee Line” mentioned earlier.

The line is a guide for using less hot water, giving you a stronger flavour that’s particularly appealing for “nonbee”, which is basically a non-offensive term used for someone who likes to drink on a regular basis. This stronger flavour will appeal to those who’ve had a few drinks, but anyone who prefers stronger tastes, nonbee or otherwise, can make use of the nonbee line.

So next time you find yourself craving ramen but want to curb calories, you no longer have to deny yourself the noodle experience. Nomen will definitely satisfy your desires, and if you want to turn it into a full meal, you can always use it to make ramen rice in your rice cooker.

Related: Kakuyasu Online Store 
Photos ©SoraNews24
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