We blind taste one of the most unusual instant noodles on the market.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop where you can purchase all sorts of weird and wonderful Japanese products, Don Quijote is the place to go to.

This chain of stores is where we previously picked up rainbow potato chips and edible five-yen coins, and now it’s given us our latest WTF moment, with “Stinky but Tasty Tonkotsu Ramen“.

▼ It’s not often you see the word “くさい” (“kusai”/”stinky”) used in large font to advertise a product.

After doing a little research on the noodles, we were surprised to find they were jointly developed by Don Quijote and long-established Kyushu-based noodle manufacturer Sanpo Foods, and they’ve been sold exclusively at Don Quijote, or “Donki” as it’s commonly known, since the end of last year.

We couldn’t resist trying the ramen to see if it lived up to its stinky claim, so we picked up a few of them for a taste test. When we opened them, we were pleased to see the contents were simple, with just three packs inside with the noodles, containing seasoned oil, powdered soup, and dried green onions and wood ear mushrooms.

Following the instructions on the pack, we emptied the bag of dried green onions and mushrooms on top of the noodles and poured boiling water over everything. Covering with the lid, we popped the oil pack on top of the lid to warm up, and after three minutes, we added the oil and the powdered soup package.

▼ Everything looked and smelled ordinary until we added the powdered soup.

The soup was pungent, with a distinct pork-like aroma that we’ve never encountered with a regular cup of instant noodles, and just when we thought our olfactory senses couldn’t take any more, we added the seasoning oil, and our sense of smell reeled back in shock.

▼ The soup and oil took pork stank to another scale.

Our nostrils were assaulted with an animalistic smell we’d never experienced before, and though it was hard to describe, we could firmly say it was, without a doubt, the stinkiest cup of noodles we’d ever encountered in our lives. It went against every natural instinct to bring such a foul-smelling mound of food to our mouth, but with our fingers crossed that the “tasty” claim on the packaging would be as true to its word as the “stinky” claim, we took a big slurp…

▼…and it was delicious.

The more we ate, the more rich and intense the pork flavour became, making every mouthful icreasingly addictive. The taste of tonkotsu pork bone broth was incredibly strong, and it was remarkably impressive that they could replicate it so well in an instant noodle, when it usually takes around three days of boiling to achieve such depth of flavour.

▼ The taste of tonkotsu is so strong that the pack claims “九州人もうなる” (“it’ll make Kyushu people growl”).

As noodle lovers will know, tonkotsu ramen was born in Kyushu and remains a popular specialty there to this day, so to say that a ramen will make people from Kyushu growl, presumably with desire and delight, is a bold claim, and one we were able to put to the test with a couple of Kyushu-ites.

In order to eliminate any preconceptions, we conducted the test with our friends from Kyushu blindfolded, literally keeping them in the dark about what they were about to eat before asking for their honest impressions.

The moment the finished ramen was brought to them, our tonkotsu ramen-loving friends had a hunch they were about to eat instant noodles, but how would they react to the meal?

We held our breath and waited to see if the noodles would make the people of Kyushu growl.

Turning our ear towards them, we didn’t hear any growls, but we did hear them say:

▼ “Hey…it’s delicious!”

If a person from Kyushu compliments a bowl of tonkotsu ramen, you know it’s good, so we were keen to get more details about what their finely honed palates were sensing.

Our female friend said the flavour was very close to authentic tonkotsu ramen, specifically the type that she eats in Kurume City, which is said to be the real birthplace of tonkotsu ramen.

▼ “Honestly, I’m really happy with this because I’ve never come across a cup ramen product that tastes so similar to real tonkotsu.

While they were spared the stink, which is mostly hazardous in the preparation process, the only criticism they had for the product was that the broth was a little thin and slightly bland compared to what you might get at a restaurant, but for an instant noodle, they said it was excellent, and better than others they’ve tried before.

When they took their blindfolds off and looked at the lid with its claims about making Kyushu people growl, we asked them what they thought about it and they laughed and nodded, saying, “we growled”.

So there you have it, straight from the tonkotsu-loving mouths of two Kyushu-ites — these noodles deliver on their claims to stink you out, win you over with the taste, and make people from Kyushu growl. If you’d like to experience them for yourself, keep an eye out for them at Don Quijote stores, where they retail for 258 yen (US$1.72).

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