It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these but while I’ve neglected the whole try-weird-Japanese-food-product-and-talk-about-how-zany-it-is thing, it hasn’t been for a lack of Japanese food companies throwing odd things at the wall to see what sticks (or, probably more accurately, get free publicity from people going “isn’t this weird?” online).
But then, a few weeks back, I started hearing about 7-11’s newest special “LIMITED TIME ONLY” cup noodle creation, a “clam chowder” ramen developed in collaboration with every aging American urban hipster’s favorite chain ramen restaurant, Ippudo. The clam chowder, they claimed, was a speciality brought over from the New York outpost.
Being a guy desperately trying to find things to write about that won’t bring me the wrath of my corporate overlords, I decided to give it a try.
On a purely visual level, the clam chowder ramen is pleasant enough. There’s a random outline of Manhattan’s skyline on the bottom because “HEY, AMERICA!” complimenting a picture of what they want you to think your ramen will look like when you’re about to eat. Bacon, potatoes, and New England-style clam chowder, even though they’ve plastered New York on the bottom of their cup, which would be like if I dressed up Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen as being from Tokyo… Oh wait.
Anyways, aside from that weird cultural gulf thing, the package comes with all the typical “Here’s how you eat this” instructions and legal stuff that no one reads aside from dietitians and lawyers. And on the top, a package of truffle oil (we’ll come back to that later).
So you open the lid (halfway only, of course, because cup ramen is apparently impossible to cook if you leave your cup lidless) and are greeted by info about the Ippudo Empire’s tendrils into America and the usual hard-as-a-rock block-o-noodles and, in the case of this clam chowder ramen, a slightly off-putting smell that reminded me of the dried squid old Japanese dudes like to eat when they’re drinking at home. Not quite the start of a delectable culinary journey, at least one I’d want to take. There were also a lot more potatoes than I was anticipating but that’s clam chowder for ya.
So you do the usual cup noodle thing and just add (hot) water and shut the lid. The directions for this one (yes, I read the directions) indicate that you should let the noodles sit and stew for five minutes, a few minutes more than the usual recommended time span. Why? As I found out the hard (and crunchy) way, it’s probably to allow the dehydrated potatoes the time to soak up enough moisture to resemble actual potatoes. The noodles, for their part, didn’t seem all that worse for the wear after that additional bath time.
Anyways, you rip off the lid and are greeted by a slightly tanner chowder/soup/broth than the typical clam chowder of your American upbringing. Also noodles. And potatoes. So many potatoes. (There was actually a second layer of potatoes underneath he noodles that I discovered while mixing as well.) The CEO of some potato farmer conglomerate probably got a huge bonus for scoring the contract on this one. Hooray.
Because I’m a culinary daredevil, I first tried the cup noodles and broth without the addition of the included truffle oil (okay, honestly, I forget to add the truffle oil because I’m a slob). And, honestly? The Ippudo Clam Chowder Cup Noodles tasted better without the overpowering odor of the fake truffle juice. I mean, they didn’t really taste spectacular (not too different from your typical cup noodle if I’m being honest) but after adding it, all you could taste was truffle oil.
Confession: I wound up having to dab in a bit of hot sauce in order to counteract the truffle oil before I finished eating. As with most other cup noodle concoctions, the sludge of stuff that failed to get mixed into the broth that winds up amassing in the bottom of your cup was the tastiest part.
I’d really recommend making this with the hottest water you can find and then being sure to really really mix before eating. Also, watch out for that cruddy truffle oil stuff they give you to use. If you really want their “intended” experience, be sure to use that stuff with caution lest you want your two hundred yen to go to waste.
Not really clam chowder, or ramen, for that matter, the Ippudo Clam Chowder Cup Noodle was a fun little experiment that I’m hoping doesn’t wind up a permanent thing, especially if that truffle oil stuff is involved.
Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stephens.